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Two presidents visit U.S. troops: The styles of Barack Obama and George W. Bush in photos

President Obama made his first trip as chief executive to Afghanistan over the weekend to, among other things, visit troops close to Kabul. He spoke to them at Bagram Airfield and we had the full text right here.

The White House released this picture by official White House photographer Pete Souza, showing the president shaking hands and grabbing a soldier's finger, and the troops' reactions.

Democrat president Barack Obama shakes hands with US troops in Afghanistan 3-18-10

The picture below was taken by official White House photographer Eric Draper of another president, George W. Bush, visiting U.S. troops in South Korea and their reactions.

Republican president George W Bush visits U S Troops in South Korea

-- Andrew Malcolm

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No need for words. Thank you for this, it says it all in my opinion. Letting the pictures do the talking, no commentary, just ones perspective. I miss President Bush every day. This helps to explain why for those that simply do not understand.

God bless our troops.

You can plainly see, racist Bush is molesting that black soldier's head!

Malcom, Your Right of Center perspective is constantly on display but that's OK as long as we call it what it is. You say that Obama is "grabbing a soldier's finger" and seem to imply that this gesture is lacking. First of all, the photo clearly shows that Obama is grasping the male soldier's hand, excluding the thumb, which presumably has more than one finger. Hey buddy, that's how a left hand to left hand shake happens or is President Bush able to magically do it any differently? Second, put Obama in a physical position similar to the one Bush is in and I wager you will see soldiers gather around. Third, the reality is that military personel are like you, largely right of center on the political spectrum, and there's nothing wrong with that but as such they will naturally be more responsive to a President who is also Right of Center. If that's the point you're trying to make why not just be straight forward and say it.

It's unfair to compare Presidents and how they visit the troops. Whether the public and the media like it or not, each President has his style. And whether the service members like it or not, he is still their Commander-in-Chief.

That being said, I was present on two occasions when President George W. Bush visited with and spoke to the troops. On each occasion, he was treated like some of sort of rock star by wildly enthusiastic soldiers. This in contrast to his alledged unpopularity with the public. I'd never seen any other President greeted like this to include another President who was popular with the troops, Ronald Reagan.

President Obama is widely respected and admired by service members, especially minorities. They can identify with the President through their own struggle to achieve.

When I served in the US Army I had a great dislike for President Clinton. Yet whether I liked him or not, he was still my Commander-in-Chief and I had to render the respect due his office. Soldiers continue to do this today.

The two pictures tell the story ... the troops loved GWB ... they respect the office he holds but Obama leaves them cold.

"President Obama is widely respected and admired by service members..."

Not true. I'm a retired soldier, and work daily with soldiers. He is definitely NOT "widely respected and admired" and even among minorities, that "respect and admiration" is dropping.

As Leddy and JR point out, it is a matter of personal style and that had Obama had the same setting as Bush, he would have been mobbed as well.

But as JR said, it's a matter of personal style. Obama controlled the setting. If he wanted a more up-close setting, he would have had it.

To me, THAT is the telling point of the pictures.

In other words, one sought the wooden barricade and a dominant position, the other the camouflage flood and a peer-level position.

A commander who will get down and mix with the troops will always win the hearts of the troops.

The stand-off will get the scorn.

Bush wasn't afraid to be touched by the troops , he was personable and real, Obama looked like he needed to get sanitized after he touched the troops.

Is it me or does it appear that those around President Bush are trying to get to him to shake his hand - others are focusing and listening to his words spoken. While those around President Obama are looking down or looking away and not another person is reaching out to shake his hand.

President Bush went to Ft.Hood along with Laura and spent time with those injuried and their families - trying to console them - Obama tried to make it sound like it was the militaries fault for just being there.

Obama (or his handlers) put the troops behing a barrier to separate him from them. Bush is right down there with the trips, right in their midst. I know which style I prefer. And yes, I miss GWB, too.

No matter how libs may try to spin this, talk about a picture being worth a thousand words. Photos don't lie. God bless our soldiers. Yes, they were respectful - admiring? No way.

One President like you and the other does not.

Guess I am dense....I don't get what this 'journalist' is trying to say.
But I am imagining that he is trying to stir something my eyes I see two presidents greeting the troops....not one is different from the other.
Bush was a great CIC, greatly respected by the men and women in uniform and I think Obama is being respected in the same way.

What did I miss?

Sandra, the arrogant Obama has to look down on the people he regards as terrorists and baby killers(they are clearly not impressed). W is being mobbed because he treats soldiers and people in general with respect. Obama is too important(practically a god right Sandra?) to treat people like human beings. Can you understand now?

Obama was there with the troops for 20 minutes. Period. He was in Afghanistan from dusk until just after midnight... 6 hours to meet with Kharzai and get a few photo ops. Troops were dragged out for the photo op just so Obama could score a few points in the liberal media. Please, stop... I've been there. Is it really a matter of the U.S. citizens being so dumb that the S.O.P. is to BS them?


"Guess I am dense"....
Yes, yes you are. And blind.
Look at the faces of the troops in the two pictures.
And what's with the " 'journalist' " , first time you've seen one?

Whatever else the pictures show, Obama's official photographer should be fired forthwith. Even if Obama is as big a stiff as he appears in official WH photographs (I suspect he is, but that doesn't make him a bad person), you'd think a good photog could catch him in an uncharacteristically human moment once in a while.

Also...what's up with the green skin? The reflection from the green curtain has Obama looking like one of the undead from a Troma Entertainment comic-horror flick.

I have family in the military. Obama is a joke to active military... not a funny one.

Some people may have forgotten: Bush is a veteran. The troops knew this, and treated him as "one of their own".

Obama doesn't understand the ties that bind military members together, whether they are on active service or are veterans. It is a bond that is formed from enlistment, through boot camp, and then through service.

Bush looked *comfortable* among his brothers-in-arms.

Obama looks somewhat bewildered.

And don't tell me that the two groups of military members didn't notice it.

"What did I miss?"

Um, maybe all the stuff that was just explained in the comments preceding yours? Ya know -- some of which were posted nearly 12 hours before you pretended to scratch your head and wonder what this is all about?

"the reality is that military personel are like you, largely right of center on the political spectrum, and there's nothing wrong with that but as such they will naturally be more responsive to a President who is also Right of Center."

No, one president supported the war and respected what they were doing. The other didn't.

I give obama and Bush credit. They are out there greeting and respecting the men and women who serve our country. As a veteran I appreciate that. I may not be An Obama fan but I am glad he traveled to Afghanistan and visted the troops on the line!

I missed that at first glance - Obama has them fenced in! What a dork.

the two pictures say it all. one shows an egotistical narcissist who looks down his nose to 'the common people' and keeps them at a distance while they barely react to him ... and the other shows a warm, loving commander who engages the troops with humanity and respect and the clamoring crowd returns the respect with affection. what a mistake was made last november !

1 - notice the fence between Obama and the troops

2 - notice the faces in both pictures.

3 - notice the pose of Obama in the photo, and the ease with which Bush mixes with the troops.

Sandra -- What you are missing is the fact that this was a photograph released by the White House, because they think it flatters Obama. Mr. Malcolm could have published this photo ... soldiers held back behind a fence. At least they are clapping.

As in the photo above, here are *no* other soldiers reaching out for a handshake. In both photos, you see soldiers clasping their hands, either in front or behind. Are these flattering images?

The entire series of photos at is just wretched. Whoever is in charge of managing Obama's image is an idiot.

Amazing seeing this in the LA Times.

It's obvious to anyone, that the troops loved Bush and he them. It's also obvious that Obama and the troops don't really care for each other.

Obama's military groups he also has always has an over-representation of certain groups as well. Call it racist if you want, but you will find them packed with more African-Americans than the percentage of blacks in the service. Blacks are of course very much behind President Obama, but it would be akin to packing Bush's crowds with Texans, and they didn't do that. Additionally, it seems that every woman that is in the military, has been photographed with Obama as well.

But even with that going for him, it's still obvious the affection that most of the military, regardless of their race, their sex, the birthplace had for Bush and the lack of respect they have for Obama.

Seems so . . . awkward. I would think that they would have tried to publish something a little more flattering.

The real story that these images capture is not in "how the presidents visit the troops." Typically, socialist Democrats who see this to be the focus are missing the point.

Instead, the story these pictures tell is "how the troops react to the presidents." And there is absolutely no sugar-coating the reality of the two extremes. Socialist Democrats need to either learn to live with the fact that the military does not trust them nor their leadership, or do something to change the military's perspective of socialist Democrat ideals.


The soldier at the bottom left in the Bush photo is the same soldier who's having his finger shook by Obama.

Sandra, you missed what you didn't want to read/see in others' comments here. I'll restate, but you'll most likely miss this too. So what you are not choosing to see is: 1) the mode/settings a president chose to mix in with the troops; 2) the level of enthusiasm with which the troops treat either president (as evident by their body language).

Our service men and women don't pick and choose who they serve, they serve. There is no hidden agenda with them. What you see is what they are God and Country servicing patriots. I know because I served. Now I work for the US Government. I took the job for only one reason and that is to serve. Maybe I am an odd ball, but I really don't care, it is who I am.

"What did I miss?"

Sandra, our troops are "respecting" Barack Obama with their hands behind their backs.

At least they aren't making Our President's favorite gesture, scratching an itch with the middle finger.

Look at the body language. Obama looks like he's there because he has to. Bush wanted to be there with the people he put in harm's way. The troops know who's got their back.

Is the guy in the lower left corner of the Bush photo the same guy that is shaking Obama's hand? And the differences are striking in the two photos. In Bush's photo, you can tell the troops are straining forward to get a glimpse of him, those close with arms extended to shake his hand. In Obama's photo, two (two!) of them have their hands out to shake his hand, and a few of them have their hands behind their backs. If you can't see the difference between the two photos, take the blinkers off and have another look.

You don't know how disappointing that is. He will bow to a leader of another nation, but he can't fully grasp the hand of one of the many men and women fighting for the country that he runs. Even more so, he keeps them behind railing so he doesn't have to deal with a crowd of people happy to see him.
Viva la Bush!

Hevens to PETA. Is that a leather jacket on BHO?

Sandra, what you missed is the soldier standing with her hands behind her back, to prevent Obama from shaking them. The three soldiers in the front row closest to him look like they'd rather be anywhere else, and the woman shaking his hand looks like one of his entourage.

If a picture says 1000 words, then , there is nothing left to be said here.

Bush wasn't afraid to get in there and mix it up with people, and them him. Obama, however, really doesn't share that feeling, and it's clear, by the reactions in the picture the troops feel the same way about him.

To "elites" like Obama, the military consists of either feckless dupes who were swindled into enlisting or raging beasts who can't wait to find a brown, black or yellow head to crack. These men and women aren't stupid; they understand Obama far better than he understands them. And their demeanor shows it.

Anyone who is in the military or has family in the military knows that Dubya was loved by them and Obama really is a "joke" although they will respect the office of Obama's Presidency.

Folks who have never served will never understand the bond between those who have served. Civilians just never "get it".

I love the fact that the trooper right in front of Obama is firmly at parade rest, her hands decidedly behind her back and out of reach. And she's African American!

For those who care there is video of the Bush visit to Korea on YouTube as is Bush's visit to Anbar. The reaction of the troops in both is sustained, thunderous enthusiasm. I have viewed them several times and they still warm my heart.

I am appalled that the current CinC would put HIS troops behind a fence - that says everything.

President Bush (god I miss him) was genuine and realy cared for the soldier. I was a soldier for 22 years and had the experience of many presidents. Obama is not well liked because of his anti-military stance. Obama has no experience or respect for the troops. He went to Afganistane as a photo op. I beleive Obama will go down as the worst president the US ever had.

Typical. Obama keeps his distance from those he thinks can't help him in some way. Was there ever a barrier between him and Tony Rezko, Bill Ayers, or Jeremiah Wright?
Obama doesn't even know how to pronounce corpsman. I think I learned that in Jr. high school, maybe high school at the latest. And yet, the media cuts him so much slack, very few know about that little Obama faux pas. If W had made a boneheaded error like that, the media would have kept that story going for weeks, if not months. The double standard is astounding - I suppose they think we don't notice it, you know, b/c they're "objective." Obama isn't deserving of being Commander in Chief, and not b/c he's black - there are plenty of blacks I'd love to see be CiC - Ward Connerly, Thomas Sowell to name two, but there are many more.

People who keep the U.S. safe, bad.
People who want to destroy the U.S., good.

Did the soldier fart when Obama pulled his finger?

Man, what an opportunity.

One is a president, in every way. The other is nothing more than a "community organizer".

Respect the office, not the office holder.

If you hand pick one picture of each President visiting troops, you can make the comparison appear to favor whichever President you want. Therefore the photo comparison says more about the person who picked the photos than it does about their subjects.

(AM responds: The two White Houses released the one such photo by their own official photographer. So, not much choice.)

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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