How petty can the White House get in setting up Barack Obama’s photo ops? According to Foreign Policy, petty enough to refuse to be photographed with America’s most advanced fighter. The Obama administration successfully killed further production of the F-22, and when visiting Elmendorf AFB in Alaska — where F-22s are the pride of the base — the White House insisted that the Air Force move an F-22 out of the hangar in which Obama gave a speech:
When President Obama spoke to troops at Alaska’s Elmendorf Air Force Base last month, the unit there parked a shiny new F-22 fighter plane in the hanger[sic]. But according to multiple sources, White House aides demanded the plane be changed to an older F-15 fighter because they didn’t want Obama speaking in front of the F-22, a controversial program he fought hard to end.
“White House aides actually made them remove the F-22-said they would not allow POTUS to be pictured with the F-22 in any way, shape, or form,” one source close to the unit relayed.
Stephen Lee, a public affairs officer at Elmendorf, confirmed to The Cable that the F-22 was parked in the hanger[sic] and then was replaced by an F-15 at the White House’s behest.
The airmen there took offense to the Obama aides’ demand, sources told The Cable, seeing it as a slight to the folks who are operating the F-22 proudly every day. They also expressed bewilderment that the White House staff would even care so much as to make an issue out of the fact that the F-22 was placed in the hanger [sic] with the president.
This is unbelievably petty and unnecessarily political. After all, one can agree or disagree on the strategic decision to stop building more F-22s without turning the system into some sort of bête noir. The US has 187 F-22s defending the nation, and thousands of men and women flying and maintaining them. The crews that operate the F-22 take justifiable pride in their performance, and it would make sense for them to display their latest and best fighter platform as representative of their efforts.
Instead of acknowledging Elmendorf’s pride, the White House instead turned it into a political football. Will Obama now only be pictured next to military equipment of which he personally approves? No one would have assumed that before this incident because the choice of equipment for such appearances would have seemed too inconsequential for anyone to notice.