Major Garrett of CBS News did what no one else in the White House press corps managed to do on Wednesday: he asked President Barack Obama a real question.
For his trouble, Garrett was rebuked by the president, criticized by his colleagues, and accused of racism by celebrities.
Yet he succeeded in bringing the plight of four captive Americans to the forefront of national debate, and set a rare example of journalistic integrity in what has otherwise been a dark age.
For that meritorious service to the nation, Garrett has earned a field promotion. Call him Lieutenant Colonel Garrett.
Dana Bash of CNN, who displayed great integrity during the 2011 Weinergate scandal, chose this occasion to criticize Garrett for being “disrespectful” to President Obama. And she was not the only critic.
To the Beltway chorus, Garrett’s question was more offensive than the fact that four Americans remain imprisoned in Iran because Obama has left them there.
Garrett’s exact words to the president were: “Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of this nation, the strength of this nation, unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?”
Obama, losing his cool, seized on the word “content,” and scolded: “The notion that I am content as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails, Major, that’s nonsense, and you should know better.”
But Garrett did know better—better than to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. This is a president who shows unique apathy about Americans who are victims of terror—whether state-sponsored or paramilitary, at home and abroad.
Consider the bereaved families of Americans captured and beheaded by ISIS, whose main complaint against the White House was not that it enforced laws against paying ransom, but that it barely communicated with them at all.
Or consider the four Marines killed Thursday by a so-called “lone gunman” in Chattanooga, who just happened to be a Muslim from the Middle East. Obama called their deaths “a heartbreaking circumstance”—as if they were just bad luck, as if an attack on a military recruiting office was a wrong-place-wrong-time sort of accident, like the curious “workplace violence” at Fort Hood in 2009, or the “random” Islamist terror attack on Jews in a kosher deli in Paris earlier this year.
In seizing on Garrett’s use of the term “content,” Obama was playing a typical post-modernist semantic game, where the winning move is to catch someone using a word that might offend, even if that word happens to be true.
Certainly Garrett could have used a less aggrieved tone of voice, which betrayed more emotion than a journalist is meant to show. But he deserves to be forgiven for that, given that one of the four captives in Iran, Jason Rezaian, is a fellow journalist.
The problem is not that Obama is incapable of empathy. He was effusive in his eulogy for the nine victims of racist terror in Charleston. He wrote a personal, heartfelt letter to each of 46 felons who, he believed, deserved a second chance in life.
But he has completely ignored the family of Kathryn Steinle, who was murdered by an illegal alien living under the protection of the “sanctuary city” policies that Obama supports.
Deaths that don’t fit “the narrative” don’t count.
Perhaps Obama’s rebuke of Garrett was just a bluff—perhaps, as a Fox News online panel speculated, the four American captives will miraculously appear as debate over the deal heats up in Congress.
Regardless, the Iran deal demands more questions than Garrett’s colleagues have cared to ask, thus far. Why, for example, is Obama going to the UN Security Council before going to Congress, as promised?
We need more Lt. Col. Garretts in the East Room.