Robin Williams’s death gets a White House statement. Where’s the one for Maj. Gen. Harold Greene?

Hours after the news of Robin Williams’s death broke, the White House issued a heartfelt and sincere statement.

Major General Harold Green was killed in action several days ago, in Afghanistan. The White House was slow to respond to the death of a high-ranking servicemember, and has not yet posted a statement on the White House website.  

Most people don’t know Gen. Greene’s name, while just about everyone knew Williams’s.  He was so adept at shifting among adult-themed comedy, serious acting, and family-oriented silliness that most people have a favorite Robin Williams movie or appearance.

The Facebook and Twitter tributes back that up: Williams’s death is a trending topic.  And the Obama White House has a keen sense of zeitgeist (one that makes their apparent, frequent tone deafness tough to understand).  The White House statement on Williams passing will make it into news feeds and be retweeted, so speaking out on his death – and doing so quickly – becomes a priority.  

Treating death this way is unfair – not only to Maj. Gen. Greene, but to Williams, who deserves to be more than social media fodder for a politician.

Playing two sides against Afghanistan

It’s one thing for a politician to draw criticism for a policy from his opponents, but the reaction to President Obama’s Afghani-plan speech last night from the left is potentially more problematic.

Obama’s speech was unsurprising – not only had his plans for troop escalation been the worst kept secret in Washington for weeks, he promised to do as much during the campaign last year.  Still, pundits like Michael Moore – normally a water boy for all issue blue – have issued strongly worded rebukes against such a strategy.

Moore’s warning, in an open letter, that Obama would “destroy the hopes and dreams so many millions have placed in” him suggests that he wasn’t paying attention to the substance of Obama’s campaign rhetoric.  As a likeable candidate, Obama made it easy for folks like Moore to ignore policy details and revel in the fact that their newest candidate wasn’t a wonkish robot (like Al Gore in 2000) or a New England blue blood (like John Kerry).

Unfortunately for the President, that raises expectations to the level of his follower’s wildest dreams – not a good thing in an environment where success or failure often comes down to the size of the yardstick.