A West Point cadet has responded to MSNBC host Chris Matthews's description of the military academy as "enemy camp" for President Obama.
"I watched the cadets, they were young kids, men and women who were committed to serving their country professionally, it must be said, as officers. And I didn't see much excitement. But among the older people there, I saw, if not resentment, skepticism," Matthews said Tuesday night. "I didn't see a lot of warmth in that crowd out there the president chose to address tonight. And I thought it was interesting. He went to maybe the enemy camp tonight to make his case."
Matthews suggested later in the broadcast that he had used the wrong words, and he gave a full apology the next day.
Ben Salvito, a member of the class of 2010, wrote a response on The New Ledger Web site Wednesday saying that the cadets' lack of excitement had nothing to do with their opinions:
To applaud or to boo at the announcements made last night would have both been equally inappropriate for the Corps of Cadets. In fact, the stoic reaction by all ought to leave the world confident in the Corps' and the military's ability to be apolitical and execute the policies of the President and Congress with fervor and duty. [...]
Cadets are trained in acceptance of orders, and the Commander-in-Chief was effectively issuing an order to all who were present. No cadet will be spared from the effects of President Obama's remarks -- his message has been received and internalized by all who were present in Eisenhower Hall. I am humbled by the President's decision to announce his new strategy at my school and completely reject the notion of any who suggest that West Point is in any way "the enemy camp." The enemy camps are in Helmand province, where soldiers are currently engaged in the President's mission.
In his apology, Matthews, conceded that he shouldn't have used the words "enemy camp" or tried to divine the cadets' opinions from their reaction to the speech:
Now I've heard too many politicians say things like, "oh that was taken out context" to explain something they wish they hadn't said let me just say to the cadets, their parents, former cadets and everyone who cares about this country and those who defend it: I used the wrong words and worse than that I said something that is just not right and for that I deeply apologize.
As those who watch me regularly probably got right away, my point was that the military up at West Point was probably a skeptical audience for President Obama given his strong position against the war in Iraq and generally more dovish image. I was wrong to make that conclusion based on the lack of applause or apparent enthusiasm in the ranks of officers and cadets last night.