Washington Post Outsmarted by West Point Cadets

The Naïveté of a Double Minority

By Ladson F. Mills III

Presidential adviser Ben Rhodes created a furor with his recent New York TiUSMA imagemes Magazine interview in which he blatantly unmasked the Obama administrations open contempt and disdain for the Washington press.  It is clear they are regarded as mostly young and naive.

Typically, such assertions should be taken with a grain of salt. Rhodes would not be the first political aide to fall into the trap of being carried away by his own perceived brilliance. It regularly occurs the longer they cling to the seats of power. Most, however are not so open in revealing their true sentiments.

But nothing seems to more clearly support Rhode’s assertion than a May 10th Washington Post editorial.  It gives full unqualified support for a group of female African American West Point Cadets photographed in uniform defiantly raising their fist in a manner many considered to be overtly political and deliberately provocative.

The editorial asserted this is nothing more than an expression of pride not unlike what people do when they score a touchdown or sink a long putt… a group of strong confident young women enjoying their moment in the sunIf a group of white males had posed in the same position, there would be no controversy. All that is lacking from the partisan sycophancy is why bless their hearts.

Having successfully completed four years of West Point these cadets were undoubtedly blowing off steam and having a little fun as well. It is also highly unlikely they are so naïve as to be unaware of the message being communicated.  Like generations of students they saw an opportunity to push the envelope and do it in a way that provided them plausible deniability. And yes in all probability they took advantage of being African-American and female. It is not rocket science in being aware that we live in a good time to be a double minority.


Black Cadets protestJust compare this incident to the one in which cadets from The Citadel donned white pillow cases last December as part of a skit on “The Ghost of Christmas Past”.  When this photo became public racial activist, and politicians immediately seized the opportunity to accuse these students of intentionally emulating the KKK.

 Unlike West Point, The Citadel administration gave only tepid support before quickly throwing them under the bus.  There was no Army Secretary tweeting supportive statements or Washington Post editorial to suggest it is not the cadets’ problem. Only a Citadel physics professor writing the local paper saying the offending students should be expelled.

In a more balanced time it would have been noticed that The Citadel cadets were freshman and more prone to The Citadel imageyouthful indiscretions. The West Point Cadets are seniors about to graduate and reasonably expected to be held to a higher standard.

But there are lessons to be gleaned. First the Washington Post is correct in stating these young women are special. The mistake is in the suggestion that it is due to race and gender.

They are special because they will soon be granted the privilege of leading the finest young men and women in the world. They are special because they will have the opportunity to do something rare in today’s culture. They will be part of the ultimate cash and carry organization.


What they have done previously or hope to do in the future is not relevant to the task at hand. The troops they command will not care about where they have graduated. Skin color and gender are subordinate to competence. To be successful leaders they will have to earn the respect and trust of the soldiers who have been committed to their care.

The mothers and fathers of this nation who entrust them with the lives of their sons and daughters are also the ones who pay their salary.  These future officers may ultimately be called upon to decide who lives or dies.  It is not washington post opinion logosomething to be taken lightly.

If they should find themselves in harm’s way it will not be a newspaper editorial team or a tweeting Army Secretary that will come to their aid.  In real world military most of what they have been taught in school will be of little or no importance. There are no safe zones in the real world and those dedicated to killing them do not care about gender confusion or if their feelings are being validated.  In the field there are no debates about toilet issues.

More importantly they will someday find themselves with a group of aging comrades who are different in race, gender and socio economic background.  They will fight back tears and be shocked by the intenseness of an embrace or the sound of their own voice as they say I love you. And it will be meant in ways they could never have been imagined possible.

The Washington Post does not understand that when you are good enough you have no need of patronizing affirmation.

And for that our nation should be thankful. ◄◄◄◄



Ladson F. Mills III is a former Marine Line Officer and Navy Chaplain.  He is a regular contributor to Virtueonline and The Covert Letter.