Roll over, Bob Hope

The Guardian reports that stars won’t entertain the troops because it might look bad:

But soldiers in Iraq are more likely to get a show from a Christian hip-hop group, a country singer you have probably never heard of and two cheerleaders for the Dallas Cowboys.

Just as the seemingly intractable nature of the war has led to a growing recruitment crisis, so the United Services Organisation, which has been putting on shows for the troops since the second world war, is struggling to get celebrities to sign up for even a short tour of duty.

It is a far cry from the days following the September 11 2001 attacks, when some of the biggest names in show business, from Jennifer Lopez to Brad Pitt, rallied to the cause. “After 9/11 we couldn’t have had enough airplanes for the people who were volunteering to go,” Wayne Newton, the Las Vegas crooner who succeeded Bob Hope as head of USO’s talent recruiting effort, told USA Today. “Now with 9/11 being as far removed as it is, the war being up one day and down the next, it becomes increasingly difficult to get people to go.”

Newton said many celebrities have been wary of going because they think it might be seen that they are endorsing the war. “And I say it’s not. I tell them these men and women are over there because our country sent them, and we have the absolute necessity to try to bring them as much happiness as we can.”

But give credit to Al Franken, who is toring with the aforementioned Christian hip-hop group. Good for you, Al.

  • This is just crazy. Al inoculates them all, if they think that performing for the troops has anything to do with their politics.

    I keep wondering what kind of material Al does for the troops. Notice Robin Williams’ comment about avoiding political stuff because of the chilly reception he got after trying to goof on Bush.

  • C Bassett

    Yeah, so long as Williams does his Bush jokes behind the troops’ back, back in the States, all’s well.

    (I’m not being serious).

    But even WWE wrestlers go to Iraq or Afghanistan each year, and into some of the more dangerous areas that few go to. Fear of doing that is a respectable reason for not going… why should celebrities be expected to do this? But the “but my anti-war image!” whining is more than annoying.

  • I’m currently serving in the US Navy, and I can attest to just how important shows from the USO, MWR programs, etc., are. We don’t make the decisions to go where we’re sent or to leave our families, but when we do, it’s good to have some reminder of home. That’s what these tours do. Whether it’s a christian band, some no name country star or a few cheerleaders, everyone always looks forward to it. It’s a shame that some celebrities put their reputation over the hard work, sacrifice, and determination of the men and women who choose to fight and possiblygive their lives for this country.

  • As one who worked with SS/USO entertainment programs in Nam (68-69), it saddens me to hear this ….

    In retrospect, I’m not surprised, however. Politics (pfffffth) and fear of attacks? Maybe fear. But those are weak excuses. It’s always safer to criticize and taunt from a distance, though ….

    If I hadn’t “aged out,” I’d be there. I’m sure those I worked with would, too. And if she were here — you’d have to restrain Martha Raye from being there.

    Merry Christmas to everyone.

  • J

    I’m with Carson – if Al Franken is doing USO shows, the idea that doing them suggests support for the war is too preposterous to mention. My guess is the real reason is fear. Or this whole article could just be BS – note the remark about the “recruiting crisis”.

  • Yay for Al. I don’t think he does any Bush bashing when entertaining the troops. He’s there to lift their spirits. One of the things that keeps them going is their hope they’re there for a good reason. Having someone ‘goof on’ your Commander in Chief would do the opposite.

    There isn’t a recruiting crisis? I’ve heard analysis that our all-volunteer army can survive two years tops at current commitment levels. Is that bunk? Or are we out of Iraq in two years, one way or the other?

  • J

    “There isn’t a recruiting crisis? I’ve heard analysis that our all-volunteer army can survive two years tops at current commitment levels. Is that bunk? Or are we out of Iraq in two years, one way or the other?”

    The only branch of the service that even broke a sweat trying to meet it’s enlistment goals last year was the Army, and that was after congress ordered them to increase permanent troop strength by at least 20000 (I think it finally ended up at 40000, but this – – is the first article I could find on short notice). I’ve heard that analysis too though, generally from antiwar partisans or people who are almost comically ignorant of military issues (hint – recruiting rates are not stable throughout the year).

    My personal guess is that we’ll still have troops in Iraq 30 years from now. Not as many as now of course, and not as many as we have left in Europe, but we’ll have a presence.

  • Jimmy

    I’ve seen some of the material Franken does for the troops: his Saddam impressions have them rolling in the aisles. I agree this is a sad situation, but then it’s yet another example of how we’ve politicized everything from USO tours to helping charities to Christmas. I also agree that it’s a lame excuse. Our troops deserve better. I’m far from being a supporter of this war, but that doesn’t stop me from honoring the men and women who choose to serve there country wherever that might be. As for the idea that it might be perceived as hypocritical, well two of my closest friends are current and former military and while they may not agree with my political views (we have some lively disucssions), they’ve certainly never questioned my support for them as servicemen. Lame, lame, lame.

  • J. Peden

    As in the Macarthy era, again the Hollywood-Entertainment Industry black-balls itself. What a show, What a show!

  • Ravo

    Going there, the Hollywood-Entertainment industry might be worried about what it will learn. It might not be able to remain ignorant of the fact that over two thirds of the Iraqi citizens appreciate our sacrifices. They may not be able to stay ignorant on what is being accomplished in Iraq.

  • Sean

    I’m not a fan of Al Franken, I’m against almost everything he is for, but if he’s performing for the troops, then kudo’s for him.

  • Al Franken said on his radio show is that one of the bits is to introduce American cheerleaders who come out in burkas.

    I assume they take the burkas off by the end of the show.

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  • I guess no good deed goes unpunished.

  • Wayne Newton is in charge of recruiting talent? How about getting someone with some pull to do the job?

    Thanks Wayne, for pitching in, but you ain’t getting the job done.

  • Is anyone maintaining a list of entertainers who *do* participate in USO shows? Seems like a userful project.

  • pdf

    Another guy who’s done a bunch of USO tours (I think about a half dozen at last count) is Henry Rollins, again not a big supporter of Bush but more than willing to step up and visit US troops. There was an article about his USO work in the New York Times a few weeks ago.

  • Jorge

    Unlike George Bush, Al Franken when given a choice will do the right thing.

    Bush lies .
    Al Franken exposes the lies.

    Al Franken is the right man who is always in the right place and always does the right thing.

  • C Bassett

    Thanks for your opinion, Mr. Franken. But please stop lying and use your real name, we know it isn’t Jorge. What’s with you and lying?

  • J. Peden

    Franken lied when he did not include himself on the cover of his book, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” But to have done this “would have conflicted with my strong sense of modesty”, he explained. [Hey, it’s way over-cool now to lie.]

  • torcik

    I wonder when the big supporters of the like Limbaugh, O Reilly or Hannity will take time off from making money to go to Iraq. Talk is cheap. This Al Frankens third trip

  • Aaron

    I don’t buy the danger excuse, because I watch Armed Forces Network overseas (I work for the US Government but am not military) and virtually all of the “We Support You!” commercials by stars are NASCAR drivers, country-music stars, etc. Clearly the left-wing in Hollywood (with important exceptions) doesn’t want to be associated with the military… like the controversies surrounding memorials to soldiers in very blue cities, which don’t want to give any impression that the soldier was anything but a poor sucker.

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