The latest announcement, in a hurried Pentagon ceremony, reveals that the new littoral combat ship (LCS 10) will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords, after the former US Representative from Arizona gravely wounded in an attack by a mentally disturbed constituent last year (though some want to blame the gun). The Independence-class LCS, after the lead ship of the class (along with its ‘brother’ Freedom class), are all named for US cities, up until now. Ships named after people are traditionally done after their death, or in some cases for those who are about to pass on, such as the USS Nitze (DDG 94) or the USS Gerald R Ford (CVN-78). This marks though an unfortunate acceleration of ships named for living people, which started with the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) in 1980, thus belittling the idea of avoidance of aggrandizement or pandering, since a person of honour would not seek fame, only an opportunity to do great things. This is also the third warship named for a woman, after the USS Higbee (DD 806) and the USS Hopper (DDG 70).
In all cases, ships are typically named for someone who has some tie with the naval service. But let the editorial explain:
There are many appropriate ways to honor Mrs Giffords, but this is not one of them.
It’s obvious that generating election-year headlines is the primary motivator here. Mrs Giffords was not a noted sponsor or co-sponsor of any major legislation related to the LCS in particular or the sea services generally. The Navy Department said she was known for “advocating for renewable energy and championing border security,” which are not exactly core Navy missions.
[Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus said Mrs Giffords was a source of “great inspiration” who represents “the Navy and Marine Corps qualities of overcoming, adapting and coming out victorious despite great challenges.” This may be true. If Mr Mabus visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, he could meet many wounded American servicemen who have survived these types of challenges and worse. Perhaps he could stop by Arlington National Cemetery and talk to the parents and spouses of members of the military who were deployed overseas but did not make it back. They represented the virtues of the sea services directly through voluntary personal sacrifice. Their names would serve as more appropriate monikers for U.S. warships.
This is the latest in a series of the Obama administration’s questionable, politically motivated Navy ship namings. In the past three years, vessels have been named for civil rights activist Medgar Evers, radical migrant labor leader Cesar Chavez and disgraced former Democratic Rep. John P. Murtha.
Senator Roy Blount (R-Missouri) has called for a report about this series of abuses and to “require a report on the policies and practices … for naming the vessels of the Navy.”
Naming a ship after Mrs Giffords may have been a response to this amendment, which only underscores what a cynical game it has become.
What can we next expect? What popular names appeal to Obama’s base? Maybe the USS Barney Frank, the USS Ché Guevara, the USS Bernadine Dohrn? There is always the possibility for the USS John Kerry, like Murtha a former member of the naval service. He worked hard for his medals and claims that he actually earned them. (There is nothing so ephemeral as the glory of a man who claims that he is a hero.)
Gabrielle Giffords has shown great fortitude and inspiration in fighting back from this tragedy, but exploiting her shooting and the death of others by linking this to a military icon is just pandering.