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Obama honors U.S. forces killed in helicopter attack (updated)

August 09, 2011|By James Oliphant | Washington Bureau
  • President Obama led an administration delegation to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for a private ceremony to honor the remains of 30 U.S. military members killed in Afghanistan.
President Obama led an administration delegation to Dover Air Force Base… (Steve Roark / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington   —

President Obama traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Tuesday to pay tribute to 30 U.S. service members, including 22 Navy SEALs, killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

Obama led a delegation of administration and military officials to salute the remains of the fallen troops, whose helicopter was shot down by insurgents Saturday. It marked the highest single-day death toll for U.S. forces since the long war began a decade ago.

The scene was closed to the public and the press, with Obama's trip chronicled by a small group of pool reporters.

The remains were returned to Dover in "unidentified" status until they are positively identified by the Armed Forces Mortuary Affairs Office.

According to a White House aide, upon arrival at Dover, the president boarded two C-17s and paid his respects to the fallen servicemen.

He then motorcaded to a building on the base where approximately 250 family members and fellow servicemen and women of the casualties had gathered. He spent approximately 70 minutes meeting informally with family members, offering his condolences for their loss and his gratitude for their sacrifice and service.

Speculation mounted that Obama would head to Delaware after the White House canceled an event in Springfield, Va., to promote the administration's new fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy-duty trucks. Instead, the president met with industry leaders at the White House on the topic.

The daily press briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney was also canceled, meaning the White House would probably not show a public face a day after the president's public remarks failed to stem the tide of losses on Wall Street on the first day of trading this week.

Monday, in what some Republican wags termed “The Obama Effect,” the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 200 points after the president began speaking on the downgrade of the nation’s credit rating by Standard and Poor's, ultimately closing with a 634-point loss.

Wall Street rebounded Tuesday, with the Dow jumping more than 200 points.

Pressure has built on Obama to take some sort of dramatic action to send a signal that the U.S. is dealing with the global debt crisis, including recalling Congress from its August recess. 

But Republicans have shown little interest in striking any further deals with the president — and it remains possible that sustained gridlock could reinforce the view held by Standard and Poor’s that Washington is unable to come together to tackle the government’s most intractable spending issues.

james.oliphant@latimes.com

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