It seems strange to me that this is even an issue. The military, in particular, the elite troops of the special forces and the airborne units stationed at Bragg, is a highly disciplined organization. Assuming the Times got these facts right:
"The guy from White House advance, during the initial meetings, said, 'Be careful not to let this become a pep rally,' " Captain Earnhardt recalled in a telephone interview. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, confirmed that account.
As the message drifted down to commanders, it appears that it may have gained an interpretation beyond what the administration's image-makers had in mind. "This is a very disciplined environment," said Captain Earnhardt, "and some guys may have taken it a bit far," leaving the troops hesitant to applaud.
it would seem to me that the mission was accomplished. If an order was handed down to keep the raucous tone down, it is not unreasonable for military commanders to interpret those orders pretty strictly--meaning, keep the applause to a minimum and be respectful.
Of course, had teh troops been their usual rowdy self in the presence of their Commander in Chief, the White House and the Army would have been blasted by the NY Times for making a policy speech too political. (of course, the Times would also not be able to see the irony in making a "policy" speech political--after all policy is political.).
For similar thoughts see, The Captain's Quarters and Outside the Beltway.
Troops' Silence at Fort Bragg Starts a Debate