Saturday, July 21, 2007

Hypocrite in chief

By J. Kingston Pierce

Yeah, yeah, I know: That headline could apply to so many things George W. Bush has done over the last six and a half years, that it hardly seems imaginative anymore. Nonetheless, today’s news that the prez is giving Senate Democrats hell for pulling a defense authorization bill from consideration until the upper chamber can reach some sort of bipartisan consensus on the future of the Iraq war is stunning in the level of its hypocrisy. Bush denounces Dems for failing to act on a bill that would “provide funds to upgrade our equipment, for our troops in Iraq and provides a pay raise for our military.” Yet the prez threatened just three months ago to veto that bill if such a pay hike was included. “Bush budget officials said the administration ‘strongly opposes’ both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases ‘unnecessary,’” reported the Army Times in mid-May.

Back then, Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) said that he was “extremely disappointed” by the White House’s obstinacy over this pay raise issue, opining that it stood “in direct contrast to the will of the American people who support all the efforts to support our troops.” Kerry further scolded Bush for opposing the increase, even as the administration lobbied Congress to extend tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Representative Patrick Murphy (D-Pennsylvania), the first Iraq war vet to serve in Congress, chimed in with the accusation that Bush’s veto threat was equivalent to the prez telling U.S. soldiers, “Thank you for your service to your country, but that’s too much of a pay increase.”

That Bush should now seek to batter Democrats with the charge that they are standing in the way of this troop pay boost is stunning in it’s arrogance and its contempt for the intelligence of the American people. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) called Bush on his abject two-facedness in a statement released earlier today:

Democrats and a majority of Americans believe that supporting the troops means rebuilding our overburdened military and redeploying our troops from an Iraqi civil war. It is the height of hypocrisy for a President whose Administration has sent our brave men and women into combat without the proper equipment, recuperation time, training or strategy for success to lecture Congress about supporting the troops.

If our military’s wellbeing were truly a priority for this President, as he indicated this morning, why has his Administration for the past several months opposed military pay raises as too costly and blocked everything we have done to support the troops? I hope, but highly doubt, that President Bush will one day realize that supporting our troops is more than a slogan or a photo op.

Bush claims that Democrats are playing politics with his disastrous Iraq war (“It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field and give them everything they need to succeed”), yet that’s precisely what he has been doing for years now, and especially since Republican’ts lost control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) noted, Bush’s comments “only demonstrate his administration’s unwillingness to work with Congress to give our men and women in uniform the support they deserve, including a new direction in Iraq.” Unless Bush can have everything his way--which means enjoying a free hand to send more soldiers to their deaths in a civil war halfway around the world, for an unlimited time at taxpayer expense--then he’ll continue to play politics with the financial compensation that members of the military receive for risking their lives.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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