[NOTE: I also posted this article on www.dailykos.com. If you like it, please go to it here and recommend it, comment on it, etc. Thanks.]
President Bush today asked for an additional $42.3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing his total request for 2008 to $189.3 billion. To head off a challenge by the Democrat-controlled Congress, he said, according to a CNN.com article, "America should do what it takes to support our troops and protect our people."
When I read his quote, it made me think of a seven-year-old who realizes that a guilt trip works on his parents, so he uses it again and again, thinking that the 19th time will be as effective as the first. "You didn't let me have popcorn at the movies" might buy him an extra half hour before bed that night, but it's unlikely that two weeks later, the same guilt trip will net him any benefit.
Bush has the same urgent, myopic attitude as the seven-year-old. At the slightest hint that he might not get he what he wants for the war in Iraq, he screams out, nearly reflexively, "The troops! Support the troops! The troops are what we need to support! Do you NOT want to support the troops?"
Unfortunately, the Democrats in Congress have been like the nervous first-time parents, terrified of doing something wrong with their child. Any time there has been a threat of looking like they're not supporting the troops, the Democrats have collapsed faster than the Jets offensive line.
Which makes the analogy about the seven-year-old less appropriate than, perhaps, a 16-year-old that saw the principal making out with the school nurse and claims to have a photo of it. The principal believes that his career can be ended by the kid's photo, so he caves instantly. The only difference is that in Bush's case, there is no photo. Bush's record on the war, and, more specifically, his record on caring for the troops who have been thrown into this war, is so abysmal, it's the Democrats who hold the incriminating photo.
Are you following my analogies? That's okay, I'm not sure I am anymore, either.
The bottom line is that for Bush to make the argument that he is protecting the troops is the height of chutzpah. From the first day of the war, Bush has shown a disregard for the troops that would have gotten a Democratic president impeached by a Republican Congress. From the conditions at Walter Reed, to sending the troops to Iraq without body armor, to the delays in providing bomb-resistant vehicles, to back-door drafting reservists and national guard members, to sending troops into battle without proper planning for the aftermath, Bush is every soldier's worst nightmare.
If you don't believe me, just ask the parade of former generals who have slammed Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, including, most recently, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who led the U.S. forces in Iraq. Sanchez called Iraq a "nightmare with no end in sight."
In response to Bush's request for funding, the CNN.com article quoted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as saying Congress would not "rubber-stamp" the president's request. He added, "In the coming weeks, we will hold it up to the light of day and fight for the change of strategy and redeployment of troops that is long overdue."
Yes, Harry. Long, long overdue. And why? Because you and your party didn't stand and fight when you had the chance. You got scared of being painted as not supporting the troops. I hope Reid means it this time, because Bush's hurting-the-troops taunts have gotten old and ring hollow, and I suspect the American people know that by now. At least, they know it in the five seconds between watching stories about Britney's custody battle and Ellen DeGeneres's meltdown.
I've said it before, and I think it's only truer now: The American people voted the Democrats into control of Congress in 2006 to do one and only one job, and that was to change Iraq policy. So, if the Democrats stand up to Bush, no matter what ridiculous accusations he makes, the electorate will respect and support the party for sticking to its guns and attempting to meet its mandate.
In the CNN.com article, Bush is also quoted as telling the Democrats, "Congress should not go home for the holidays while our troops are still waiting for the funds they need." Again, I feel like Bush does not even recognize the inherent hypocrisy (and comedy) in what he is saying. After all, he had no trouble putting a "surge" in place, requiring our troops to endure hellish temperatures over the summer in Iraq, all while the Iraqi government took a month-long vacation, one reluctantly reduced from two months after Americans complained.
As oblivious and suggestible as the American people have proven to be, I think even they have reached the point where they've had it with Bush's through-the-looking glass statements on supporting the troops. Americans have had it with the president's war in Iraq, and they are looking for someone, anyone, to do something about it.
The Democrats can be those people. Harry Reid can be that guy. Nancy Pelosi can be that gal. It's time for them to finally -- finally! -- make a stand. It's time for them to force Bush to do something to change his failing policy, and his seeming willingness to throw away an unlimited amount of money and ruin an unlimited number of lives, all in the name of continuing a ruinous and disastrous war.
The old expression says that sticks and stones can break bones, but words can never harm. Never has that adage been more true than in this situation. Let Bush bluster all he wants about protecting the troops. His words have no power anymore. To quote Dan Aykroyd as Bob Dole on the old "Saturday Night Live," "You know it, I know it, and the American people know it." It's time for the Democrats to know it, too.