“Bring ’em on”

“Bring ’em on” October 4, 2003

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2)

Candidate George W. Bush, 1999, discussing the state of the U.S. military:

"Resources are over-stretched. Frustration is up, as families are separated and strained. Morale is down. This administration wants things both ways: To command great forces, without supporting them. To launch today's new causes, with little thought of tomorrow's consequences."

You probably didn't need that biblical epigram to notice that, however true that statement might have been in 1999, it's far more true today.

Eric Boehlert includes that quote in "Rank and Bile," a Salon article examining the many ways the Bush administration has alienated the military with a lack of respect and concern, and a growing list of unkept promises.

Consider the politically insane position Bush and the GOP have staked out over "legislation that would help ease the burden of medical bills for 670,000 disabled vets":

The veterans bill remains bottled up in Republican committees — and in a strange role reversal, it's the Democrats wearing the white hats in this Capitol Hill showdown over the military. Democrats are collecting congressional signatures for a "discharge petition" in an effort to the get the benefits bill to the floor for a vote where it would certainly pass in an up-or-down roll call. The Republican leadership, though, has forbidden its members from signing the petition despite the fact more than 100 of them cosponsored the bill.

Note the craven duplicity of this tactic: No member of Congress would dare to vote against this legislation if it were to come up for a roll call vote. So the Bush administration and the GOP leadership have slinked into the strategy of preventing such a vote from occurring.

Veterans' groups have made this a top priority issue (see "Out the Door in 2004," also here).

The legislation in question is H.R. 303, "The Retired Pay Restoration Act of 2003." At present, it has 371 cosponsors — roughly 85 percent of the 435-member House of Representatives. (A list of co-sponsors here.)

The bill is not cheap — $5 billion — but it is overdue. The disabled and retired vets have, after all, already rendered their service.

The Bush administration's position on this baffles me. Surely, the most prodigal and spendthrift administration in the history of the nation is not picking this issue as the point on which to suddenly reassert it's alleged fiscal conservatism. What could Bush and Co. possibly be thinking?

Boehlert argues that if the administration continues to stonewall veterans groups while embracing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's apparent contempt for the Army, that Bush and the Republican Party could lose the loyalty of military voters in the 2004 election.

Frankly, if this keeps up, Bush might find a Bonus Army camped out on the Mall.

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  • Adam Kotsko

    It seems that the laziness of the media, which you continually point out, is one of the main factors in allowing this kind of thing to work. It’s a whole lot easier to report, “President Bush said x today” than it is to report, “That one bill about funding for veteran retirement benefits is still tied up in committee.” I think it might be fair to say that virtually all the pages in the newspaper are essentially opinion pages — on most pages, they just quote other people’s opinions (politicians, poll numbers, whatever), but on a couple pages, they explicitly hire people to spout opinions every day.
    Here’s a fun Onion article on this phenomenon.