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"It is better to be drunk with loss and to beat the ground, than to let the deeper things gradually escape."

- I. Compton-Burnett, letter to Francis King (1969)

"Cynical realism – it is the intelligent man’s best excuse for doing nothing in an intolerable situation."

- Aldous Huxley, "Time Must Have a Stop"

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Friday, 23 January 2004

Topic: Bush

There is such a thing as honor.

Something has been bothering me about President Bush's State of the Union speech a few days ago. I wasn't sure what it was. Here Colbert King hits on it.

This is the problem.

See Empty Words for the War-Torn
Colbert I. King, Saturday, January 24, 2004; The Washington Post, Page A19

The piece is long but here's the core:
Last Tuesday night was an opportunity for George W. Bush to eulogize the fallen, a chance for him to tell their families what their sacrifices mean to the nation - a time for the president to help heal broken hearts. That didn't happen.

Yes, in his long address to a joint session of Congress, Bush offered a few words of praise for the skill and courage of the men and women in the military. He delivered a line about "sorrow when one is lost," and shared a self-serving recollection of himself landing on the deck of a carrier in the Pacific Ocean and his Thanksgiving Day fly-in to Baghdad.

There was also a pledge to supply the troops with all the resources they need to fight and win. But victims of the Iraq war, as well as their moms, dads, spouses, children, neighbors and friends, deserved more than what they got from the president.

Instead of a moment of silence for those who have paid the ultimate price, they heard presidential pitches for prescription drugs and a new immigration law, and a denunciation of steroids and gay marriage. Instead of hearing the president recognize the preciousness of young lives expended far from home, they got a plea to put Social Security taxes in personal retirement accounts. Instead of telling the country why it should remember what the dead and dying stood for, Americans were given an earful on child tax credits, the death tax and cuts in taxes on capital gains.
That's it.

Perhaps I'm more sensitive to this as I do have a nephew in the Army, a major at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, out near Barstow. He trains the guys who go to Iraq and Afghanistan. And by the way, Wesley Clark used to be in command of the National Training Center at Fort Irwin. Anyway, my nephew deserves better from his Commander In Chief.

Yes, Tuesday was the time to tell U.S. families whose sons and daughters are losing their lives and limbs that their brave sacrifices still make sense. Tuesday was the time to explain why we are still getting hammered by a growing budget deficit, and why the military is stretched to nearly the breaking point. Yes, the families needed "an honest answer as to why young men and women in uniform are expected to fight and die in country dominated by clerics who want our protection as they vie for power and, once they get it, want us gone."

Instead, we got a Bush speech laying the groundwork for his quest for reelection.

King adds this:
This does not come from a Bush hater. He rallied the nation after Sept. 11, 2001, and set the right tone for a military response to al Qaeda. George W. Bush is not the ogre his critics make him out to be. But if ever the country needed a commander in chief who understands the horrors and wastes of war, it's now. That kind of president was not on display Tuesday night.
And that was the problem.

And maybe that does explain the appeal of people like Senators John Kerry and John McCain, retired general and Secretary of State Colin Powell, and retired General Wesley Clark.

King quotes a long passage from Kerry's book about his days in Vietnam. The writers at The Wall Street Journal always refer to Kerry as the "haughty French-looking senator who by the way served in Vietnam." Funny - like his three Purple Hearts for his wounds, and his Bronze Star and the Silver Star for gallantry in action. Real funny.

The passage, describing how a soldier dies, is graphic. Click on the link and read it, or buy the book. The account also appeared in "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War," by Douglas Brinkley, in the December 2003 issue of Atlantic Monthly.

And yes, a president who has been down in the trenches and seen people die would never have gone up to Capitol Hill in the midst of war and delivered the kind of State of the Union speech that the nation heard Tuesday night.


Posted by Alan at 21:55 PST | Post Comment | Permalink
Updated: Friday, 23 January 2004 22:02 PST home

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