Monday, July 16, 2007

Not too hot to fight and die

Back in May, a group of Republican lawmakers, understandably agitated by the very real possibility that President Bush is driving them over a cliff, met with their lame-duck leader at the White House. They voiced their strong concerns about the Iraq disaster, and warned Bush about the ’08 political repercussions. Then one GOP congressman lashed out at Bush over reports that members of the Iraqi Parliament were planning to exercise their new-won freedom by actually going on vacation for the entire month of August – despite the fact that a war was raging around them, and despite the fact that they had enacted none of the crucial “benchmark” legislation that Bush first asked for back in January.

The congressman reportedly asked, “How can our sons and daughters spill their blood, while the Iraqi government goes on vacation?” And Bush sought to reassure the congressman by declaring that Dick Cheney was on the case: “The vice president is over there to tell them, ‘do not go on vacation.’”

Well, sure enough, the Iraqi Parliament will be going on vacation for the entire month of August - which is really no surprise anyway, since those lawmakers don't really care about Bush's benchmark timetable. And the White House, ever protective of its disputatious clients, is insisting that the hiatus is no big deal.

Last Friday, Bush press secretary Tony Snow confirmed the news, and at first sought to minimize it by saying that the Iraqis are going on vacation “just like the U.S. Congress is.” That was a creative defense, to suggest that if the Democratic-run Congress opts to go on vacation, then the Iraqi Parliament should feel free to do the same. Somehow, that feels like a false equivalence; last I checked, the Iraqi Parliament was sitting on some bills that are crucial to the regime’s survival, while people are being blown up in the streets, and, last I checked, the Bush administration and its dwindling band of enablers were urging the Iraqis to make some real progress in time for Gen. Petraeus’ September report.

Therefore, one might have expected that Snow would tell the Iraqis to put those vacation plans on hold, to shake up and hunker down. After all, that’s precisely how Bush reacted back in April, when the Democratic Congress left town – merely for the Easter break – without completing some Iraq funding legislation. At the time, Bush went to the Rose Garden to grumble about the Democrats: “And now they have left Washington for spring recess without finishing the work.”

But apparently it’s OK if the Iraqi lawmakers blow off a whole month.

And Tony Snow came up with a second creative excuse: “You know, it's 130 degrees in Baghdad in August.”

In other words, according to Snow’s spin, it’s way too hot for an Iraqi lawmaker to walk down a hallway with a file folder under his arm – but not too hot for American soldiers to patrol the mean streets while clad in full body armor, risking life and limb so that the Iraqis can twiddle their thumbs at leisure. This is surely a new wrinkle on the old Bush admonition about "supporting the troops."

Which brings us back to the question that the GOP congressman asked Bush in May: “How can our sons and daughters spill their blood, while the Iraqi government goes on vacation?”

The answer is now clear: Because Bush says so.


As further evidence that the war is dampening GOP electoral spirits, consider the latest fund-raising stats filed by the '08 presidential candidates. During the second quarter of this year - from April 1 to June 30 - the eight Democratic hopefuls raised roughly $81.3 million...while the 10 Republicans raised $47.3 million.