The Senate has already passed a defense spending bill with billions of additional dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the House poised to take up the measure, the president devoted his weekly radio address to the subject. Bush seemed quite anxious to present himself as the troops’ best friend in Washington, insisting that if the House follows the Senate’s lead and passes a spending bill that the White House doesn’t like, those in uniform lose.
“The Pentagon will run out of money it needs to support critical day-to-day operations that help keep our Nation safe. And after July, the department will no longer be able to pay our troops — including those serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve better than this. Around the world, our troops are taking on dangerous missions with skill and determination…. Each day, the men and women of our Armed Forces risk their lives to make sure their fellow citizens are safer. They serve with courage and honor. They’ve earned the respect of all Americans. And they deserve the full support of Congress. I often hear members of Congress say they oppose the war, but still support the troops. Now they have a chance to prove it. Congress should pass a responsible funding bill that gives our men and women in uniform the resources they need — and the support they have earned.”
We’re obviously well past the point at which anyone can expect honesty and integrity from Still-President Bush, but these comments were especially annoying.
First, the main sticking point in the disagreement between Congress and the administration is the Webb/Hagel measure to expand and revise the GI Bill. In other words, Bush is prepared to reject funding for the wars because Democrats (and more than a few Republicans) want to give the troops more generous educational benefits. Somehow, the president’s radio address omitted this detail.
And second, for all of Bush’s talk about paying the troops and what they and their families “deserve,” what the radio address neglected to mention is that the Democratic Congress is trying to give the troops a raise — and the Bush administration thinks it costs too much.
Faiz explained this very well just a couple of weeks ago.
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The bill includes a section to raise the pay for the soldiers by 3.9 percent – an increase of 0.5 percent over the Bush administration’s request. In a “Statement of Administration Policy” released [on May 22], the White House asserts that it “strongly opposes” the pay increase authorized by Congress.... The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that the 0.5 percent increase in troop pay would mean spending just an extra $324 million in 2009. [...]
At the same time it is strongly opposing a slight increase in pay for the troops, the Bush administration is asking for hundreds of billions more for war. To put it in all in context, the White House wants $165 billion to continue fighting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars this year, but refuses to spend 0.2 percent of that amount ($324 million) to provide the troops a slight pay raise.
Despite his opposition to a pay increase, President Bush continues to demagogue the issue of support for the troops, telling soldiers at Ft. Drum yesterday that Congress is to blame for not having passed “a responsible war funding bill.” Of course, he didn’t tell that troops that by “responsible,” he means he wants a bill that gives them less pay.
Now go back and take a look at the language in the president’s radio address yesterday: “Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve better than this. Around the world, our troops are taking on dangerous missions with skill and determination.... Congress should pass a responsible funding bill that gives our men and women in uniform the resources they need — and the support they have earned.”
It’d be funny if it weren’t so sad.
Post Script: Oh, and before I forget, it’s worth noting that John McCain, Bush’s would-be successor, agrees with the president’s position on the spending bill. Just FYI.