'a lump of coal from the president'
In this excellent column, the WaPo's David Broder shows that one doesn't need shrill rhetoric or lefty hyperbole to call attention to the sham that this current Administration calls leadership: Simply pointing out Bush's relentless hypocracy and self-contradiction will do.
Earlier in the week, in connection with signing the legislation to create a Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, Bush addressed federal employees in a memorandum about what he called "my highest and most urgent priority," protecting the American people from another terrorist attack. He praised the civil servants for their "hard work and unwavering dedication" and said, "Americans owe you their gratitude for helping to keep their families and their communities secure."
A few days later, Bush told those same federal workers that he was curtailing their pay increases because granting the "full statutory pay increases in 2003 would interfere with our nation's ability to pursue the war on terrorism." Instead of the 4.1 percent raise that was moving through Congress before it adjourned for the year, the president said the workers would get a 3.1 percent boost...the administration said it would save $1 billion nationally.
But the billion-dollar savings has to be put in context. The Pentagon budget for next year -- which does not include the funding of an Iraqi war -- is $355 billion, up 10 percent over 2002.
The farm bill, which the president signed back in May with an eye to November's Midwest Senate races, will cost $248 billion over the next six years. Fiscal conservatives in both parties objected to its expanded subsidies to large farm operators, but the president did not hesitate to give it his blessing. And he has defended his 10-year tax cut, which will cost the Treasury $1.3 trillion and mostly will benefit top-bracket earners. Indeed, he wants to make the tax cuts permanent, and there's talk in the White House of accelerating them.
Oddly enough, the same president who says, with a straight face, that a $1 billion federal pay raise would "interfere with . . . the war on terrorism" insists the tax cut can go forward as if the budget were still in surplus and al Qaeda had never struck. The mixed message to federal workers -- words of praise followed by a lump of coal in their Christmas stockings -- comes as administration officials and private foundations are trying to persuade thousands of talented young people to take up government careers and replace those who are slated for retirement.
Almost everywhere you look, the element of shared sacrifice that should be expected in a nation at war is missing. A few people are being asked to give up a lot -- measured in time or money -- while others are being indulged in ways no one can claim are fair.