I have been doing a little reading this week about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and came across his final State of the Union address, delivered in 1944. It’s certainly telling to compare FDR to our little war president. The passages below are all from FDR’s speech.
However, while the majority goes on about its great work without complaint, a noisy minority..swarm through the lobbies of the Congress and the cocktail bars of Washington, representing these special groups as opposed to the basic interests of the Nation as a whole. They have come to look upon the war primarily as a chance to make profits for themselves at the expense of their neighbors
- 60 Minutes reports about modern day profiteers in Iraq
- The value of Dick Cheney’s stock options in Haliburton have soared 3,281%
- The Pentagon condemns Haliburton’s ‘overwhelmingly negative’ performance in Iraq.
Those who are doing most of the complaining are not deliberately striving to sabotage the national war effort. They are laboring under the delusion that the time is past when we must make prodigious sacrifices- that the war is already won and we can begin to slacken off… Overconfidence and complacency are among our deadliest enemies…They were merely saying, "The war’s in the bag- so let’s relax."That attitude on the part of anyone—Government or management or labor—can lengthen this war. It can kill American boys.
A realistic tax law—which will tax all unreasonable profits, both individual and corporate, and reduce the ultimate cost of the war to our sons and daughters. The tax bill now under consideration by the Congress does not begin to meet this test.
- Most Americans will be long term losers from the Bush tax cuts
- Losses and debts of this magnitude threaten our nation’s well being far more than do fictive weapons of mass destruction
- And no one is less concerned about shared sacrifice than the wealthy, who are getting permanent tax cuts while the war bill is passed onto our children.
National service is the most democratic way to wage a war. Like selective service for the armed forces, it rests on the obligation of each citizen to serve his Nation to his utmost where he is best qualified.There are millions of American men and women who are not in this war at all. It is not because they do not want to be in it. But they want to know where they can best do their share. National service provides that direction. It will be a means by which every man and woman can find that inner satisfaction which comes from making the fullest possible contribution to victory.
- President Bush cuts critical national service program that aids in disaster relief.
- Bush calls for cuts in Americorps, after calling it a way "to build upon the millions of acts of service and decency and kindness"
Just like his imaginary record as a solider, Bush’s wartime presidency is locked in the land of make believe. As long he closes his eyes and listens to the stories that Dick and Don tell him, President Bush can pretend that he is a stalwart wartime leader. But as FDR proved, leadership is about more than talking tough; it is about leading a nation, making it believe in the necessity of shared sacrifice for shared goals, and most importantly, telling it the difficult things that a President must sometimes say. FDR’s administration was about more than rhetoric, it was not the shell game of empty words this presidency has brought us. The next time President Bush is tempted to think of himself as a war time President, I hope he is reminded at least of this important warning in FDR’s speech:
One of the great American industrialists of our day—a man who has rendered yeoman service to his country in this crisis-recently emphasized the grave dangers of "rightist reaction" in this Nation. All clear-thinking businessmen share his concern. Indeed, if such reaction should develop—if history were to repeat itself and we were to return to the so-called "normalcy" of the 1920’s—then it is certain that even though we shall have conquered our enemies on the battlefields abroad, we shall have yielded to the spirit of Fascism here at home.
Somehow, I suspect he hasn’t been.