Ike or George W? Who’s your leader?

Mark Shields's picture

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became only the second Republican president after the Civil War to win and to serve two full White House terms, liked to quote approvingly the first Republican president and the American martyr to that war, Abraham Lincoln: “The role of government is to do for people what they cannot do at all for themselves or so well do in their individual capacities.”

George W. Bush, just the second Republican president since Ike to win and to serve two full terms, has a much different slant on the subject. As the first American president to take the nation to war without a draft and with tax cuts, George W. Bush repeatedly assured his fellow citizens with these flattering words: “You know how to spend your money far better than the federal government does.”

True to his word, President Bush’s tax cuts and spending policies have added more to the nation’s total debt in the last six-and-a-half years than did the administrations of all U.S. presidents — combined — from George Washington through George H. W. Bush.

My questions are the following:

What would Honest Abe and Ike do about the 77,000 bridges across the United States that share the same “structurally deficient” rating as the one that collapsed over the Mississippi in Minnesota?

How will one more tax cut for the most advantaged Americans improve the sinful mistreatment that American veterans who are amputees, psychologically wounded and brain-injured have been subjected to at Walter Reed Army Hospital and elsewhere?

Between 2003 and 2006, the number of inspections on the food our families eat was cut in half. Federal safety tests for U.S.-produced food have dropped by 75 percent. Only 1.3 percent of imported food destined for American dinner tables faces inspection. While I appreciate Bush’s confidence in my personal spending priorities, I must admit that I do not know where to go to hire Food and Drug Administration food-safety inspectors to make up for that loss.

Alone — even with all my tax cuts — I’m powerless to stop the importation from China of pet food and animal feed contaminated with melamine, or poisoned toothpaste, or fish laced with a suspected cancer-causing agent, or fish made to look fresh cosmetically by being having been treated with carbon monoxide. As Marian Burros reported on a congressional hearing in The New York Times: “It did not take exporters and importers long to learn that the safety net for goods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration is full of holes. ... Since 2003, the number of inspectors has decreased, while imports of food alone have almost doubled.”

Yes, the Bush administration did give safely-out-of-harm’s-way civilians on the home front those promised tax cuts. But the same administration failed to provide proper body armor for American soldiers and Marines in maximum danger, or to armor effectively the personnel vehicles that carried those same American warriors into deadly combat. Even as the United States spends more on national defense than China, Russia, Germany, France, England — and the next three-dozen biggest defense-spending countries of the world combined — indifference and/or incompetence at the highest levels sent unarmed American troops into battle.

Whether it involves fixing a bridge or inspecting mines or factories or foodstuffs, there is a real cost as well to not taking action. You will find me on the side of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower rather than George W. Bush on this question of what government can and ought to do better than individual citizens, acting by themselves, can do. We really owe it to our country.


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Submitted by dollaradayandfound on Fri, 08/17/2007 - 10:26am.

The above article is somewhat far-fetched, but there is a lot of truth there.
President Eisenhower was not a detail man. He only knew about strategic war planning, and very few war tactics or political tactics.
Actually that is typically republican, but requires brilliant people in the administration to follow-up on a President's strategic wishes.
Ike didn't have enough of those but he didn't have any yes-men or women either.

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