29 April 2007

I Question John Edwards' Patriotism

The political right has been repeatedly accused of questioning the patriotism of the political left. While that has primarily been nothing more than a strawman argument, let's just look into the validity of such and accusation as it applies to recent statements by John Edwards, a former Senator campaigning for the nod as the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

First, patriotism needs to be defined. The definition of patriotism is devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty (Source: Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 29 April 2007).

Second, we need to look at whether or not John Edwards' words this weekend may indicate a lack of those qualities. On Friday, 27 April 2007, John Edwards said the following:

"We had a bunch of members of the United States Congress on stage. What are they going to do?" he [Edwards] said the morning after the [Democratic primary] debate. "What they ought to do is send him [President Bush] another bill with a timetable. If he vetoes that, they should send him another bill with a timetable. They should not back down from this president because this is not about politics. It's about life and death and war."
What Edwards is suggesting is, in my opinion, completely about politics. We have heard the Democrats previously state that they will support the troops and will make sure that the troops get the funding they need. Yet, on Friday, John Edwards gave his personal opinion that the Democrats should not allow any supplemental spending bill to go forward unless it contains a timetable to order our troops to give up their current mission of fighting terrorists, supporting a fledgling government, and protecting Iraqi civilians from more violence and devastation than they are experiencing now.

Now, just to give an idea of what the DOD is going to need to do if the supplemental funding bill is not passed soon, here is what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said on 22 March 2007 (thirty-eight days ago):

This morning I had -- I met with members of the House Army Caucus, a bipartisan group of representatives who have a special interest in the strength and well-being of the Army. We discussed several key issues relating to the Army's readiness. I received questions from both sides of the aisle as to the measures the military will need to take if the Congress does not pass the FY '07 supplemental by April 15th.

For example, according to the Army, which went through this experience last year, if the supplemental is not passed by April 15th, the service will be forced to consider the following kinds of actions: one, curtailing and suspending home station training for Reserve and Guard units; two, slowing the training of units slated to deploy next to Iraq and Afghanistan; three, cutting the funding for the upgrade or renovation of barracks and other facilities that support quality of life for troops and their families; and fourth, stopping the repair of equipment necessary to support pre-deployment training.

If the supplemental is not passed by May 15th, the Army will be forced to consider the following: one, reducing the repair work being done at Army depots; two, delaying or curtailing the deployment of brigade combat teams to their training rotations; three, this, in turn, will cause additional units in theater to have their tours extended because other units are not ready to take their place; four, delaying the formation of new brigade combat teams; five, implementation of a civilian hiring freeze; sixth, prohibiting the execution of new contracts and service orders, including service contracts for training events and facilities; and seventh, holding or cancelling the order of repair parts to non-deployed units in the Army.

This kind of disruption to key programs will have a genuinely adverse effect on the readiness of the Army and the quality of life for soldiers and their families. I urge the Congress to pass the supplemental as quickly as possible.
April 15th has come and gone, and at this point the Army is at the point of needing to consider the curtailing and suspension of home station training for Reserve and Guard units, the slowing of training of units slated to deploy next to Iraq and Afghanistan, the cutting of funding for the upgrade and renovation of barracks and other facilities that support quality of life for troops and their families, and the stopping of repairs of equipment necessary to support pre-deployment training. That's where the Army is at right now because the Democrats have failed to get a clean supplemental funding bill to the desk of President Bush.

John Edwards apparently believes that failing to provide funding for quality of life and training programs for the military is not political, but rather a matter of "life and death and war." Unfortunately, the failure of the Democrats to provide a supplemental funding bill without a cut-and-run clause is causing the DOD to be placed in the position of reducing or cutting funding to programs that are essential to the safety and needs of the troops. Edwards can call it what he wants, but his call for no funding without legislating defeat is completely political, and the troops and their families are the ones who will pay the price.

If he really wanted to support the troops, then he should be calling for the funding bill to be passed unfettered so that the military will be able to meet training, quality of life, upgrade and repair, and other essential needs for the members of our Armed Forces. And, if he believes that the only way to truly support those same troops is to get them home as quickly as possible, then he should be calling for the immediate withdrawal of funds for the war and to demand that the troops rotate out of combat areas immediately.

Instead, John Edwards suggests that the Democrats should continue to deny funding to the troops unless it contains a retreat clause. I personally believe that this is an attempt to be able to claim support for the troops (there is funding attached to their turn-tail-and-run legislation), while gaining political points for 2008 by being able to say to their base (and to some members of the wishy-washy middle) that either a) the President vetoed the supplemental funding bill that the Democrats provided, or b) that the Democrats started the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

What Edwards is suggesting will not help the troops or the issues of "life and death and war" that they need to deal with on a daily basis. Instead, it is an attempt by Edwards to support and defend himself, and possibly his party, politically. It will not help to support and defend his country.

In a phrase, what John Edwards is suggesting is unpatriotic, and I believe that I am justified in questioning his patriotism on this.


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