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Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

Bush's growing credibility gap

YOUR E-MAIL ALERTS

Opinion
White House
George W. Bush
United States

WASHINGTON (Creators Syndicate) -- In what the White House promoted as "a major speech," President George W. Bush compared the struggle against terrorism to the Cold War, "Islamo-fascism" to communism and the fugitive cave-dweller Osama bin Laden to Adolf Hitler.

A somber Bush reminded his listeners that this "war will require more sacrifice, more time, more resolve" and that "the defense of freedom is worth sacrifice."

Then, the president, whose poll scores on being "honest and straightforward" are dropping as fast as his favorable job-ratings, showed once more how little he really trusted and how little he really thought of us, his fellow citizens. He again failed to ask of us civilians any sacrifice at all, no matter how minor, in behalf of our country.

Does the president think we are too selfish, too pampered, too unpatriotic to accept any personal inconvenience for the common good?

Compare Bush's repeated failures to ask us on the home front for anything other than uncritical support for his failed and failing policies to his White House predecessor, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who actually had to fight Hitler and his then-undefeated army), who summoned American civilians to do without leather, rubber, wool, nylon, new shoes and new cars, and to accept the severe rationing of gasoline, fresh meat, butter, cheese and canned goods.

Much has been rhapsodized about the Greatest Generation, which endured the Great Depression and then fought and won World War II.

But at Exeter or Yale or the Harvard Business School, did George W. Bush ever read about female Americans of that same generation on the home front totally going without nylon stockings, so that the materials could be made into parachutes? Skirts were shortened to save fabric for the war effort, and fashion was a casualty.

Recycling came to the United States after Pearl Harbor. Civilians, including children, responded to FDR's urging to salvage tin cans, bottles, even tin foil from gum wrappers, and scraps of nylon and rubber. Every community held scrap-metal drives and paper drives. Americans, mindful of the far more profound sacrifices being made by those in uniform, mostly willingly went without the everyday conveniences they had come to rely upon.

Again, because our leaders asked us to, we grew our own vegetables and fruit in family and community Victory Gardens. This was no symbolic gesture. By the third year of the war, half the nation's fresh produce came from neighborhood and backyard gardens tilled by ordinary Americans.

At the outset of the war, the median income in the United States was $2,000 a year. To finance the enormous costs of the war, all Americans were asked to sacrifice (tax increases instead of tax cuts, by buying war bonds). The response: 85 million citizens -- one out of two Americans -- bought at least one war bond and provided the country with $185.7 billion. This is the same civilian population that produced for the military effort 2,832,000 trucks, 15 million guns, 41 billion bullets, 224,000 artillery pieces, 324,000 aircraft and 88,000 tanks.

Maybe Bush does not understand sacrifice. After all, earlier this year, he revealed he did not share the common meaning of "ultimate sacrifice" with most of his countrymen, who reserve that term for Americans who have given their lives in military service, when he spoke of the drawbacks of political life: "It's the ultimate sacrifice (sic), really: sacrifice your privacy. It's sacrifice of time with your kids."

Mr. President, give us some credit. We are not terminally greedy materialists who put our personal tax cuts and comfort ahead of national security or the well-being of our fellow citizens.

If the cause you champion is truly a life-or-death matter, then prove it by asking us to sacrifice for the common good. That is the American Way.


Click here for more from Creators Syndicate.

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