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Dems Interested in Gays and Spending, Not Afghan War


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Washington Examiner:

Dems interested in gays and spending, not Afghan war
By: CHRIS STIREWALT
Political Editor
May 30, 2010

We’ve come to a strange Memorial Day.

There are 100,000 American troops trying to occupy a savage land known as the “graveyard of empires,” but the only military topic under general discussion is how best to allow gay members of the armed forces to express their sexuality.

When history tells the tale of America in the second decade of the 21st century, this will be a moment worth noting. The greatest power on earth has lost interest in its military except when sex is involved.

America has had men and women fighting and dying in Afghanistan for almost 9 years. In that time, we have seen almost 1,100 of our troops killed and more than 5,700 wounded.

In economic terms, we have spent more than $274 billion on the war, not counting all of the billions in civilian funds sloshing around Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Last week, as members of Congress were scurrying to push through a last load of deficit spending before they hit the campaign trail to try to save their jobs, they were debating two big appropriations for the military.

One is $60 billion to supply the troops in Afghanistan and fund the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. The other is the regular defense appropriation -- $750 billion for everything else the military does, including buying the hardware needed for the next five years.

In the recent past, having this much money going to fund the American war machine would have been an opportunity for Democrats to get up on their hind legs and snort about the lack of a credible exit strategy in Afghanistan or the corruption of the Karzai quasi-government in Kabul.

But George W. Bush has gone back to Texas and Democrats can’t win any more seats in Congress by calling him a war monger or ripping on Dick Cheney’s Vietnam draft deferments.

They may have called Bush and Cheney phony tough guys. But congressional Democrats have proven to be phony peaceniks.

Once they achieved their political aims of having supermajorities in Congress and control of the White House, Democrats lost interest in decrying American imperialism and militarism, and got busy sticking their snouts in the trough.

The American people seemed to have tuned out, too.

There isn’t much outrage to be heard over the fact that the money needed to keep the troops supplied is being held up by public employee unions who want Democrats to jam through $23 billion to extend stimulus spending for schoolteachers for another year.

House Democrats know that they are in hot water with voters for their heedless spending over the last 18 months, but that only makes the public unions more powerful.

The unions are key to turning out the Dems’ base, which is all they have because it’s too late to win back the independents. And if Congress doesn’t cough up for the schoolteachers, the unions may stay home on Election Day.

After House Democrats started larding up the bill, there was almost as much non-military spending as military spending. Democrats from more conservative districts, who now realize that there is no such thing as a safe seat this year, got Speaker Nancy Pelosi to peel back the spending to the minimum that the unions would accept.

The bill is on hold as the final deals are cut and the bottom of the pork barrel is scraped.

The big defense bill is also stalled. But the issue there has nothing to do with the massive spending plan, but instead about when gay members of the military will be allowed to be open about their sexual identities.

The military had asked to be given until Dec. 1 to study the effects of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Democrats liked the wait-and-repeal plan because it would allow them to delay a vote on a wedge issue until after the election.

But as it became clear that the report might be unfavorable and that campaigning members might be forced into promising to vote against the measure, Democratic leaders opted to make the gay issue part of a spending bill.

Wave a juicy defense appropriation for their home districts in front of some congressmen and they’d be willing to order the 10th Mountain Division to march in the Christopher Street parade.

Politicians could only get away with these kinds of shenanigans if the American people had largely unplugged on Afghanistan.

War weary and distracted by economic concerns and the slow-motion disaster of the BP oil spill, or about the troops who have died there or those who yet will.

And with a year still to go before the end of President Obama’s Afghan surge, you can bet there will be many more.
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