Speaking of Flip-Flops

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President George Bush should have gone into show business. He can tap-dance around an issue and change his position as quickly as, well, Sen. John Kerry.

You will recall that we went to war to disarm Saddam Hussein of all his weapons of mass destruction. Then, we went to war to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein. Now, we have gone to war to bring democracy to the Iraqi people. That’s three separate excuses for going to war against a country that had not attacked us, had never threatened to attack us and lacked the capability of attacking us.

On the Social Security issue, Mr. Bush first proclaimed it was a "crisis." Having got burned on that obvious untruth, he now says that "the math" proves it’s a problem. Well, that’s progress, to go from a crisis to a problem in barely more than a week.

Naturally, Mr. Bush has still provided no details of his plan, if you can call it that, to correct the crisis-turned-problem. Why am I not surprised? He still doesn’t have a plan for postwar Iraq — or at least one he’s willing to share with the American people.

What about the record deficit? Well, he still plans to cut it in half in five years, but no details yet.

What about the falling dollar and the massive trade deficit? Well, he says, we’re for freedom. I’m for freedom, too, especially freedom from the poorhouse, which, if the dollar collapses, a lot of us could be occupying. A pension in dollars that are only worth 2 cents in purchasing power isn’t much of a pension. It’s not that bad yet, but it’s getting there.

In the meantime, Europeans and Asians, holders of billions of U.S. dollars because of the trade deficit, are starting to buy up America. One Frenchman just bought an entire island off the coast of Florida and all the mansions on it. I’m sure Bill O’Reilly will be happy to hear that. Maybe some Frenchman will buy Fox News. If that happens, then O’Reilly will say what a fictional Riley used to say on a radio sitcom: "What a revoltin’ development this is."

In all seriousness, the trade deficit and the federal deficits are real crises that are looming on a not-very-distant horizon. The only way to correct the trade deficit is to sell more stuff overseas, but that’s hard to do when the administration is encouraging manufacturers to export jobs instead of products.

We cannot live as consumers, no matter how much easy credit there is available. To keep consuming, we have to produce and earn and save. American consumers are already $2 trillion in debt. How are these consumers going to keep the economy going while paying off that amount of past consumption?

If we lived in a truly free society, I would not worry about how many lunkheads there are in Washington. Unfortunately, government has so intertwined itself in the private economy that it matters a great deal what the government does and does not do.

Nothing going on in Washington gives one any sense of confidence. Take defense, for example. When the administration gets its $80 billion supplemental for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the total war bill will be $300 billion — all of it supplemental appropriations. What I want to know is what are we doing with the regular $430 billion defense budget if every time we go to war, that costs extra?

There’s something wrong when in a time of peace, except for a few sorehead terrorists scattered here and there, we are spending nearly three-quarters of a trillion dollars on the military.

I do hope the Iraqis enjoy their democracy, because it’s cost us $300 billion, 1,400 lives and 10,000 wounded, and Iraq alone is eating up $5 billion a month. And I thought our elections were expensive.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.

© 2005 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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