On a Friday afternoon two weeks ago President Bush was not hunkered in his war room with his chiefs of staff, keeping America safe from terrorists. As an improvised bomb in a mosque near Baghdad killed 5 worshipers and wounded 17, the President was flying to Indianapolis and on his way to an auditorium downtown. As Baghdad police pulled 15 dead bodies from the streets, bound, blindfolded, and shot in the head, the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. armed forces was speaking at a $1000-a-plate luncheon for Rep. Mike Sodrel. As Baghdad Palestinians struggled with the notes they had found on their doorsteps the previous morning saying "we will eliminate you all if you don't leave the area for good within 10 days," the President was raising campaign cash at a dinner for Sen. Rick Santorum.
In all, the number of Palestinians found murdered in the Baghdad streets climbed to about 200 that day. A Florida mother and her two children buried their husband and father, and two California parents, who had received notice on the eve of their 21st wedding anniversary that their son had been killed in Iraq, laid him in the ground. And on that day, the President of the United States went out and raised $1.2 million for political campaigning.
At the hearings on Sen. Russ Feingold's censure motion last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said of the troops in Iraq, "Let's don't play games with their lives." As Iraq headed further into sectarian war, taking more American lives with it, the President and Vice President were out playing politics at fund-raisers. As families around the country faced for the first time the wide open spaces in their lives where their sons, husbands, fathers used to be, the men who sent them to Iraq were touring the country, raising cash for political campaigns.
That week, Vice President Dick Cheney went to Newark where he raised close to $400,000 for the Senate campaign of Thomas Kean. Kean did not appear at the event until after Cheney had left so that they could not be photographed together. In New Jersey, the President has a disapproval rating of 65 percent. Kean said he was delayed in traffic.
While these political games went on, 25-year-old Cpl. Antoine McKinzie of Indianapolis ate his last dinner. He was killed the next day by small arms fire while on security patrol. He will be buried this Tuesday, April 11. Unlike Cheney, he was not afraid to serve. Unlike Kean, he was not too scared to show up.
At the fund-raiser for Sen. Santorum the following Friday, patrons paid $1000 each to attend. The President stood one-on-one with individual Santorum supporters and had his photograph taken, for up to $10,000 per photo. The President raised about $700,000 in political campaign cash that night.
Meanwhile, that day Sgt. Marco Silva was buried by his wife and children. A funeral was held for 19-year-old Pfc. Angelo Zawaydeh. The wife of Staff Sgt. Brock Beery had to explain to her 7-year-old daughter that her father had been killed when a bomb exploded under his vehicle. The family of Sergeant 1st Class Randy McCaulley learned of his death. The next morning, Spc. Frederick Carlson, a 25-year old of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, would die in Iraq, leaving behind his 1-year-old son. A memorial service would be held for Staff Sergeant Kevin Jessen. The wife and daughter of 22-year-old Specialist 1st Class Carlos Gonzales would attend his funeral. And the newborn son of Sergeant Corey Dan would see the burial of the father who had never seen him. The President and Vice President do not attend soldiers' funerals.
It really is time to stop playing games with their lives.
Reader nancelot thought so after reading BushWatch 1, about a fund-raising trip for Rep. Chris Chocola, who represents her. She wrote a letter to the editor about Bush campaigning while troops die, and it was published in the South Bend Tribune. She also contacted the campaigns of Rep. Chocola and his opponent, Joe Donnelly, to ask if they thought it was appropriate for Bush to go to fund-raisers and not to funerals. If you live in Indianapolis, Pennsylvania, or New Jersey, I encourage you to write a letter to the editor of your local paper (get help here) or to call the campaigns and ask for their response. If you do, please be sure to email me about it, and if you like post your own diary.
Let them know it is time to stop disgracing the office of the Presidency by using it for fund-raising while Americans die in Iraq. Tell them it's time to stop playing games with troops' lives.