Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Have the Democrats noticed that Bush is forcing wounded veterans to repay their signing bonuses?

You would think that when your political enemies give you an opening big enough to fly a cargo plane through, that you might make at least a token effort at capitalizing on it.

For example, if Bill Clinton had ever tried to force wounded war veterans to repay their signing bonuses, the Republicans would have made him curse the day his mother carried him to term. They would have hit him so hard his great-grandchildren would have been born facing articles of impeachment.

But, of course, Bill Clinton never tried to do any such thing.

George W. Bush, however, is doing exactly that thing.

When Jordan Fox was serving in Iraq, his mother helped organize Operation Pittsburgh Pride, which sends thousands of care packages to U.S. troops from his hometown, which prompted a personal “thank you” from the White House. When Fox was seriously injured in Iraq, the president sent what appeared to be personal note, expressing his concerns to the Fox family.

But more recently, Fox received a different piece of correspondence from the Bush administration.

The U.S. Military is demanding that thousands of wounded service personnel give back signing bonuses because they are unable to serve out their commitments.

To get people to sign up, the military gives enlistment bonuses up to $30,000 in some cases.

Now men and women who have lost arms, legs, eyesight, hearing and can no longer serve are being ordered to pay some of that money back.
I watched the report from the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, and I kept thinking, “This can’t be right.” Apparently, it is.

In Jordan Fox’s case, he was seriously injured when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle, causing back injuries and blindness in his right eye. He was sent home, unable to complete the final three months of his military commitment.

Last week, the Pentagon sent him a bill: Fox owed the government nearly $3,000 of his signing bonus.
This is an error in judgment so profound that it completely undercuts Bush's claim to "support the troops." Frankly, it undercuts any claim he might make of caring one way or another about the troops at all.

The Pentagon's effort to reclaim money from wounded veterans is so callous, so stupid, that it defies quantification. It is a seminal event of the sort that political strategists spend their careers hoping for. It is an opportunity that even a marginally-talented political operative could use to fundamentally alter the media narrative about George W. Bush and his policy of war for war's sake.

With just a little effort, for example, congressional Democrats could render impotent Bush's argument that failing to fund his open-ended war amounts to abandoning the troops. A blast FAX to every news reporter and columnist in the rolodex would get that ball rolling with something akin to perpetual motion.

A Democratic presidential hopeful could paint Bush as the repo man and demand to know if the Republican candidates condemn him for it. All of a sudden, the GOP is on the defensive.

These are just a couple examples off the top of my head. I'm sure that somebody with some actual campaign experience could come up with an even better way to capitalize on Bush's effort to force wounded war veterans to repay their signing bonuses.

So far, though, when I lean my head to the left, all I hear are crickets chirping.

As a matter of fact, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Harry Reid working with Joe Lieberman to allow the Pentagon to seize the assets of wounded soldiers who don't pay up within 90 days. Can't be seen trying to make the president look bad, after all. That would almost be like winning!