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Obama: I'm Spending Too Much on the Troops

5:43 PM, Sep 10, 2009 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Two of my favorite bloggers -- Jim Ceaser of the University of Virginia, and Sarah Palin of the University of Real America -- were particuarly struck by one line in President Obama's speech last night. As was I.

This is it: "Now, add it all up and the plan I'm proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years, less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars...."

What's the implication? Apparently, that we shouldn't have spent so much on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fair enough, perhaps, with respect to the war in Iraq, which Obama opposed. On the other hand, Obama has supported the war in Afghanistan. Indeed, he's criticized the Bush administration for under-resourcing that effort. So, as Ceaser points out, Obama's inclusion of Afghanistan in his snarky comparison is odd:

He is President of the United States and he strongly supports the War in Afghanistan, asking soldiers daily to sacrifice their lives for that cause. Less than a month ago he rousingly defended the policy before the Veteran's of Foreign Wars not as "a war of choice" but as "a war of necessity...." The question now, however, is why he would include Afghanistan inside of a rhetorical appeal that rests on the implicit notion, at least to his own partisans, of the scandal of wasting funds. And why he would do this at the very point when he is calling on Americans to make greater sacrifices for that venture? A President who is a serious war-time President, a position he has embraced for himself, might wish to think twice before evoking sentiments that raise doubts about his own policies.

What's more: Obama is now president and commander-in-chief. What we are currently spending on both wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, is what President Obama has requested. Presumably it's important and worthwhile that we spend that money. President Obama is sending troops into harm's way in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Presumably this too is important and worthwhile.

And yet in Obama's mind -- and apparently in the minds of those around him, who had a chance to comment on the speech but let this line remain -- Obama is still campaigning, still attacking Bush's wars. But they are America's wars, being fought by American troops today at the direction of their commander-in-chief. Is Obama really so oblivious to the responsibilities of being a "serious war-time president?"

Perhaps he is. If President Obama had really internalized the fact that he is now commander-in-chief, I don't think he could have said those words.

For the president, in a formal address to Congress, to suggest even in passing that these struggles are merely distasteful burdens rather than worthwhile missions, is appalling. Sarah Palin is right: Obama's "offhand applause line" was an insult to those who have fought and sacrificed, and to those who are now fighting and sacrificing, on our behalf.