Supporting the troops

SUPPORTING THE TROOPS…. For several years, the Bush administration, congressional Republicans, and a whole lot of political reporters were shocked, just shocked, when Democrats would vote against war spending bills. How, Republicans asked rhetorically, could Democrats possibly claim to support the troops if they’re not willing to vote for the spending measures in the midst of two wars.

Dems would try to explain their concerns — giving Bush a blank check, for example, was a bad policy — but to no avail. This was the single most frequently repeated GOP talking point when it came to the politics of military policy. Dems voted against the troops during a war, Republicans said whenever they were in proximity to a microphone.

It’s interesting, then, that these very same Republicans are poised to do the one thing they said responsible, patriotic policymakers should never do.

House Republicans are preparing to vote en bloc against the $106 billion war-spending bill, a position once unthinkable for the party that characterized the money as support for the troops.

For years, Republicans portrayed the bills funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as matters of national security and accused Democrats who voted against them of voting against the troops.

In 2005, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) went so far as to say sending troops into battle and not paying for it would be an “immoral thing to do.” And just last year, more House Republicans voted for the war supplemental bill than did Democrats, who opposed the legislation because it did little to wind down the military effort in Iraq.

But Republicans say this year is different. Democrats have included a $5 billion increase for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help aid nations affected by the global financial crisis.

Oh, I see. When Democrats raise policy objections to military spending bills, and withhold support because of details they find offensive, they’re unpatriotic terrorist sympathizers who can’t be trusted on national security issues. When Republicans raise different policy objections to military spending bills, they’re just doing their duty.

Again, this wasn’t just some peripheral argument from the GOP — it was the basis for countless speeches, entire ad campaigns, hours upon hours of Fox News broadcasts, and a series of angry attacks on the Obama campaign. Subtleties and nuances were deemed irrelevant — if you supported the troops fighting two wars, you voted to fund them. Period.

It’s interesting to see how the rules of the political discourse change, depending on which party is making the argument.