Insulting indeed

November 05, 1990

President Bush was in high dudgeon last week when reporters asked him if he were using the Persian Gulf crisis to boost his sagging popularity and Republican political prospects. He said it was "cynical" and "insulting" even to ask a question which implied that he would "play politics with American lives." Well, he might not get such questions were it not for the following facts:

* The president is beating the war drums while he is on a campaign tour. He can't in one breath make a "non-partisan" speech zapping Saddam Hussein, then in the next breath say, "now vote for Republicans to help me beat the bully."

* Two days before the elections, Bush sends his secretary of state, James Baker, to review the troops in Saudi Arabia while wearing what had every appearance of a khaki military uniform, including epaulets on his shirt -- a get-up that made him look more like the foreign minister of a banana republic than the United States secretary of state.

* There is mounting evidence that in a similar crisis 10 years ago, campaign operatives for the Reagan-Bush campaign made a cynical secret deal with Iranians that if the 52 U.S. hostages were not released before the election -- an action which almost certainly would have boosted Jimmy Carter's re-election prospects -- the new Reagan administration would supply Iran with secret assistance in its war against Iraq.

Against that background, the only thing that's being "insulted' by suggesting Bush would "play politics" with foreign crises is the intelligence of the American people.

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