Haunted

February 20, 2007

People made fun of Hillary Rodham Clinton for channeling Eleanor Roosevelt, but yesterday President Bush went to Mount Vernon and compared the war in Iraq to the American Revolution and himself to George Washington. Is there something in the water over at the White House?

Thursday is the 275th birthday of the Father of Our Country, and somehow the current President of Our Country seems to have felt a need to show that he's living up to the old man's standards. "I feel right at home here," he told a crowd at the Washington estate. "After all, this is the home of the first George W."

Ouch! Visions of General Washington crossing the Delaware and of Mr. Bush on the flight deck pass before us. Or of President Washington refusing to engage in party politics, and of Mr. Bush - oh, never mind.

The Revolution, you see, was about independence, for Americans. It wasn't about fighting in somebody else's civil war, on a false pretext and with an uncertain aim.

"George Washington's long struggle for freedom has also inspired generations of Americans to stand for freedom in their own time," Mr. Bush said yesterday, after a longish recitation of the first president's accomplishments in war and in peace. "Today, we're fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life. And as we work to advance the cause of freedom around the world, we remember that the father of our country" - see what we mean? - "believed that the freedoms we secured in our revolution were not meant for Americans alone."

Sorry. You can't blame Iraq on George Washington.

The First Decider was wary of both military power and executive power. He may have believed that America had a westward destiny, as Mr. Bush averred, but he would have been shocked and awed at the horrendous idea of freebooting around the Middle East with 150,000 of America's best men and women. He didn't have the advantage of a Yale education, but we're willing to bet he would have seen through the ludicrous claim that Americans must fight in Iraq, and give up their civil liberties at home, so they won't have to fight "over here," as Mr. Bush put it in a different speech just last week.

Actually, two similarities between then and now do come to mind. From 1775 to 1783, 4,435 American soldiers were killed in battle, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The war in Iraq is getting close: 3,144 American dead.

Also, as he left office, President Washington warned his countrymen against entangling alliances. And you have to hand it to President Bush on that one: He's untied just about every alliance this country ever had.

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