The Hightower Lowdown

George talks the macho talk, soldiers walk the deadly walk; and Congress says "Health care for me, but not for thee."


BUSH THE 'WARRIOR'

George W.'s chest-thumping, "Me Big Chief" schtick has gone from laughable to pathetic ... to dangerous.

Bush -- who, as a boy, enjoyed shoving firecrackers down the throats of frogs, tossing them in the air to watch them to explode -- now has far more powerful explosives to toss around the world, not only killing thousands of innocent foreigners in the path of his wars, but also killing U.S. soldiers. It would be one thing if he were doing this with reticence, humility, and regret, as other presidents have done, but George W. pursues worldwide war with the blustery, frat-boy bravado of one who has never been in one.

First, he strutted out like some character in a Wild West movie to declare that he'd make quick work of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, promising to "smoke 'em out" and to get Osama "dead or alive." Two years later, it appears that Osama is still alive, al Qaeda is stronger than ever, and thousands of our soldiers are mired in an almost-forgotten but still-deadly ground war in Afghanistan's treacherous mountains.

Meanwhile, George moved on. This draft-dodging son of privilege and former Yale cheerleader used the presidency and outright lies to whip up a sudden war fever over Iraq, declaring he'd "get" Saddam Hussein and cause the Iraqis to "love" us. Well, it appears Saddam's still alive and those liberated Iraqis are now protesting America and still shooting at our soldiers, even though Bush gloatingly pulled off that Hollywood stunt-landing on an aircraft carrier two months ago, strutting out in a Top Gun costume to declare the Iraqi war was "over." Asked later about the fact that hostile forces continue to attack our troops in Iraq, George sneered for the cameras like some puffed up TV wrestler and snarled: "Bring 'em on."

While Bush struts, our soldiers are dying. Such shallow presidential bravado kills.


CONGRESS' PRESCRIPTION-DRUG PLAN

Gosh, words fail me. I can't begin to describe the level of pride I feel for Congress, which has recently stepped forth boldly to meet the crying health needs of a group of America's senior citizens: themselves.

As you might know from extensive media coverage, Congress has been grappling with a reform of the Medicare program to extend some prescription-drug coverage to millions of needy retirees on Medicare. Alas, the coverage that the leaders provided in their bills is meager and might do more harm than good, for it could cause corporations to drop drug benefits now provided in their health plans for some 13 million American retirees. The Republican leadership cited "budget constraints" as their reason for having to shortchange seniors.

Of course, the budget is constrained because they've already thrown unlimited billions at the Pentagon and have removed more than a trillion dollars of our public funds to provide unwarranted tax giveaways for the wealthiest 1% of Americans. But that's another story.

Meanwhile, what you probably don't know, thanks to sparse media coverage, is that these same leaders have since passed a special drug-benefit bill for a select group of retirees that -- lo and behold -- happens to include members of Congress. Apparently, they felt no budget constraints when addressing the needs of senior Congress critters, for their benefits package is far more generous than what they had doled out so stingily for ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill seniors.

For example, retired Congress members will pay no additional premium or deductible for their drug coverage, while other retirees are assessed an extra $420 out-of-pocket annual premium and a $250 deductible. Rep. Pete Stark, disgusted with this privileged treatment, said: "This bill says, 'We take care of our own, and to hell with the average American.'"

I've got a simple plan for reforming American health care: We'll take the same thing Congress is getting.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, military, Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, Iraq, aircraft carrier, Bring 'em on, Congress, Medicare, prescription drug coverage, Pete Stark

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