MR. LEHRER: Let me ask you a bottom-line question, Mr. President. If it is as important as you've just said - and you've said it many times - as all of this is, particularly the struggle in Iraq, if it's that important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as president of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something? The people who are now sacrificing are, you know, the volunteer military - the Army and the U.S. Marines and their families. They're the only people who are actually sacrificing anything at this point.I remember what New York was like after 9/11. People did everything imaginable. Donations of clothing and food skyrocketed. Outside the door to virtually every school gymnasium or church basement, people were lined up around the block to donate blood -- so much so that the Red Cross couldn't even find a way to store it all. Tributes and gifts scattered around all the firehouses. Networks set up to help find the missing and, when that failed, to help comfort the people who'd lost loved ones. All of that, and no one even had to ask.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, you know, I think a lot of people are in this fight. I mean, they sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war.
Now, here in Washington when I say, "What do you mean by that?," they say, "Well, why don't you raise their taxes; that'll cause there to be a sacrifice." I strongly oppose that. If that's the kind of sacrifice people are talking about, I'm not for it because raising taxes will hurt this growing economy. And one thing we want during this war on terror is for people to feel like their life's moving on, that they're able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table.
We, as a country, would've done anything in the wake of 9/11. Just think about what we've done before. During the Second World War, our grandparents welcomed the rationing of key food staples, the abandonment of luxury items like silk stockings, the implementation of massive scrap drives for rubber, steel, and tin, etc. They took on double shifts and long hours in defense plants and grew their own food in "victory gardens" to help out. The Greatest Generation not only accepted the government's expansion of the income tax to all brackets, but willingly, time and time again, ponied up their own spare change -- still very spare, in the shadow of the Depression -- to buy U.S. War Bonds and help fuel the war effort.
Yet what we were asked to do after 9/11? Nothing. Actually, less than nothing, for we were told that the most patriotic thing we could do would be to go shopping, to splurge on our own basest consumer instincts and engage in our own self-gratification. The president might as well have told us all to "masturbate for freedom."
As others have noted, President Bush has insisted, over and over again, that this war is the crucial struggle of our generation, a pivotal battle which we cannot lose. And yet he went to war not only with a fraction of the troops we needed, but with a fraction of our national strength as well. Ridiculous.
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that President Bush doesn't want to impose on the American people. His is a life bathed in privilege and excuses, one where he's always been bailed out of the tough spots -- Vietnam, his failed businesses, the 2000 election -- by his daddy's rich friends. He's never had to sacrifice anything more significant than Schlitz.
Why would he dare ask us to do any more?