So what's a leader of Congress to do to get a majority? You know the answer: Let the vote-buying begin!
Thus has Mr. Bush's request for $100 billion to fund the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus $3 billion to replenish the disaster-relief fund, devolved into a $124.6 billion logrolling extravaganza. You can get the flavor from the bill's very first words on page two: "Title I--Supplemental Appropriations for the Global War on Terror Chapter 1 Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service." Forget the Marines; send in the meat inspectors.
This bill has everything the modern military doesn't need. There's $25 million for spinach, designed to attract the vote of Sam Farr, a California farm-region liberal. Perhaps spinach growers who lost business due to last year's E. coli scare need this taxpayer bailout, but it won't intimidate the Taliban unless Mr. Farr plans to draft Popeye.
Other lowlights include $20 million to restore farmland damaged by freezing temperatures, and $1.48 billion for livestock farmers. And don't forget the $74 million "to ensure proper storage for peanuts," an urgent national-security need. This happens to be about the same amount that House Democrats propose to increase spending for operations of the Army Reserve, so it's good to see Congress has its priorities in order.
Then there are the provisions to raise the minimum wage, at one pace for the continental U.S. but at a separate, slower pace for the Northern Mariana Islands. And $500 million for "urgent wildland fire suppression"--that's forest fires, not weapons fire. There's so much more, if only the press corps would take the time to look.
This pork-barrel blowout is grounds enough for a Presidential veto. But the vote-buying is more important for what it says about Congress and the way it wants to micromanage the war. Any legislature is essentially a committee of special interests, each of which wants to be massaged. This is true of war strategy as much as farm policy. The goal isn't victory in Iraq, but "victory" on Capitol Hill, which means cobbling together a majority of 218 in the House and 51 in the Senate. Logrolling and micromanagement are two sides of the same coin of the legislative Pentagon.
This is our Congress, ain't it grand?