'Patch and pray'

Mention the current administration and there are those &

well over 60 percent, according to polls &

who will furrow their brows and look off into the distance as if visualizing the train wreck of the last six-plus years, then, through pressed lips, say something akin to, "Don't get me started."

The unspoken reality is that there are some 17 months left until January, 2009. How much more damage can this administration do to America in the time remaining? We can only watch and wait.

The president, in his role as decider, has promised to veto any expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Health care coverage would be provided to millions of children who have none &

there are 9 million children who are still uninsured. The increase would target those whose parents make too much income to be covered by Medicaid but too little to afford private healthcare insurance.

Bush, when pressed about medical coverage for Americans, such as our children, said, in all seriousness, "You just go to an emergency room..." Sure. And where did he go for his recent colonoscopy? A Washington D.C. emergency clinic? "I'll just wait out here with the other folks." Not likely. Commenting on the attempt to increase SCHIP, Bush went on to say, "They're (the Dems?) going to increase the number of folks eligible through SCHIP; some want to lower the age for Medicare. And then all of a sudden, you begin to see a &

I wouldn't call it a plot, just a strategy &

to get more people to be part of a federalization of health care." Federalization of health care, beginning with our children. Plot or strategy? Good grief. And who did he think paid for his colonoscopy, handled by a team of physicians who came to Camp David just for his procedure? If not the feds, who? Does the president wake up each morning worrying that he or a member of his family might fall ill? As for the cost of growing SCHIP, the entire program, over the next five years, would cost less than what we will spend in Iraq in less than four months.

And speaking of treasure spent in Iraq while denying health insurance to our children, Team Bush is just completing the American Embassy in Iraq (built by a Kuwaiti construction company). It will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, covering some 108 acres in the green zone, with 21 structures. Cost: $600 million and counting. There will be a recreation building, gym, exercise room, swimming pool, break areas, staff locker rooms, food court, barber and beauty shop, six staff apartment buildings, Marine security quarters, vehicle maintenance and facilities management, storage, water and waste water treatment plants, and electrical power separate from the Iraqi grid (which is still notoriously undependable).

There is also a $21 billion reconstruction package in place for Iraq.

America has spent $19.2 billion trying to develop the Iraqi security forces. In the process, according to a recent Government Accountability Office report, the Pentagon has lost track of 190,000 AK-47 assault rifles and pistols targeted for these forces. It's possible we are inadvertently arming the very militias and insurgents we are fighting.

And speaking of the reconstruction of Iraq, the infrastructure across America is in lamentable condition. Some engineers refer to it as "patch and pray." The recent bridge failure in Minneapolis, Minn.is just the tip of the iceberg. Recall the levees in New Orleans before Katrina. The American Society of Civil Engineers, in an alarming 2001 report, gave our roadways, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, drinking water facilities, transportation and schools an overall grade of D+. The society estimated then that we should spend $1.6 trillion over the next five years to make the necessary upgrades (think of the jobs that could be created). There is no national plan in place (certainly not a $21 billion reconstruction package), though there is a direct connection between a solid infrastructure and homeland security.

Come September Gen. David Paetreas will return from Iraq and give his definitive assessment of the administration's surge. Boosters of the war have pointed to certain provinces in the country as examples that the insurgents are in retreat and the military is making progress. From the Alice in Wonderland department: Is there anyone beyond the White House lawn who believes that the solution to Iraq rests not with the military, but with the Iraqi Parliament and the warring sects? Meanwhile, the lawmakers have left Baghdad for a month long summer recess, ignoring a long agenda of unfinished items. Our troops are being killed while Iraq's elected officials summer in Jordan.

Sixteen more months. "Patch and pray."

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