Romney on the warpath?

It was probably the best headline in the history of The Onion, considering its clever mix of outrageous satire and real-world angst. Coming on the heels of George W. Bush’s inauguration, the paper’s main headline blared, “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over.’”

Perhaps the most prescient passage from the story was this:

“During the 40-minute speech, Bush also promised to bring an end to the severe war drought that plagued the nation under Clinton, assuring citizens that the U.S. will engage in at least one Gulf War-level armed conflict in the next four years.

“‘You better believe we’re going to mix it up with somebody at some point during my administration,’ said Bush, who plans a 250% boost in military spending. ‘Unlike my predecessor, I am fully committed to putting soldiers in battle situations. Otherwise, what is the point of even having a military?’”

While it’s tempting to believe something supernatural was afoot back in aught-one when The Onion came up with this gem, in reality, it was a little like betting on the sun to set or Mitt Romney to say something stupid. George W. Bush was already strutting around like a teenage kid who’d just scored a beta copy of Call of Duty, and of course Dick Cheney has always had his hearts set on war.

And so it came to pass.

While the Afghanistan war was clearly connected to 9/11, the Iraq campaign seemed out of left field. It was clear to any observer who wasn’t lulled into acquiescence by the bedroom eyes of Donald Rumsfeld that the Bush administration had its mind made up about invading Iraq and was using 9/11 as a pretense to drum up support.

The financial cost of that war? Conservative estimates put it at about $800 billion, though other estimates that take into account medical expenses and the replacement of equipment, etc., say that the cost could ultimately reach $4 trillion to $6 trillion.

Of course, conservatives often criticize President Obama’s stimulus bill for its high cost and supposed lack of effectiveness. Republicans have also relied heavily on the notion that the stimulus has been a major contributor – if not the main contributor – to our ballooning national debt. That’s not true, but unfortunately, perception is often more powerful than reality.

Indeed, the fact that conservatives, who almost universally supported the Iraq war, still see fit to criticize the stimulus is about as risible as it gets. If the lower estimates for the cost of the Iraq war are correct, both the war and the stimulus cost about $800 billion. Also, it’s important to remember that about a third of the stimulus bill consisted of tax cuts – something Republicans should be ecstatic about. So we’re actually talking about much less in terms of direct spending.

So let’s take a moment to compare the relative fiscal sanity of the stimulus and the Iraq war, shall we?

Helped rebuild the nation’s infrastructure?
Advantage: Stimulus

Saved jobs and may have helped prevent a second Great Depression?
Advantage: Stimulus

Led to the deaths of thousands of U.S. troops?
Advantage: Iraq war

Turned much of the world against us?
Advantage: Iraq war

Uncovered Iraq’s huge stockpiles of WMD?

Of course, Obama’s critics are not happy with the president merely pulling our country out of a tailspin. We need to fly higher (naturally), so they need to take over the controls (um, no).

So the question the country needs to ask itself is this: If the jokesters at The Onion were able to so accurately predict the future at the start of the Bush presidency – based on clues that should have been obvious to everyone – why should anyone disregard the obvious this time around?

Mitt Romney wants to slash funding for budgetary trifles like PBS and Planned Parenthood, but he wants to balloon the already bloated military budget – a budget that is currently six times that of the world’s next largest military power. (Of course, judging by last night’s debate, one wonders if he’s planning to spend the bulk of that extra $2 trillion on gunpowder and handlebar mustache wax.)

It’s fair to ask, what exactly is he preparing for?

These days, Democrats are fond of saying that a vote for Mitt Romney is a vote to return us to the same economic policies that got us into trouble in the first place. What we need to keep in mind as well, however, is that a vote for Romney is a vote for the party that nine short years ago led us by the nose into a ruinous war.

That’s a mistake that we simply can’t afford to make twice.

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