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"Problems of Leadership": Washington's Belated and Selective Concern for the Troops

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What a week in Washington -- you can practically smell the accountability in the air.

Days after the Washington Post helped expose the deplorable conditions at the Walter Reed Medical Army Center, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, the hospital's commander, was dismissed. Then Army Secretary Francis Harvey was forced to step down.

According to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the conditions "appear to be problems of leadership."

I couldn't agree more. But why stop there?

Now that we've had an accountability moment for incompetent leadership in the care of wounded soldiers, how about one for the incompetent leadership responsible for getting the soldiers wounded in the first place? Because the same kind of callousness about wounded soldiers that got Harvey and Weightman fired is still running rampant in the White House when it comes to the training of our troops.

The latest outrage on this front is the decision by the Army, rushed by the president's surge plans, to have two of the units being shipped to Iraq forego their usual training session at the National Training Center in the Mojave Desert, which has been specifically designed to help soldiers prepare for the conditions and enemy tactics they will face in Iraq.

Asked to explain how this jibed with the president's "I support the troops" mantra, Tony Snow explained: "They can get desert training elsewhere. Like in Iraq."

On the job training may be great for vocational students looking to learn a trade, but it's a lousy strategy for our soldiers fighting -- and dying and getting wounded -- in Iraq.

Make no mistake: Bush and company are all for the troops... except when it comes to, you know, actually supporting them.

Bush clearly cannot be trusted to take care of the soldiers he sends into harm's way. But it's not clear the Democrats are willing to go to the mat to protect them either.

Indeed, the Democratic leadership has all but abandoned Jack Murtha's plan tying further funding for the war to strict standards for troop readiness, opting instead for a toothless proposal designed to -- get this -- embarrass the president into doing right by our troops.

Oh, great -- that'll work. Even Murtha appears to have thrown in the towel.

Trying to defend the indefensible, Rahm Emmanuel said the watered-down proposal would "raise the bar of accountability" for the White House and ensure "the administration is held accountable."

How, by making the president blush?

When pressed in January '05 about the administration's multitude of failures in Iraq, and asked why no one had been held accountable for them, the president famously responded: "Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election."

Well, Democrats have since had an accountability moment of their own. It was called the 2006 election -- and voters made it clear they wanted real change in Iraq, not finger wags and slaps on the wrist (and nonbinding slaps at that!).

In his response to Bush's State of the Union address, Jim Webb said that if the president wants to be a leader, fine, but "if he does not, we will be showing him the way."

It's time for Democrats to make good on that promise.