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Bush has done nothing for firefighters?


I "grew up" in the firehouse. My dad was a firefighter who eventually became Chief. His uncle was a Fire Chief, too. His father and his son? Both fire fighters. Our family has fire service in our blood, even if we have individually chosen other careers.

I think the first time I ever saw my father cry was the night that one of his men was killed in a fire. But wasn't the first time that I came face to face with the fact that the job could be dangerous, and that, given the opportunity to enter a burning building, most people declined. It was something I learned right along with walking and talking. My heroes have always been firefighters.

I haven't ever been very politically active, but the more I've learned about John Kerry and the more I've watched our President so calmly and effectively deal with the terrible mess he was handed, the more passionate I've become in my efforts to re-elect the President.

A couple of days ago, amid my daily pro-Bush, anti-Kerry research activity, I get an email: "Bush has done nothing for firefighters."

I get that punched-in-the gut feeling I always get whenever I hear this attitude in these post-9-11 days. It's that "What's in it for me" attitude. You know the one.

This time, it bothers me a lot more than usual because it's coming from a firefighter.

I have to mentally repeat the sentiment several times, because I'm having a hard time getting past the gut reaction to get my head around it.

Bush has done nothing for firefighters? It gives me the same feeling as do those 9-11 survivors who are arguing that they're only getting $4 million from the fund to which the public contributed for them, while someone else is getting $7 million.

"What's in it for me?" What happened to "serve, protect and defend?"

In the grave threat we face in this post-9-11 world, how can any of us afford to vote with "What's in it for me?" uppermost in our minds?

But, the charge has been made which I feel that I must answer, and as I often do when I am troubled or at a loss for words, I look at my Dad's picture here on the monitor. So, okay.... Dad, please... help me out here... where do I even start?

First of all, a President can't spend a cent. Only Congress can do that.

IAFF General President Schaitberger apparently initially got his panties in a wad because a so-called "FIRE Act Grant" got vetoed. What he doesn't tell you is that as this particular appropriations bill made its way through Congress, it became so filled up with unrelated pork that it was unrecognizable from its original purpose!

Earth to Congress: adding pork for your constituents at a time of national emergency is a blatant attempt to blackmail the President - it's pissy politics and won't ultimately help your local police and fire agencies.

The final $5.1 BILLION bill contained only $340 MILLION for firefighter interests - LESS THAN 7% of the total bill! (It DID, however include $2 million for a project to store worms in alcohol. Go figure.) Hold on to that $340 Million figure... it'll be important in a minute.

At the convention of the IAFF in 2002 in Las Vegas, a motion was actually tendered and unanimously approved that the IAFF boycott the upcoming dedication of the National Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial in retaliation for the veto!

Schaitberger applauded this vote, even though in the same meeting just moments before, he had angrily inveighed, "Don't lionize our fallen in one breath and then stab us in the back by eliminating funding for our members to fight terrorism and stay safe! President Bush, you are either with us or against us!"

Vetoing a bill just because it contains 15 times more pork than firefighting funds is stabbing fire fighters in the back, but it's perfectly okay to spit on the NFFF Memorial. Does something stink of hypocrisy, here? Just a tad?

Incredibly, a mere nine days later, Lori Moore, assistant to GP Schaitberger, speaking to an assembly of International Association of Fire Chiefs, said that she didn't know from where the rumor came that the IAFF had supported a boycott of the NFFF Memorial in the first place!

Rumor? Note to Ms. Moore - I found it on the internet in about three seconds. (Something's stinking, again.)

Fortunately for the memory of our fallen and their families, cooler heads eventually prevailed and the dedication on Oct 6, 2002 came off with the nation-wide attendance and honor befitting the memorial.

Back to numbers: during Schaitberger's blasting of our President at the IAFF convention, an accounting shows that the emergency supplemental funds that had already been made available by Bush's signature included: $360M for fire-training grants, $903M for communications-systems training & equipment, $70M for integrated public-health-response systems, $32M for health screening and registry for Ground Zero workers & $40M for the Fire Academy.

Almost $1.5 BILLION at the time of Schaitberger's emotionally charged criticism of "no funding!"

Almost FOUR and a half TIMES that $340 MILLION about which Schaitberger was carping!

Since then, many other budget increases and emergency supplementals and grants directly affecting first responders amounting to further $BILLIONS have been signed by our President.

How many of the rank and file are aware of the federal spending and grants made for their own local emergency systems?

Bush has done nothing for firefighters? Well, apparently nothing that Schaitberger wants them to know about. If you read his newletters on the IAFF site, that's exactly the impression you'll get.

Schaitberger's criticism of the Bush Administration has not been limited to financial issues. He has railed about the President's use of 9-11 imagery in his campaign ads.

Now, this may surprise you, Mr. Schaitberger, but - you don't own 9-11.

The 343 still bring tears to my eyes, but so do the images of soldiers and sailors and civilians - at the WTC, at the Pentagon and in that field in Pennsylvania. The chaos, the crumbling, the carnage - the not knowing when the next attack would hit - 9-11 happened to all of us!

Millions of us contributed to the funds that were intended to aid the families of the survivors. Millions of us have sent our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives into harm's way halfway around the globe to continue this war on terror. I am personally sending my son to his ship in a few days, so don't try to tell me that I own no part of 9-11 or that I have not invested my treasure in the war on terror.

President Bush is completely entitled to use images from the day that defined not only his Presidency but redefined our entire country. He has led us with purpose and conviction and has sent a clear message to those who would visit harm upon us that there will be consequences.

While you castigate our courageous and clear-minded President, John Kerry gets a pass on his questionalble and near-traitorous history in Vietnam and anti-war activity and his Senate Select Committee on the status of our POW/MIA's?

He gets a pass on his consistently anti-defense and anti-intelligence voting?

He gets a pass on his chameleon-like ability to change his politics to suit his audience?

He gets a pass on numerous cases of lying about his Senate voting record? Careful, Mr. Schaitberger... your hypocrisy is showing. Again.

I'm a realist and I know that Bush never had a chance of receiving the IAFF endorsement, anyway. I'm sure that my hair will catch fire on the day that the IAFF endorses anyone but a liberal for US President.

I just never expected that a union that comprises people of an almost mythological and legendary calling to a higher service to mankind would endorse someone who seems to me, so utterly and completely devoid of any sense of honor or duty.



Elizabeth Crakes - 14 MAR 04
Proud daughter, granddaughter, grand-niece and sister of Fire Fighters


References:
No Honeymoon in Las Vegas
Mix of emotion and the mundane
National Volunteer Fire Council

Airborne Combat Engineer: Something about this 9/11 ad fuss smells like a donkey