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Patriotism is on full display

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist

Mick Mulvaney was a four-term Republican congressman from South Carolina with a reputation as a hawk on government spending in 2017 when President Donald Trump chose him to be director of the Office of Budget and Management, the nation’s top fiscal officer.

Mulvaney held that position until December 2018, when Trump named him “acting” White House chief of staff, a position he held until March 2020 when the president replaced him with North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows.

Mulvaney’s record on restraining federal spending was, in a word, dismal. The national debt, which was just under $20 trillion when Trump became president, has ballooned to north of $27 trillion in 46 months. But let’s give Mulvaney some credit for daring to spread the ugly truth: In a speech to the Oxford Union, he admitted publicly: “My party is very interested in deficits when there is a Democrat in the White House. The worst thing in the whole world is deficits when Barack Obama became president. Then Donald trump became president, and we’re a lot less interested (in cutting federal spending) as a party.”

Proving the timeless wisdom of the Turkish proverb — “He who speaks the truth must keep one foot in the stirrup” — Mick Mulvaney’s tenure as White House chief of staff ended three weeks later.

Hypocrisy, sadly, is never out of fashion in politics. Consider the American flag lapel pin found so often on the suitcoat of American politicians, most of whom went to considerable effort to avoid or evade military service.

A check of the files fails to turn up a single photo of legitimate 20th-century war-hero presidents — Teddy Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Gerald Ford or George H.W. Bush — feeling the need to burnish their credentials with any Old Glory jewelry on their chests.

But President Donald J. Trump, he of the fabled bone spurs, is never without the Stars and Stripes on his ample bosom. Among other leading Republicans who campaigned with the Stars and Stripes sartorially prominent were former Vice President Dick “I had other priorities in the ’60s than military service” Cheney and most presidential candidates, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and former House Speakers Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan, who was also the GOP nominee for vice president in 2012.

One Republican presidential candidate was criticized by some in his own party for not wearing a flag pin on his suit lapel: the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, who did, you may recall, answer his country’s call and spent five-and-a-half years being starved and brutalized in a North Vietnam concentration camp.

It was McCain who criticized the nation’s manpower policies during the Vietnam war: “We drafted the lowest income level of America, and the highest income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur. That is wrong. That is wrong. If we’re going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

Pinning a flag on your own chest for show is no substitute for putting your life on the line for the country.

Editor’s note: To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

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