(HOST) Commentator Bill Seamans says that the rising price of gasoline seems to be changing American perceptions of the war in Iraq.
(SEAMANS) It seems that everyone has a gasoline story these days. I’ve even heard some frustrated drivers call the increasingly expensive fuel “Busholine”. By whatever name, as I was filling the twelve-gallon tank of my Prius hybrid the other day, the driver of the large, thirsty SUV at the opposite pump looked at his bill with an outburst of expletives…. “Sixty dollars!” he groaned, looking across at me, I guess for sympathy.
I shrugged, but said nothing about my much smaller $20 tab, because I could sense a possible case of gas pump rage that might have been aimed at innocent me and my Prius. (Full disclosure: I have no connection with my local car dealer other than as satisfied customer.)
Now the soaring price of gasoline (which is causing higher con- sumer prices), the continuing tragic loss in Iraq of teenage GIs, Marines and older National Guardsmen and Reserves, and the Cindy Sheehan antiwar demonstration at the gate to Bush’s ranch all seem to have converged these past couple of weeks into a significant political force that is asking “why?” With our nation at war, why is so little sacrifice being asked of all the people? Why is all the burden on our service persons and their relatives? Why is there such a disconnect between the White House and the public’s right to know?
When the price of gasoline starts impacting every driver’s wallet or pocketbook, it’s a breakthrough, arousing the public from denial to seeing the reality of a war the White House won’t admit is being fought over access to Middle East oil.
Critics say that, from the beginning, Bush’s domestic political strategy has been aimed at insulating the public from the war. Early on, he said we the people should continue to live normally and go shopping. He has banned welcoming honor ceremonies and camera coverage of the flag covered coffins arriving from Iraq, and he has not attended a funeral. It’s alleged that, until now, Bush has succeeded in pushing the war into the background for everyone except our military families and defense contractors. Even the daily toll of GIs and Marines blown up by roadside bombs is hard to find in the newspapers and hardly mentioned by broad- cast news.
It’s been said that leaders of both parties have been afraid to ask the public for any real sacrifice, like higher gasoline taxes to help pay for the war or perhaps even volunteering for an armed civil defense corps to back up our first responders in case of a terror- ism catastrophe.
Gas pump rage is bound to send our vacationing Congress persons back to Washington with the loud constituent message that President Bush’s effort to insulate the public from the war is failing.
The time of denial is over.
This is Bill Seamans.
Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke from our studio in Norwich.