When Washington made his first “media appearance” as president, the new government – and the country were all but broke. Staggering debts from the Revolution were overwhelming. Taxes and tariffs were inadequate to meet obligations incurred during the long fight for independence. Having presided over the drafting and ratification of the Constitution that led to his election, Washington knew Congress had the power of the purse. Instead of demanding that the House and Senate concoct creative ways of raising revenues, Washington led the only way he knew how: by example.
The seventh and eighth pages of his speech at the National Archives are heavily creased, but the words are clear: “When I was first honoured with a call into the Service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed. And being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself, any share in the personal emoluments, which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive Department.” In short, he told the Congress he would serve as president without pay.
Compare that to his incumbent successor who insists the government must raise taxes or furlough federal workers: “It’s true that the sequester is in place right now. It’s damaging our economy, it’s hurting our people and we need to lift it… It’s slowed our growth, it’s resulting in people being thrown out of work, and it’s hurting folks all across the country…we’ve got folks who unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code…I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions.”
Like our first president, Barack Obama is a wealthy man. Unlike Washington, Mr. Obama hasn’t offered to serve without pay. Federal workers are doing that for him.
Our first chief executive didn’t address foreign policy in his first presidential speech. On its 225th anniversary, Obama did – and blamed Congress for Guantanamo: “It hurts us in terms of our international standing... It is a recruitment tool for extremists.” Someone needs to tell him the detainee most mentioned in radical Islamic propaganda isn’t at “Gitmo.” It’s Sheikh Abdel-Rahman – serving a life sentence in a federal prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
Finally, there is the matter of 65,000 young Americans at war in the shadows of the Hindu Kush. That topic didn’t even come up this week except when Mr. Obama noted “we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan.” Would George Washington have ignored his countrymen in harm’s way?
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.