NOW with Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers on Paying for War

When the president talked about those fuel-efficient, hydrogen cars, he didn't mention SUVs.

He didn't tell us that tucked into his economic plan is a little proposal that could triple the tax-deduction that a business can use to buy those gas-guzzlers.

Listening to the president's State of the Union speech, i was reminded of my own experience working on presidential speeches many years ago for LBJ.

We, too, practiced the adage to "accentuate the positive". What we didn't say was often more telling than what we did; we never put a price tag on the Vietnam War, for example; we wanted a cheap war and a great society, and got neither.

Mr. Bush this week was expansive on what he wants, and silent on the total bill for it. You may remember he fired the adviser who publicly predicted the war against Iraq would cost as much as $200 billion; now no one's talking, except to admit the Pentagon has no reliable estimate of the ultimate price.

In his State of the Union speech last year, Mr. Bush said the federal budget deficit "will be small and short term."

He said nothing about it this year, although we now know that the budget to be released on Monday will show a deficit of $300 billion or more — the largest deficit in American history. The largest — and that's before the cost of the war is added on, or the cost of occupying Iraq once Saddam Hussein is gone.

Watching Mr. Bush grow intense and animated and eloquent as he made the case for war — and hearing the exuberance that filled Washington and the pundits' chatter afterward — I was reminded of a speech by Abraham Lincoln back in 1848.

He was Congressman Lincoln then, he voted against war with Mexico, and he lamented the coming of that "attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood, that serpent's eye that charms to destroy."

The price of Mr. Bush's war is yet to be reckoned.