- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

President Bush yesterday celebrated 275 years since George Washington’s birthday by visiting Mount Vernon and linking today’s war against terrorism to the United States’ fight for independence.

“George Washington’s long struggle for freedom has also inspired generations of Americans to stand for freedom in their own time. Today, we’re fighting a new war to defend our liberty and our people and our way of life,” Mr. Bush said as he stood on the lawn in front of Washington’s estate in Fairfax County.

With a re-enactor dressed as Washington looking on, Mr. Bush said the victories the first president won “were not meant for the United States alone,” but were to advance freedom worldwide.

As he nears the end of his own two terms as president and his Iraq policy faces heavy criticism, Mr. Bush, the 43rd president, seems to take solace in the fact that historians are still digesting the first president’s legacy.

“My attitude is, if they’re still analyzing No. 1, 43 ought not to worry about it and just do what he thinks is right, and make the tough choices necessary,” he said at a press conference late last year.

Mr. Bush clearly has done some of his own analyzing about Washington, praising him several times for being steady as a wartime leader.

“In the end, General Washington understood that the Revolutionary War was a test of wills, and his will was unbreakable,” he said.

Mr. Bush also praised Washington’s decision to relinquish his commission at the end of the Revolutionary War — a time when “many would have gladly made George Washington the king of America,” he said — and returned to Mount Vernon, only to be called to oversee the constitutional convention and, later, the presidency.

“George Washington accepted the presidency because the office needed him, not because he needed the office,” Mr. Bush said.

While displaying his knowledge of the first president, Mr. Bush did run afoul of Washington fans who lament the decline of the first president’s celebratory day.

“We’re celebrating around the country Presidents Day, but the folks that work here call it Washington’s birthday,” Mr. Bush said.

In fact, as far as the federal government is concerned, the holiday, as designated by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act passed in 1968, is “Washington’s Birthday.” Some states celebrate “Presidents Day” as a combination of Washington’s and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays, and the term gained prominence through the ubiquitous car- and furniture-sales campaigns that promulgated the moniker.

With the federal holiday pegged to the third Monday in February, it can never fall on Washington’s actual birthday, Feb. 22.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, found another reason to recognize the day yesterday. It marked the 65th anniversary of President Roosevelt signing the executive order allowing internment of Japanese-American citizens and Japanese legal permanent residents during World War II.

“We must continue to remember this tragic time in our history to learn from our errors of the past, reaffirm our commitment to the protection of civil liberties and to ensure that we never walk the same path again,” Mr. Reid said.

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