George W. Bush
In just two days we are going to have a Presidential election and, if the polls are even remotely correct, about half of the electorate will vote for George W. Bush. From my perspective, this is amazing. In this posting, I'm going to consider their reasons and present my response to them.
Security. I hear that people who plan to vote for Bush are motivated by a fear of terrorism and a belief that he will do a better job of keeping them safe. This makes sense to me, but I wonder what their measure of security is? Do they feel more secure now than they did in 2000? Do they feel more secure because the war on terror is very visible, because heightened security at airports and government buildings shows that something is being done? This looks to me like a false sense of security. The threat of terror comes from terrorists. Terrorists are motivated by a hatred of America, and all of the evidence (e.g. Post, Guardian) suggests that Bush's policies have only thrown fuel on the fire of extremism. Bush's approach of fighting against governments and rounding up specific people on lists ignores the fact that terrorists are replaceable and will continue to be replaced so long as the conditions that promote extremism remain. I too am very concerned about security, but it looks to me like the Bush administration doesn't know what they are doing. Soon after the attacks on the world trade towers the United States had the sympathy of the world, and terrorists did not. Since that time (many would say as a result of the war in Iraq and a heavy handed approach that has included events like Abu Ghraib prison and the ongoing saga at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station) anti-American sentiment has surged and the number of terrorist attacks worldwide has significantly increased. In my view, this administration has done a terrible job of making Americans more secure and the idea that they might be allowed to continue along this path for four more years is terrifying.
Honesty. I hear that people who plan to vote for Bush consider him to be honest. Apparently, people find that his manner inspires trust and confidence. Frankly, I don't see it. It is true that, unlike Clinton, George W. Bush has not been caught in any major lies about his personal life. However, he looks to many of us like a sweaty salesman trying to unload an inferior product. To be fair, I think that the biggest problem with George Bush and honestly lies elsewhere. It comes from the Republican Party's "team Orwell," a group that seeks out and recommends the use of language designed to win support but obscure their reasons. For example, Bush constantly repeats that terrorists attack the United States because they hate freedom. That certainly isn't what the terrorists say, and I wonder whether Bush has made any effort to understand what actually motivates our enemies. I wonder when misrepresentations designed to sway public opinion become misunderstanding, and when misunderstanding leads to the wrong choices.
Bush's most significant misrepresentation as president was his claim, as justification for the war in Iraq, that there was solid evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He now says that the war in Iraq was the right thing to do whether or not Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that he would do it again. That's fine, but its does not change the fact that he sought public support for the war in advance, that that support (especially the support of the British) mattered, and that it was based on lies.
Leadership. The notion that George W. Bush is an effective leader had no basis in reality. Leaders have followers; he does not. At home, Bush is respected only by Republicans. Despite a promise prior to the 2000 election that he would work together with Democrats to get things done, Bush has polarized Washington and the nation to an unprecedented extent. Internationally, things are even worse. During the first debate we heard him whine about how difficult it is to work together with world leaders. It may be hard, but all other Presidents have done a much better job. In fact, one has to go back at least 70 years to find a president whose "leadership" has been so completely rejected by our traditional allies.
Fiscal responsibility and big government. When I was a child thirty years ago there was the notion that Republicans would do a better job of reigning in government spending and keeping the budget balanced. However, this has not been true in a long time. The national debt rose sharply during the Reagan and first Bush administrations. During the Clinton years it was brought under control. A budget surplus of $236 billion was achieved by 2000, but this has now been reversed again (with a $413 billion deficit this year, over $1,500 per year for each of us). The major factors here are the tax cut and the war in Iraq. While it is certainly true that Republicans favor a smaller government offering fewer services, none of them are really suggesting that we all go live in a shack like the unabomber and Bush has not proposed significant real cuts in government services. What he has done is cut taxes in a way that favors the very wealthy. These cuts are illusory. If the government is spending money its bills will eventually have to be paid, and they will have to be paid by taxpayers.
Character. George W. Bush is a loser. He is inarticulate and often looks confused. Whether or not he was actually AWOL it is very clear that his career in the National Guard was undistinguished. His academic career was likewise unimpressive (some professors recall that he distinguished himself in a negative light -- Salon, CNN). After graduation, W's business career in the energy business (Arbusto Oil and Spectrum 7) can be summarized as a string of failures. Since then, he has failed as President. His is the first administration since Herbert Hoover that has not seen a net increase in the number of jobs. Overseas, he has less respect than any president ever.
America deserves better. In contrast to Bush, John Kerry is articulate and looks presidential. He has the potential to make all Americans proud of their president, something George W. Bush has proven he will never be able to do.
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Copyright 2004 Steve Mount. This is Posting 1.
Please cite http://www.SteveMount.com/Posting0001.html This posting may be revised in the future but the current version will remain available at http://www.SteveMount.com/Posting0001.03.html