George W. Bush Ain't No Cowboy

See how the little feller measures up to the Cowboy Code, and you tell me.

On the home front, the Bush administration has used the Patriot Act to prune back the very liberties he swore to uphold and protect.

3 He must always tell the truth. Ersatz cowboy George W. Bush hasn't. The two key issues facing America today are the war and the economy. He misled the nation into the Iraq war with false claims of imminent danger. He promised that his tax cuts wouldn't result in deficits and then said deficits would be "small and short term." The federal deficit is now enormous, estimated at over $400 billion, and looks likely to last years.

4 He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals. Children are being ground under the heels of those fancy boots. Bush is relaxing safeguards against the neurotoxin mercury, which is particularly dangerous to the growing brains and nervous systems of fetuses and children, and the Clean Air Act has been stripped of key provisions to control coal-fired power-plant emissions known to cause respiratory illnesses like asthma.

photo: Moreen Ishikawa/whitehouse.gov

The number of children living in poverty has risen, yet he proposes in his 2005 budget to freeze funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Head Start's budget would also be frozen, and the $247 million Even Start literacy program would be eliminated. More children will be left behind. Budgets for a host of other education programs would be frozen, cut, or eliminated by Bush's proposals.

"This administration wants to require low-income mothers to work more hours to receive benefits," says Bethany Little of the Children's Defense Fund. "What exactly is going to happen to those children is a mystery to us." She adds, "I don't think there's anything gentle about denying children child-care access, early-childhood education in high school, good public schools, living wages for families, and standing health care."

As for the elderly, Bush is catering to his religious-right constituents by blocking stem cell research to fight Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. His efforts to privatize Social Security put most seniors' pensions at risk. And he has also hampered efforts to legalize cheaper generic drugs and pharmaceutical imports from Canada.

"The Medicare Drug Bill was a lucrative deal for pharmaceutical companies," says Susan Murany, executive director of the Gray Panthers. "We didn't consider it a win for consumers at all, we considered it a win for drug companies."

When it came to animals, the Virginian rued the pain the cattle industry inflicted on the beasts, even before the age of industrial farming. He delivered a beat-down to a man who was ruthless with "hawses." He "gentled" his own horses for riding and took care of a mentally disturbed chicken. Really. Bush, on the other hand, enjoyed putting firecrackers inside living frogs and tossing them into the air when he was a boy.

Now that Bush is an adult, he and his appointees haven't proposed adding a single species to the "endangered" list. And his approach to natural habitats has been "disastrous," says Brad DeVries of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund. "The needs of wildlife go by the wayside when they get in the way of energy development, logging, or mining."

Perhaps most galling, DeVries says, is the Bush administration proposal "to allow the importation of endangered animals and their body parts as hunting trophies and zoo animals and other uses."

Ron Reagan Jr. summed it up nicely in a TV discussion last year. Describing Bush Jr.'s faux-cowboy lifestyle, the son of the late cowboy actor-turned-president remarked, "You know, George Bush sallies forth in his pickup truck to go torment small animals."

5 He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas. At this moment, Bush operatives are working to keep blacks off the voter rolls in Florida. And since 9-11, Bush has used language that evokes the Crusades.

"There's a seismic gap between some of the president's very needed symbolic acts and initiatives on the street," says C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance and a Baptist pastor in Monroe, Louisiana. Gaddy cites the broad sweeps that jailed Muslim immigrants and statements by Attorney General John Ashcroft asserting the superiority of Christianity.

"One of the surprising things to emerge," Gaddy notes, "was that the president met with conservative Christians about the preemptive strike on Iraq but refused to meet with bishops of the Methodist church because they didn't support it. Same with the National Council of Churches."

Bush and Dick Cheney also tried to draft conservative Christian denominations into their re-election bid by suggesting that congregation membership rosters be used for political mailings.

6 He must help people in distress. AIDS is ravaging nations across the globe; more die each year than Osama bin Laden could dream of killing. Yet the Bush administration blocks from its aid programs vital, World Health Organization–approved generic drugs made in the developing world that cost one-fifth as much as the drugs produced by the big pharmaceutical manufacturers. Critics say Bush's budget slashes U.S. funding for the Global Fund (to fight AIDS and other infectious diseases) by 64 percent.

7 He must be a good worker. Even the Virginian hit the books, albeit to impress a pretty schoolteacher. But Bush, though he married a librarian, is famously incurious. By the time he'd served three years in office, he'd taken more vacation days than Bill Clinton took in eight. Those days in Texas (mostly in Crawford, a comfortable Waco suburb and not a hardscrabble frontier) took up more than 40 percent of his term—until 9-11. Bush was on his suburban ranch, the 9-11 Commission noted, when he received notice that Osama bin Laden was coiling to spring an attack upon the U.S.

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