George Bush, Make-Believe President

Not Qualified, Not Truthful, Not Wise

The campaign skills that got him elected in 2000—slogans and backslaps and bouquets of promises thrown out with winning bonhomie—may not be enough to win him a second term in November. Lots of Americans are rankled, not just the Democrats. People are not better off than they were four years ago. And they've been lied to by a clique who apparently believe that military action is a first resort, not a last one—and, concomitantly, that since our armed power outstrips that of any other nation-state or coalition, we must, to keep our nation secure and mighty, seize this moment to move forward boldly and tame the world, wherever we have enemies or unstable conditions that affect us. This is a doctrine of preemptive war, pure and simple. All of it defies world history and our own nation's experience.

Bush's extremist domestic and foreign policies have both seen their shiny outer wrappings torn to shreds, suddenly exposing their hocus-pocus innards.

Here we have, as one example, an education policy (No Child Left Behind) that lays out all the testing and learning requirements but only a trickle of the federal funds needed to pay for the training and teaching. So local taxes have had to be raised. One might call this a trickle-down tax policy. One might also call it trumpery.

Bush's big-picture tax policy, already in full swing, has made large reductions in the federal income tax. Sound great? Yeah, but it's less filling for the working classes. Most of the cuts go to the richest of Americans. Bush's theory is that these are the nation's entrepreneurs who will use the bulk of their windfall to create new jobs. But we've lost jobs instead—more than 2 million of them since George Bush took office. He doesn't seem to have noticed. At first, with his tax cuts, he sent every taxpayer a check for a few hundred dollars—an advance, so to speak, on the treasure to come; he told us to go out and shop, to spend the money that will prime the economic pump. It didn't.

The same kind of scary collapse, as we have seen, has happened with Bush's foreign policies, which seem born of a military-industrial vision of American empire. Just what General Dwight Eisenhower warned us against after he had led the Allies to victory over the Nazis in World War II and been voted into the White House.

Here is yet another example of the ever shifting certainties of the Bush era—one that is still taking lives. Do you remember, back in 2002, when the president's White House minions began planting stories about how the CIA and State Department and Pentagon were deliberately understating the size of Saddam Hussein's terror arsenal and thus trying to diminish the gravity of the Iraqi threat? Now, two years later, as if they had somehow undergone a memory erasure, Bush and Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld and the rest of the White House gang accuse the CIA of having done just the opposite—of having exaggerated Iraq's nuclear, chemical, and biological capabilities.

He was misled by our intelligence community, the president now announces, in this latest revised edition of his policies. But never mind, he says, I forgive the CIA. And anyway, he says without blinking, even though our search teams have been unable to find the arsenal of mass destruction "I expected to find," the preemptive war was the "right thing" to do. "Hussein was dangerous," he said last week on television, "and I'm not going to leave him in power and trust a madman." Though Iraq may not have had the weapons or production lines, Bush said he had to act regardless, because Hussein had the intent and "the capacity to make a weapon and then let that weapon fall into the hands of a shadowy terrorist network." The desire and the "capacity" (read: scientists)—but not the urgent threat.

This is an entirely new doctrine of war for the United States. In a Cincinnati speech five months before the start of the Iraq war, Bush described it thusly, explaining why the U.S. had to act "now" against Hussein: "America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof—the smoking gun—that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud."

But we knew then that the Iraqis no longer had a credible nuclear program, and we know now that they also didn't have the weapons about which President Bush said there was "no doubt."

It wasn't Iraq that was peddling nuclear technology to rogue nations and terrorists. It was Pakistan, our "ally" in the war against terror. Clear evidence shows that Washington knew this several years ago. Yes, President Bush knew it when he took the oath of office in January 2001. And he never told us, not even after 9-11.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy—after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by American-trained Cuban exiles—didn't point fingers at the CIA or anyone else. Instead, he told the National Security Council that "we're not going to have any search for scapegoats . . . the final responsibilities of any failure is mine, and mine alone."

George Walker Bush, who said he was going to "restore honor and dignity to the White House," could learn something from that history. Truth is better than fiction when you're sending your youth into battle.


Research assistance: Jennifer Suh

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