My Exasperated Unendorsement for President
Suppose someone walked up to you on the street and explained a new idea. The idea was this: all unemployed people would be rounded up in large trucks, covered with grape jelly, and administered electric shocks. Then, they'd be given bottles of vinegar, and they'd be instructed to fan out across the country, trip people at random, and pour the vinegar up their noses. Great idea, huh?
You would look at the person who told you this in sheer bewilderment and horror. If responded at all, you'd probably say, "You're nuts!" or maybe "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"
Now here is where it gets hard: your new acquaintence stares at you in shock. "You think it's a bad idea?? Why???"
How the hell do explain why it's a stupid idea? Where do you begin? It's so absurd, so ridiculous, so nonsensical, and so wrong that it's almost impossible to elaborate. Where on earth do you begin?
This is the problem I face when I want to explain why I don't want to see George W. Bush elected President. (I almost said "re-elected," but that would seem to imply that he was legitimately elected to begin with... and that's open to question. But I digress...)
I am, in general, fairly apolitical. I'm certainly not a Democrat. My objection to George Bush has nothing to do with his being a Republican; my objection to Bush is that he is corrupt, dishonest, administratively incompetent, and terrifyingly unintelligent.
These are all broad statements. Generally, when I take a political or analytical position, I try to detail precisely why I'm taking that position.
Why am I against the truck-jelly-shock-vinegar-attack unemployment policy? I can't explain that coherently: I would simply become exasperated even trying to outline my objections. There are so many that I don't know where to start, so many that I can't begin to list them all, so many that I can't begin to organize them into an articulate argument. I want my explanations to be careful and complete, but I can't do that in this case; and I would feel frustrated with my own response, because no matter what I wrote, it would be inadequate. It would leave out volumes of important points; refuting the idea completely would take ages, and the idea is simply so stupid that it shouldn't need refuting.
This is how I feel about the presidency of George W. Bush. Why does it need refuting? Why isn't the incompetence of this administration obvious to everyone? Let's recap a few things... but bear in mind, this only scratches the surface.
First and foremost, the absurd, stupid venture in Iraq. On this topic, over one year ago, I took the time to write an article on why I believed the war in Iraq was a bad, bad idea. That article ("Many Misgivings," at iraq.htm) is still online, and I stand by it: more than a year later, nothing has occured to alter the dire predictions I made at the time. There are a few other points that I didn't bother to raise in that article. Some have unfolded over the last year, such as the conspicuous absence of the supposed "weapons of mass destruction." Other points worth noting? How about the fact that plans to "get Saddam" predated the 9/11 attacks? Or the ridiculous PR stunt on the aircraft carrier? ("Mission Accomplished," indeed!) Or how about the horrifying spectre of Americans torturing Iraqi prisoners? In October 2003, Bush declared that "Iraq is free of rape rooms and torture chambers." As I write this, the headline in today's Chicago Tribune (May 5, 2004) reads: "US probes 20 death, abuse cases of military prisoners." For days, the front page of many newspapers have been plastered with photos of American soldiers taunting, humiliating, and torturing hooded Iraqi prisoners.
Hmmm... what other distinctions has our President accumulated? Well, for one, he is is the only President ever convicted of drunk driving. When the story broke, Bush's spokeswoman, Karen Hughes, first claimed that Bush had been pulled over because he was "There was some discussion that he appeared to be driving too slow -- too slowly." Sheesh. He went off the road and ran into a hedge. We have a Chief Executive who plays Death Race 2000 with shrubbery. How wonderful. I'm trying to picture a plastered Winston Churchill plowing his MG into somebody's lawn vegetation. I am having trouble with that picture.
I also have trouble imagining, say, Nelson Mandela, choking on a pretzel.
Bush's academic record was lackluster at best. So how did he get into Yale and Harvard? In a word, nepotism. That's not quite what they call it at Yale and Harvard... they called it being a "legacy." Basically, it means that since his father was smart enough to get in, they'd give the younger Bush a pass.
There is one thing about stupid politicians that I find interesting. I'm a Chicagoan, and I'm fascinated by our mayor. Forgive me for being blunt, but Chicago's mayor - Richard M. Daley - positively radiates dumbness. He's hilariously inarticulate and perpetually befuddled. In this sense, he's similar to George Bush. But unlike Bush, his performance in office has been fairly good. Not great, certainly, but decent. In spite of his lack of intelligence, he conveys a sense of genuine concern about his city. He may not be bright, but he makes up for it through dedication. What's the lesson here? Frankly, I'm not sure. Maybe the lesson is that you can be dumb and do a halfway decent job running a major city, but you can't be dumb and do a halfway decent job running a country. Or maybe the lesson is that if you're dumb, you can make up for it by caring about the people you work for... but you can't make up for it if all you care about is yourself and your cronies.
And Bush's cronies are a peculiar lot. Most of them are "chickenhawks" -- men who did not serve in the military themselves, yet who advocate war. Bush's supposed military service was, again, apparently made possible through nepotism. More importantly, however, the Bush administration has still been unable to provide any evidence that Bush actually showed up for duty in the Texas Air National Guard. The closest they came to proof were records which indicated that Bush had been paid during the time in question. But despite the vast financial resources of the Bush campaign team, they still could not locate any members who actually remember serving with Bush. If anything, this makes Bush look even worse: He did nothing, and got paid for it.
Or how about the inattention to terrorism? In February 2001, Paul Bremer - who would later become the de facto leader of Bush's "post-war" Iraq - made a prophetic statement: "What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this." (http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/04/29/bremer.bush.ap/index.html).
Similarly, Richard Clarke - a man with over 30 years of public service, in both Republican and Democratic administrations - blasted Bush's conduct before and after the September attacks.
"Frankly, I find it outrageous that the president is running for re-election on the grounds that he's done such great things about terrorism. He ignored it. He ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11. Maybe. We'll never know."
According to CNN, "Clarke said he asked for a Cabinet-level meeting in January 2001, shortly after the president took office, to discuss the threat al Qaeda posed to the United States. 'That urgent memo wasn't acted on,' Clarke told CBS. Instead, he said, administration officials were focused on issues such as missile defense and Iraq."
The CNN article continues:
Clarke said that, a day after the attacks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed for a retaliatory strike on Iraq, though the evidence pointed to al Qaeda, because "there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq."
And he said Bush asked him to look for links between al Qaeda and Iraq the day after the attacks.
"Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this," Clarke said.
When Clarke told Bush that U.S. intelligence had nothing connecting Iraq with al Qaeda, he said the president responded in a "very intimidating" manner: "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection."
The full article is at http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/03/22/clarke.bush/index.html.
Bush's performance on 9-11 was far from stellar. To be fair, the attacks were horrifying, and it would have taken an exceptional leader to rise to the occasion. When he finally appeared to make a brief statement on the attacks, he looked... well, rattled. There's no other word for it. He didn't look afraid, exactly, but neither did he look poised or resolute. A leader has to be better than that. The rest of us can be shocked and horrified and even afraid; but when you're the person in charge, you don't have that luxury. You need to inspire confidence.
Bush spent most of the afternoon of September 11 flying from place to place: "I mean, I was trying to get out of harm's way. We were concerned about threats on the President." (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/05/20020521-10.html). How inspiring.
Oh, well... with Bush aloft, at least we could comfort ourselves with the knowledge that our shrubbery was that much safer.
Bush doesn't even seem to be quite clear on what he saw on 9/11. In a town meeting in Florida only three months later, our nation's leader explained that his first reaction to the destruction of the Trade Center: "I saw an airplane hit the tower - the TV was obviously on - and I used to fly myself, and I said, 'There's one terrible pilot.'" A full recap of Bush's bizarre account of his actions is online at http://democrats.com/view.cfm?id=7764.
And then there is the absurd economic policies. After 12 years of relative fiscal responsibility under the elder George Bush and Bill Clinton, the younger Bush racked up a colossal deficit... something on the order of $455 billion for 2003. It is the highest deficit in U.S. history. (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/economy/july-dec03/deficit_7-15.html).
I could go on for hours... the fiasco of "No Child Left Behind," the bizarre tax policies, the dubious nature of his election "victory," the plethora of stupid and nonsensical remarks... but I'm just going to call it quits here. I've heard a rumor that Bush is about to announce and new unemployment policy, and I'm thinking I'd better go clear the store shelves of vinegar and jelly.
Therefore, my official endorsement for the 2004 presidential election: that other guy. You know, whats-his-name. The one who isn't Bush. (And no, I don't mean Nader, or Ross Perot, or Kang, or Kodos.) Just vote for the guy who can get Bush out.
Bruce Sharp, May 2004
Want a really nice recap of Bush's bio? Check out http://zhongwen.com/bush/.
Or how about a hilarious collection of Bush quotes? http://www.thedubyareport.com/quotes.html.
Many Misgivings (March 2003)
Residual Talking Points (November 2005)
Jagged Rocks (June 2006)
Andy? Is That You? (October 2006)