Although I have never been a supporter of President George W. Bush, I take no pleasure in writing the harsh assessment that you are about to read.
Bush is the President of the United States. Therefore Bush deserves our utmost respect. And in the days immediately following Bush's controversial election, the nation rallied around our new president. After the 9/11 tragedy, we looked to Bush for guidance and comfort.
But in recent weeks, Bush has made it impossible to sustain any good feeling we might once have held for him. He is incapable of straight talk. Americans—desperate for leadership—shake their heads as Bush piles one vague poll-driven comment onto another.
The Bush administration has danced to its own tune since it took office. Starting in August 2001, when Vice President Dick Cheney refused to turn over to the General Accounting Office documents concerning Bush's energy policy through last week when the administration was forced kicking and screaming to grant additional time to the 9/11 Commission investigating the terrorist attacks, the list of offenses is too long to recount here. Suffice it to say that secrecy and arrogance are Bush's hallmarks.
At the core of our skepticism of Bush is the realization that we no longer live in a democracy. Under Bush, the United States is a plutocracy— government by the rich and for the rich.
Using financial disclosure documents filed with the Office of Government Ethics, the Wall Street Journal compiled this net worth list of high-ranking Bush officials:
While having wealthy men in high office is not new in America, rarely have we had so many powerful politicians and plugged in business moguls so blatantly trample what remains of our middle class.
Cheney made his fortune at Halliburton. Try as you might, you can't keep up with Halliburton's transgressions.
And Evans—our fabulously wealthy Commerce Secretary— continues to insist that those outsourced jobs—gone forever—is a great thing for America.
If you don't believe Evans, just read the 2004 Economic Report of the President. Here is the Bush mantra on jobs spelled out for you:
"When a good or service is produced more cheaply abroad, it makes more sense to import it than make or provide it domestically."
And this gem from the same report claiming that Chinese exports are not: "a primary factor in the displacement of American manufacturing workers."
Must we lose 2.2 million jobs during the Bush administration and have our intelligence insulted at the same time?
Bush describes himself as a "wartime president." And he hopes to ride that pony all the way through a successful November re-election.
When I think about Bush and Iraq, I think about this unnecessary war's human cost. That 500 troops have died in Bush's folly is a scandal.
But that is only the beginning. On February 11, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Gene Collier wrote about his interview with Dave Autry of the Disabled American Veterans office. In addition to the 500 dead, wrote Collier, there are:
"At least 9,000 servicemen and women wounded, sickened or injured? How about 6,891 troops medically evacuated for non-combat conditions between March 19 and Oct. 30, 2003?"[Wounded U.S. veterans get a raw deal at home]
Another DAV official, Tom Keller, reported that the injured return home in the middle of the night. Worse the DAV, which has traditionally provided comfort to the wounded, is denied access.
"I have my own feelings about why the Bush administration is bringing the casualties back to the States in the middle of the night and wants to keep organizations like the DAV away from them. I believe the administration wants to keep the American people in the dark about the number of troops being wounded, the severity of the injuries they are receiving and the types of illnesses that may be surfacing."
So outraged is DAV Executive Secretary David Gorman, a Vietnam War veteran who lost both legs in southeast Asia, that he wrote Rumsfeld with a copy to Bush demanding to know why his organization's fully trained and accredited staff cannot visit the wounded.
To date, neither Rumsfeld nor Bush has replied.
Certainly many readers will reprimand me and predict that Bush, as flawed as his administration is, will be many times better than the Democratic nominee. I'm not persuaded by that argument since I don't like or trust any of the leading Democrats. I hold John Kerry, Howard Dean et al in equally low esteem.
But here is what I do know: Bush has been dishonest. The federal government doesn't belong to him and his hand-picked cronies. The government belongs to the American people.
And one of the few powers we have left in what was once a great democracy is to vote out those who haven't listened to us.
Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.