View From Lodi, CA: Character In Crawford, TX
September 09, 2005, 05:00 AM
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On September 11, 2001 I was asleep in a Sierra Vista, AZ motel when the phone rang at 7:30 A.M. That call was the first I heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center towers.

Normally, by 7:30 I have been up for a couple of hours. But the evening before two friends and I had been touring the border at Naco that separates Mexico and the U.S.

During our hours of driving in pitch darkness, we saw no signs of border security save for an occasional patch of barbwire that a rancher put up to keep his livestock from straying.

Today, four full years after the terrorist attacks, I am certain that if I were to return to that same stretch along the San Pedro River, I would find the borders just as open and accessible as they were on 9/11.

George W. Bush protests that America is a safer country now than it was before we launched the disastrous war in Iraq.

I'm here to tell you that Bush is wrong.

Despite Bush's thousands of references to 9/11 and a secure America, he has done little to protect the country.

Look no further than Bush's refusal to tighten up America's northern and southern border.

To fully understand the magnitude of that failure, consider the words of Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, who wrote in the National Review Online:

"No system that allows a Mexican busboy to sneak in can stop an al Qaeda terrorist."

What we have sadly learned since 9/11 and what has been reinforced over and again is that President Bush is not a man of character. Bush simply does not have the spine to make the unpopular (with his well-heeled supporters) decisions like protecting the borders.

Unfortunately for America, when the going gets tough, Bush gets going…in the opposite direction.

The Gulf States travesty is the latest example of how shallow Bush is. As the tragedy unfolded in the New Orleans—a mere 450 miles east of Crawford— Bush took off for Rancho Cucamonga, CA, 1,200 miles to his west.

Bush is having trouble hiding now. His boilerplate speeches about how the prayers of Americans are with the abandoned New Orleans dead and the killed U.S. soldiers in Iraq might be sincere.

But coming from Bush's mouth, they ring hollow. Words are easy but don't do a thing to absolve Bush of his continuing poor judgment.

Since 9/11, the Bush presidency has revolved around self-serving deceptions and outright lies. They are too numerous to chronicle in a single 800-word column. And why should I bother to spell them out as they are well known to even the most hardened Bush supporters?

No matter how many times Bush visits the Gulf States from this moment forward or how many of his White House staff he sends, nothing will change his initial response…to run away. ["White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage," Adam Nagourney and Anne E. Kornblut, New York Times, September 4, 2005]

And Bush hightailing it toward California at the peak of the New Orleans crisis is the fourth example in the last year of how superficial he is.

Consider the Bush resume:

  • In August 2004, former U.S. Senator and Vietnam veteran Max Cleland attempted to deliver a letter to Bush at his Crawford ranch asking the president to denounce television ads condemning the war record of Sen. John Kerry. Bush refused to accept the letter, signed by nine other U.S. Senators who served in Vietnam. And he refused to meet with Cleland who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. An honorable man would have invited Cleland into his house and said, "Whatever you have to say to me, I want to hear."

  • During the 2005 summer, Bush steadfastly refused to meet with Cindy Sheehan whose son was killed in Iraq. Bush, had he a sense of humanity, would have said, "Come in, let me try to comfort you about the loss of your son."

And if Bush has to meet with all the mothers of the 1,887 dead U.S. soldiers, so be it. Despite the objection that the president is too busy, let him make the time by cutting his daily jog short.

Nearly a year after the November 2004 election, I am still trying to understand how Bush pulled it off. All the signs of Bush incompetence were on display for his entire first term.

What Bush, despite his character deficit, had going for him was his perfect game plan for re-election. As Bush said:

"You can fool some of the people all of the time and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."

But time has run out for Bush. As much as he would love to push for a guest worker program—opposed by 85% of Americans—- and press for his other personal visions like social security reform, circumstances now prevent it.

("Storm Upheaves Bush's Second Term Agenda," Susan Page, USA Today, September 6, 2005)

In the meantime, the weight of Bush's errors will plague every Republican incumbent in 2006.

I predict that they will beg Bush to stay away from their districts and states as the elections draw closer.

By November 2006, Bush will be correctly viewed by incumbent Republicans as poison.

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.