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.
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.
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:
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:
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.