Whenever I tell someone I don't like George W. Bush, I always get the same response.
"You mean you liked Bill Clinton?" or "Don't tell me you'd rather have Al Gore."
These responses miss the point altogether. I dislike George W. Bush because he is dishonest.
Deceit in politics is as old as the hills. Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson—to name but two— were sidewinders. But they were crude and bumbling. Bush, however, is a smooth operator. He's something to behold.
Bush has buffaloed the public and paralyzed the Democrats.
The New York Times recently reported [Looking at Postwar Bush, Glum Democrats Ponder How to Win in 2004 April 16, 2003 By Adam Nagourney] that a prominent Democratic Senator—who wished to remain anonymous—said that the White House plans a "never-ending war" to keep the focus off the economy.
The "never-ending war" strategy is chugging along with a powerful head of steam. Afghanistan and Iraq are over and done with.
In Iraq, we beat an army whose soldiers hadn't eaten in a week. Bush set the table for himself and now, mission accomplished, is on a victory lap.
Insiders say that the credit for this masterful public relations coup goes to Karl Rove, Bush's right hand man.
Jason Stanford is a Texas-based consultant for the Democratic Party. Stanford is only the only Democratic soul brave enough to sit for an interview for the new book, Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential by James Moore and Wayne Slater.
Disgusted by how easily the administration shifted away from Osama bin Laden to Saddam Hussein, Stanford summarized [PDF] the Bush/Rove strategy:
"Hey, we can't take over a country that doesn't exist, so fine, we'll go take over some other country. We can't invade Al Qaeda. We can't occupy it. We can't even find it. Okay. Fine. But we do know where Baghdad is. We've got a map. We can find it on a map. And they've got oil and an evil guy. So let's go there.
"You've got a 6-foot-5-inch guy dragging his dialysis machine through the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we are letting him get away," concluded Stanford.
Bush, like a magician, has turned 9/11 into political advantage. By golly, he is going after those terrorists to make America safe.
Never mind that Bush has saddled the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the U.S. with a chump change budget of $14 million.
Bush, afraid of what it might find, wants that commission to go away.
When Bush made his speech from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, I was listening to the Michael Savage Show. The program was interrupted for the live broadcast.
Bush, patting himself on the back for the military's achievements, was masterful. No comparison was too outrageous… "the daring of Normandy, the fierce courage of Iwo Jima, the decency and idealism that turned enemies into allies…."
Summing up with a quote from Isaiah, Bush properly thanked the military for doing what it was asked to do.
And his thanks are correctly placed. But wouldn't it be a new low in American politics if these soldiers were mere pawns in Bush's re-election bid?
Immediately after Bush's speech ended, Savage returned. Savage is a huge Bush supporter. Bush may not be Churchill, Savage observed, but who wouldn't prefer listening to the carefully measured President to the next four years instead of New York Senator Hillary Clinton.
Savage then played a tape of a Hillary Clinton speech saying that criticism of Bush shouldn't be construed as unpatriotic.
Needless to say, I was fine with Clinton's message. But her voice sounded like someone was strangling the cats.
While the Democrats have plenty of issues to exploit—most noticeably the U.S. 6% unemployment rate and a third straight month of jobs cuts in the industrial sector—Bush is adept at dancing in between the raindrops.
If the Democrats expect to win, the party will have to get challenge Bush's image as a fearless warrior against terrorism.
The anonymous Senator quoted earlier will have to go public with her opinions.
How else can the Democrats beat that Super Smoothie, George W. Bush?
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.