View from Lodi, CA: Prolonged Bush Honeymoon Will End Soon
June 07, 2002, 05:00 AM
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Two weeks ago, Bill Maher was a guest on CNN`s "Larry King Live."

King asked Maher about the cancellation of "Politically Incorrect." King wanted to know if it were true that the White House leaned heavily on ABC to dump the comic after Maher`s controversial statement that it was not the Al Queda terrorists who were cowards, as stressed by President Bush, but the U.S. government.

Maher`s theory is that it takes courage—perverted and misguided though it may be—to slam jumbo jets into skyscrapers. Conversely, in Maher`s opinion, dropping bombs on caves from thousands of feet above your target is gutless.

Maher, no fan of politicians and a harsh critic of President Bush, told King Bush is barking up the wrong tree when he warns of the threat to the U.S. posed by "the axis of evil." According to Maher, the "axis" of marketing companies, the corporations they represent and the politicians in their back pocket is America`s most pressing threat.

I agree with Maher. The war on terrorism is a very effective vote getting tool for Bush. A total cynic might observe that Bush is milking the deaths of nearly 3,000 people for maximum political gain.

And since candor about the White House affiliation with Enron does not translate into votes, we are conspicuously not hearing much about that.

The big question is how much longer Bush`s presidential honeymoon—traditionally a mere 100 days—will last.

We`ve heard that Bush`s high poll numbers reflect the public`s support of how he handles terrorism. But is the public paying attention or does it simply feel that it is unpatriotic to challenge Bush?

More than six months have passed since Bush promised that Osama bin Laden would be "brought to justice dead or alive." Today Bush, out of embarrassment, never mentions bin Laden`s name.

Almost overnight, Saddam Hussein has become our main target. According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, bin Laden has vanished.

Evidence mounts that the White House and key F.B.I. and C.I.A. officials were asleep at the switch just before 9/11.

Egypt`s President Hosni Mubarak provided the latest indictment. Mubarak revealed that when a secret agent recruited by Egypt infiltrated Al Queda, he learned that a major attack against the U.S. was imminent.

Although Egyptian intelligence didn`t have the particulars, the information gathered was passed along to the appropriate American officials. "We informed them about everything," said Mubarak.

But no one paid heed.

On June 4, Congressional hearings began to determine just who knew what and when it was known. Finger-pointing between the FBI and the CIA continues.

Americans are having a hard time determining whether or not the attacks might have been prevented based on the available bits and pieces of information. But one thing is certain: we`d feel better if we knew that the agencies jumped right on the few clues they had.

As the questions about 9/11 become more pointed and harder for the administration to wiggle out of, things are heating up over Enron, too.

Under heavy pressure from Congressional Democrats, the White House is slowly releasing facts about Enron`s access to the administration.

What is known is that Enron and its employees donated more than $1 million to the Bush campaign, the Bush inaugural ball and the Republican Party.

Bush aides used the Enron jet during the summer election campaign and the post-election chaos in Florida.

Former Enron C.E.O. Kenneth Lay rarely missed a White House function: the inaugural ball, the Easter egg hunt, T-ball games.

Lay was more interested in lobbying for favors that might save Enron from bankruptcy than he was in the outcome of T-ball games. Enron`s generosity to the Bush campaign put Lay in an excellent position to cash in.

Vice-President Dick Cheney remains an enigma in the Enron affair. His steadfast refusal to turn over records of his energy task force contacts creates more suspicion about the Enron-White House relationship. In a different political climate, people would be calling for Cheney`s head.

Enron and 9/11 are adding up to trouble for Bush.

The war on terrorism is floundering. In a recent speech, Bush said, "We`ve got to do a better job on our borders, understanding who`s coming into the country and who`s leaving and why they`re here and why they haven`t left."

As always, talk is cheap.

By September 11, 2002 Bush`s approval rating will be below 50% and dropping. The closer we get to November 2004, the more challenging Bush`s re-election prospects appear.

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.