Democrats & Liberals Archives

A Presidency in Revolution

In the controversy over Bush’s conduct in the Texas Air National Guard, the most important aspect of how the Bush team has confronted the issue is not whether or not the four documents shown on 60 minutes were forgeries, but something else.

Nobody at the White House has refuted the basic charge. When asked about the charge, spokesman Dan Bartlett didn't deny that Bush had failed to follow an order, much less that he failed to show up for the physical that would have kept him flight-worthy. Instead, he provided one more in a long line of excuses that have been made for the president's behavior. Why should such a great leader require such a great amount of rationalization from his supporter to get re-elected?

When the tough get going, it seems, Bush gets spinning. Can't find Osama or Mullah Omar? He's no longer important anymore. Can't find Saddam Hussein? Well he's not that important either, deposing him was important. Just found him? He's important again. The insurgency is getting bad? Let the exchange of sovereignty occur, and the attacks will slack off.

Your own legislature tells you the war was started over weapons that did not exist? Then Saddam is the weapon. When he comes under criticism for his lemon of a case for war, or the leadership's decisions on that war, or the abuses of soldiers in the country? Well, then he's a constant leader, getting us through difficult times- even if his decisions are what got us there in the first place.

It's not helping anything. If the current pace of body counts keeps up, our Christmas present will be another 250 soldiers dead. And what about our future credibility? If the administration's troubles with intelligence and their policy of pre-emptive war both continue into the next presidential term, I fear for our future credibility, our ability to exercise power as needed in the world to curtail terrorism. We push things far enough, and our enemies may very well find new allies as governments that support us fall out of favor.

We should be prepared to take this war to the terrorists, but we will need to outmaneuver them on many fronts to make this war work. We will need to demonstrate America's greatness not by brute force and callous disregard for other cultures, but by the honor, honesty, and courage of our people.

Iraq, I feel, is a dark cloud over all of that. What Bush tries to rationalize to the voters here doesn't fly overseas. They don't see reports from news organizations trying to kiss up to Bush, they see the blood and gore, the lack of progress, the implosion of the case presented before the UN, and other various problems our government obscures from us to keep us blindly optimistic about the chances for Bush's strategy to work.

We do need to make Iraq work, to leave the place better than it was when we got there, but the American people have waited more than a year for the president to get his act together. They may say that giving Bush longer to fulfill his strategy Will keep us safer, but if Bush is not right, and there are few things you can really say he was right about concerning this war, then Letting Bush have four more years is not only a risk itself, but an outright mistake.

In our war on terror, we will need a president who prepares our battles well, who understands the enemy, and who, above all else, chooses the enemies to fight who indeed pose a urgent, immediate danger to us all. If you look past all the excuses, though, Bush cannot be said to qualify.

Bush is a president whose administration failed to prepare for our occupation, and by doing so vastly complicated what might have been a much simpler and effective occupation. Even he now calls the Iraq invasion a catastrophic success. Does anybody here feel a chill down their back, at the thought of what a catastrophic failure would be for Bush?

As for understanding the enemy, Bush's constant line is that the insurgents are just waiting for some part of the occupation or presence of our soldiers to finish in order to wind down their attacks. Given that he's provided us with this refrain tied to various events that have come and gone, and that he's been doing so for a year, I think it is demonstrable that Bush underestimates the resolve of our enemies. Additionally, given the low priority that Bush had of counterterrorism, in comparison to his predecessor, it can be said that Bush started early in underestimation of al-Quaeda. Given recent rampant increases in terrorist activity, it can be further argued that he underestimated them in Afghanistan, and that he underestimates them now.

As for choice of enemies, Bush got one easy choice al-Quaeda, then made a seriously lousy one. Bush's case for war was intended to show that we had a psychopath of a dictator with the world's most dangerous weapons in his possession, and the cooperation, presumably active, of the world's deadliest terrorist organization. But the reality a year and a half later is that we were dealing with a cruel, sociopathic dictator, but not so serious of a threat that we needed to take on the debt, the dead, and the deterioration of our reputation on his account. Bush can claim that Saddam was a Weapon of Mass Destruction himself, but last time I checked, nobody was visiting Saddam in a radiation or hazmat suit, except perhaps when he was suffering from indigestion. The whole point of what made the WMD claims so scary was that you only need a few people, by themselves in order to kill thousands, even millions. Saddam himself was only a conventional dictator, who relied on his army and his thugs to stay in power.

The very measure of the threat Saddam posed is how quick it took us to destroy his government. A month. In truth, the insurgents are more of a threat to us and our interests than Saddam was when we invaded. If their efforts are successful, we could see the destabilization of the region. That destabilization could cost more people their lives and their freedom, including those in Iraq, than having simply left Saddam there. That is, if we keep letting the insurgency gather strength and reputation at our expense. We would do well not to continue to underestimate their hold on Iraq.

But that's what Bush is going to do. They'll spin it as constance of vision or something like that. They'll spin just about everything, rather than do something to deal with it. They like to present their policies as revolutionary, well, the word can have two meanings- change and spin. So often in so-called revolutionary governments, the latter becomes the more prevalent quality of the government, as those who hold power demonize those who dissent to their politics. The question becomes "do you agree with your leader?" rather than "is your leader doing well for you?".

And there it is: the ultimate spin- What matters most, Bush's intentions and plans, or Bush's results and evidence of what he's done in his administration? The question is, will we let our fears panic us into electing a president, who given the chance to perform the job, has up to this date performed in a mediocre fashion? Given his record, Bush should be on his knees begging for a second chance, but instead, he selectively hearkens back to the few transcendent moments of his administration, and comes to us as the conquering hero who confronted evil.

My only question for Bush and the rest of you, is when do we get to step off this ride we've been taken on?

Posted by Stephen Daugherty at September 11, 2004 4:15 PM