When facts go out the window
Bush's failed presidency
November 2, 2004
If there has been one striking feature of the election of 2004,
it's that the usual rules for presidents don't seem to apply to
George W. Bush. A few weeks ago, Salon magazine published a highly
interesting article. The article detailed a report from PIPA, the
Program on International Policy Attitudes, at the University of
Maryland at College Park.
According to the study's findings, a
majority of Americans who support Bush believe things about the
world that are objectively false, while most Kerry supporters
believe things about the world that are true.
A majority of Bush
the report says, actually believe that the president and his
policies are popular internationally! In reality, polls have
Bush would be defeated in a landslide in almost every country
in the world, if non-Americans could vote in today's election.
To an unprecedented extent, Bush's support seems to be divorced
from hard facts. Other presidents--Jimmy Carter, Franklin Roosevelt,
Harry Truman -- were judged on their records. Although these men
often ignited emotional feelings, those feelings generally had
a basis in hard facts.
Many wealthy Americans hated FDR, but from
their point of view, Roosevelt's New Deal policies were a good
reason to hate him. With Bush supporters, it seems, facts go out
the window. Instead, he is simply seen to be "moral," and--against
all evidence--to be defending American against terrorism.
The strange thing is that Bush has been a failure by the very
standards of success he has set for himself, and that his supporters
have set for him. He has not been an effective leader of the
war on terrorism. Although the Taliban in Afghanistan was -- at
least temporarily --defeated, Osama bin Laden remains as elusive
as he recently demonstrated. There is no clear evidence al-Queda
has been weakened. The al-Queda leaders that have been killed
have almost certainly been replaced.
Even more important, Bush
increased the danger to America's security by starting a
war in Iraq which had no justification whatsoever. The president
made misleading statements implying that Saddam Hussein was
connected to 9/11. There is no evidence this is true. To invade
response to September 11th would be like the U.S. declaring
in response to Pearl Harbor. The chaos which prevails in
Iraq has increased, rather than decreased, the chances of nuclear
weapons falling into the hands of al-Queda.
The idea that Bush is particularly "moral" stands up
to scrutiny no better than his claim to be an effective fighter
of terrorism. As a recent episode of Frontline, the PBS
television show, recently detailed, Bush has a history of dirty
his opponents. He typically uses groups which are not "officially" connected
to the Bush campaign, but which do have a connection in practice
to do the mudslinging. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which has
spread provably false accusations about John Kerry's war record,
is only the latest example of this.
During the South Carolina primaries
in 2000, groups linked to Bush made vicious attacks on Senator
John McCain. Among other things, it was said that McCain gave
his wife, Cindy, venereal disease. Bush could have condemned these
accusations and had them stopped. Instead, he did nothing.
No less disturbing than Bush's policy failures, and his moral
hypocrisy, is his systematic failure to think, and his refusal
to admit mistakes. This are disastrous traits for a wartime leader.
Bush believes that "consistency" is automatically a good
thing. By this logic, George Wallace and Strom Thurmond, two arch-segregationists,
should have remained racist all their lives, since by accepting
civil rights for African-Americans, they "flip-flopped."
Nazis were remarkably consistent in what they espoused. And Bush
has done his share of flip-flopping. First, the war against Iraq
was because Saddam had WMDs. Then, when this was proven false,
it was because Saddam was a "bad guy" and because Iraqis
will be "better off" without him. Why did we go to war,
Bush believes that to admit mistakes, and to acknowledge problems,
is a sign of weakness. It is not. It is a sign of strength and
courage. Bush's failure to admit he and his administration have
done anything wrong amounts to cowardice.
The war in Iraq cannot
be won. Whoever is president for the next four years will have
to accept this. Yes, it is painful to admit this. But it is better
than wasting even more lives than the Bush administration has already
done. The U.S. should not repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, where
America stayed for years partly because it could not admit that
Americans killed in the Vietnam War had "died in vain."
President Bush clearly does not deserve a second term. His leadership
has damaged America's security and wasted American lives, and he
has utterly failed to be the "moral" and "compassionate
conservative" he pledged to be in 2000. It is time for a change.
Lee Howard Hodges, B.A. M.A. Historical Studies,
University of Maryland, Baltimore.