To be honest, I'm not terribly upset that George W. Bush is a recovering alcoholic and cokehead. I can respect someone--even a President--with a history of hard drugs. No, what bothers me about Bush is the fact that by all accounts he is a complete moron. That, and the little matter of his politics, which if enshrined in policy would constitute an unmitigated disaster for the American people and the world.
The IQ Factor
The international effects of a Bush Presidency would be felt within days of inauguration. For it would not take long before one of his Quayle-sized gaffes dribbled out of his slack-jawed mouth. Whether it be calling Greeks Grecians, confusing Slovenia and Slovakia, happily accepting an endorsement from a popular Canadian pastry, or his undeclared war upon basic English grammar, Bush has proven incapable of appearing intelligent. His campaign more than adequately justifies the supposition that Bush is not, in fact, intelligent. In this age of instant communication, Bushisms would travel around the world in seconds, and one can easily imagine embassies and television networks in foreign capitals keeping scorecards and scrapbooks of idiotic Dubya bloopers. In the Czech Republic, where I live, he has already become something of a lightning rod for ridicule in the national media.
The Seed From Which He Sprung
It is often said that Al Gore's main liability is his professional proximity to Bill Clinton. But the most serious scandals in recent memory involved not lipstick on the Presidential wee-wee, or even the haunted Buddhist temple, but rather Bush Senior, from whom Bush Junior has made no effort at all to distance himself. If the media were to roll up their sleeves and dip an arm down into the memory hole, they might come up with and dust off a little story about illegal arms sales to Iran. They might also recall that the profits from these sales were used to support an illegal terrorist war of attrition against a sovereign state and its rural population. And then there is the little matter of Bush Sr.'s connection to Columbian cocaine cartels like the Menendes organization, which was assisted by the Reagan Administration in dumping massive amounts of cheap coke into South-central LA to raise funds for the Contras. This flood of cheap powder made possible the crack epidemic. Al Gore may not have invented the internet, but the Bush family certainly did its part in inventing crack.
Compassionate Conservatism Unmasked
"Compassionate Conservatism" is one of those rhetorical GOP propaganda inventions designed to make people think that an apple is a harmonica. Like "Benign Neglect" and "Constructive Engagement," this happy-face code for right-wing policy disintegrates like a wet sea-monkey when exposed to the available record. Bush's home state of Texas is a corrupt fiefdom of social and economic injustice, and ranks at the bottom of every index by which any politics of "compassion" should be judged. Along with being ranked 48th among states in public health spending, Texas leads the nation in child poverty and has the highest percentage of uninsured children in America. Despite his much touted commitment to education, teachers salaries have decreased during his term and rank toward the bottom nationally. Death row in Texas is famously the most populated in the country and is clearly not worthy of compassion from Bush, who once actually mocked Karla Faye Tucker for requesting a pardon. If Bush's Texas is a compassionate state, then Grozny is the new financial capital of Europe.
The Earth, or How Bush Messed With Texas
George Sr. proclaimed during the 1988 election that he wanted to be remembered as the "environmental president." He got the idea from GOP pollsters who consistently found ecology at the top of public concerns. The Republican Party hasn't really cared about the planet since Teddy Roosevelt, of course, and Bush Sr. virtually had to be dragged to the Rio Earth Summit. Just as his daddy tried to insult Al Gore by calling him "Mr. Ozone," baby Bush will go after Gore's "environmental extremism" while positioning himself as a practical defender of the environment--something he most certainly is not. According to the EPA Office of Pollution and Prevention, Bush's Texas ranks first in three major categories: pollution released by manufacturing plants, violations of the Clean Air Act, and total greenhouse gas emissions. Bush campaign coffers are notoriously filled with contributions by utility firms, industrial and manufacturing concerns and the fossil-fuel lobby. Many of these contributors have already benifited from legislation Bush passed as governor, such as making compliance to clean air limits "voluntary." Another Bush presidency would be a step backwards in dealing with increasingly urgent issues such as climate change. And this is no time for a step backwards.
Foreign Policy: US Versus The World
Regarding defense issues, Bush combines two dangerous traits: near total ignorance and hawkish instincts. Not only was Bush uninterested in international affairs as a student, but it is clear that as an adult he doesn't even read the newspaper. His mistakes betray an ignorance of the world that is disturbing in a college senior, to say nothing of a Presidential candidate. Reagan was no scholar either, but at least he could remember his lines. Leaving his lack of experience and knowledge aside, his positions reflect those of the hard right, and his advisors--such as Robert Zoellick--are largely taken from the Reagan and Bush administrations. These men and women share an aversion to arms control and a visceral distrust of international institutions. They see the brinkmanship and arms build-ups of the Reagan era as models for the twenty-first century and adamantly oppose the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They are pushing hard for a national missile defense system, despite the fact that it doesn't work and threatens relations with China, Russia and even our allies. Particularly worrisome is the Bush camp's disregard for international law and multilateralism. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Bush advisor Condoleeza Rice recently described norms of international behavior as "illusory" and heaped scorn upon what she sees as a Democratic belief in "symbolic agreements and...international conventions." Forgetting the extent to which Clinton has been truly committed to these, we must remember that the only alternative to these "norms" is moral and geopolitical anarchy. Contemptuous of any external constraint upon the exercise of American power, the Bush camp is pushing a hard foreign policy that might be accurately described as extremist. Make no mistake about it: Bush's puppet masters are spread-eagle hawks.
It should be clear to all but the right-wing of the Republican Party that a Bush Presidency would be a major disaster. He would be a walking PR nightmare for the nation. His policies are divisive and his brainpower birdlike. His record on all issues of importance to the nation--the environment, health care, education--is nothing short of abominable. Democrats and independents, however, should not be complacent in the face of Bush's seeming unelectability; stranger things have happened. The threat posed by Bush and the interests behind him call for serious and sustained activism. Whatever doubts voters may have about the other side--and there is reason for many--these should take a back seat to the need to keep the right-wing out of power. The 'lesser of two evils' argument might be correctly rejected in some cases, but I don't think we can afford it at this point. On the two most critical issues facing the world--arms control and the environment--the GOP is running hard in the wrong direction. The stakes are high. Bush must lose.