Posts on quality, life, culture, the media, news & tech with a twist & a slice of Limey. I moved my blog to http://renaissancehambara.jp in December 2006, go there for the latest content.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Upsides and Downsides of the election of George W Bush for a second term
First the upsides. I think that the election of George Bush will be very beneficial for Europe and Asia. It will allow European and Asian companies to build a lead in internet, technology , personal information security, biotechnology, stem cell research, aeronautics, alternative fuels and environmental protection. They will benefit from a reverse of the brain drain as more creative and liberal minded Americans decide to try life elsewhere. The change in the quality of life will mean that Europe's brightest will be less likely to emigrate to the U.S.
In fact, the US electorate crippling its own country in international trade is such a good deal I would like to nominate a Rowe-Rice ticket for 2008 for them to carry on the great work of the Bush administration. The weakness of the US economy will allow the Euro to gain increased stature and the European Union to arise as an economic powerhouse. The Bush administration is the best thing to happen to America since Senator McCarthy and his witch trials.
The downside I will leave to an essay by Professor Jonathan Ezor of the BizLawTech Blog.
MORNING IN AMERICA; MOURNING FOR AMERICA
Professor Jonathan I. Ezor Touro Law Center jezor at tourolaw dotedu
The day after Election Day 2004, the weather is sunny outside my window, but the outlook is bleak for the United States. For a Democrat like me, the results from yesterday's election are both depressing and sobering, putting the lie to the word "United" in our nation's name. Even if Senator John Kerry had been able to successfully challenge enough Bush votes to obtain the 270 necessary Electoral College votes (not out of the question, considering the many stories of lost absentee ballots, voter suppression efforts and even the August 2003 statement by voting machine Diebold's head Walden O'Dell that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year"), we would at best have ended up with yet another President who lost the popular vote but won the electoral.
Now that President Bush has been declared the victor, we are faced with at least another two years of a one-party federal government, including a Supreme Court with an expected two or even three new justices appointed by President Bush. This was not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they set up our system of "checks and balances." Instead, we will continue on the path of "checks and cash," unfettered spending and fiscal irresponsibility which has driven our national deficit to record levels. What is even more troubling, and what should be bothering the American people, is that there will continue to be little or no accountability for actions by federal officials, up to and including the President.
Consider the past four years as an example. We've seen a CIA operative's identity leaked to the press (Valerie Plame, wife of Bush Administration critic Ambassador Joseph Wilson), jeopardizing both her life and those of her operatives, with the subsequent investigation focused on harassing and threatening New York Times reporters who had nothing to do with the actual leak. We have a serious charge in Bob Woodward's book "Plan of Attack" that the Bush Administration improperly redirected $700 million appropriated by Congress for Afghanistan to the buildup before the Iraq war, again with little or no response by Congress or the Justice Department. The torture scandal involving prisoner abuse in Abu Graeb prison in Iraq has led to convictions of enlisted personnel and noncoms, while the senior officers and Administration members who may have ordered the abuses escape unpunished (and the White House lawyer who wrote the memo endorsing the use of torture, Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, has been rewarded with a federal judgeship). Even 9/11 hasn't resulted in any discipline of aviation officials or intelligence or military personnel who were negligent in preventing or responding to the tragedy. Nor has the President exercised his Constitutional oversight of Congress-in his almost 4 years in office, he has not vetoed a single bill placed on his desk, a tribute to the lockstep in which Congress and the President walk. Even the few times that the Supreme Court has put limits on the Administration are likely to be the last for a long time, given the expected appointments that will put a clear majority of pro-Bush justices on the Court.
In short, no one in this administration has taken any responsibility or suffered any consequences for any mistakes other than people who disagree with the administration's policies, like General Eric Shinseki, the former Army Chief of Staff who correctly stated in 2003 that 200,000 troops would be needed to keep the peace in Iraq rather than the smaller number sent by the President and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and who was retired soon thereafter. Another potential casualty of the truth was chief Medicare actuary Richard Foster, who was threatened with firing by then-Medicare Chief Thomas Scully if Foster disclosed that the true cost of the Bush Administration's Medicare overhaul would be $100 billion more than reported to Congress. Scully, by the way, was condemned for this threat by the Congressional Budget Office, which called for him to repay part of his annual salary to the government; the Bush Administration declined to have Scully do so. The Bush Administration seems quite happy to threaten or penalize junior officials and soldiers, leaving the senior decision makers untouched and unblamed.
Iraq stands apart from the other actions of the Bush Administration because it is both so egregious and so misunderstood by the President's supporters. The President justified the war in Iraq by massaging intelligence about potential weapons, encouraging Americans to believe there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq (when his administration knew there wasn't), and using a plan to invade Iraq that apparently predated 9/11 or even the President's being elected. In sharp contrast to the evil picture painted by President Bush in the run-up to this war, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was the least extremist of the Islamic states, had a defanged military under constant surveillance, and was once more permitting U.N. weapons inspectors to investigate potential sites. Iraq had also provided a 12,000 page report as required by the U.N. detailing the destruction of its former weapons stockpiles, but this was not enough for President Bush-he didn't even wait enough time for the report to be fully analyzed. Moreover, President Bush got a resolution of support from the U.S. Congress that specifically required him to continue consulting with the U.N., then unilaterally chose to avoid doing so. Instead, he continued on his course to an unjustified war, resulting in the deaths of more than 10,000 Iraqi civilians and more than 1,000 American soldiers, and creating a country-wide breeding ground and armory for terrorists. Iraq wasn't a friendly place for Al Qaeda before we attacked, but it is now. And neither that, nor any of many other problems caused by this Administration, were enough to keep Bush from reelection.
More troubling to me than the election results themselves is the stark realization that the America of President Bush and the majority of the voters who reelected him is not my America. This country's actions do not reflect what I believe to be the ideals it should stand for: equal rights for all, the power of the rule of law over brute force, the example set for other nations of fairness and democracy. I have never felt less represented by my "representative government," and at times it's as if I were a foreigner rather than the proud citizen I have always been.
I literally cannot understand how anyone, let alone a majority of American voters, could give George Bush another term after what he has done with his first. The best answer I can come up breaks down into one of two possibilities. The first possibility is that the majority of voters selected President Bush based on his expressed policies, while complete ignoring the fact that his actions were the exact opposite of his words. The President preached fiscal conservatism, but expanded federal spending and borrowing to record levels. He ran on his national security stance, but his invasion of Iraq and failure to secure either borders or shipping containers in any meaningful way have further compromised our security. He claimed to support the environment, yet rejected existing global treaties on greenhouse gases and allowed oil and timber companies to literally write the Federal regulations covering their exploitation of natural resources. He decried "flipflopping," yet his first term showed numerous changes from his expressed positions in his 2000 campaign or even during the term. He spoke of "personal responsibility," yet could not name a single mistake he or his administration made in office. He said he "supported the troops," yet chose to put them at risk by the thousands in an unnecessary and poorly planned war in Iraq, not even attending a single of the thousand funerals for men and women killed in action. He claimed to be fighting a "war on terror," yet took troops out of Afghanistan rather than fully destroying the actual terrorist network and leadership that attacked the U.S.S. Cole and committed the mass murder of 9/11. Putting the best face on the election results, those that trusted Bush's words rather than looking at his deeds were seriously misled.
The second possibility, though, fills me with greater dread: the majority knew what Bush did and agreed with it. That so many of my fellow Americans could look on the Administration's secrecy, dishonesty, poor judgments and major miscalculations with approval is at once a terrifying and depressing thought. I have never thought of myself as a radical, taking centrist positions on economic issues among others, but if the mainstream of America supports what the President has done, then I find myself (as Mr. Bush himself accused Senator Kerry) on the "far left bank" of that stream. It's not entirely a lonely location, given that I share the bank with 55 million other voters, but it's not particularly comfortable either. Meanwhile, my country and its President are taking actions I deplore, and I can do nothing to stop it.
Perhaps out of self-preservation, I choose to believe that this election was driven by misinformation rather than conviction, and that Americans as a whole still strive for the ideals of freedom and integrity that are our birthright. With luck and a lot of hard work, we may be able to stem the tide in two or four more years and return to our place of pride in the world. In the meantime, I look out at four more years of President Bush's leading the United States, and mourn for the America we don't have, but should.