The Rationale Against Bush: 10 Reasons Not to Re-elect

Sacramento News & Review | October 13, 2004
The rationale against Bush

Ten reasons not to re-elect

(Compiled as a series of editorials in the Sacramento News & Review)

It’s easy for the media to get swept up in the latest podium sound bites of the current presidential campaign. What’s tough is to look at the record, recall the history, and consider the deeds. When you do, it’s hard not to side with the tens of millions of Americans who believe something has gone decidedly wrong with the United States since 2000, that important democratic values have been placed at great risk since George W. Bush became president.

What follows is a reverse countdown — the Top 10 reasons not to re-elect Bush.

No. 10: He favors the ultra-rich over the rest of us.

An elegantly dressed woman in a black evening gown and pearls stepped out of a limo in New York last month and joined a gathering of men in tuxedos and top hats in Central Park. The sophisticates drank champagne to toast their increasing fortunes. They spoke of how fabulously pleased they were to have a favorite son in the White House: President George W. Bush.

The scene was satire, a “Get on the Limo” street-theater performance by Billionaires for Bush during the Republican National Convention. The group’s intent was to make people laugh. But it’s really not so funny.

Despite his folksy image, we have a president who brazenly favors the enormously rich over everybody else. The best example of this is his tax cuts, which actually put millions more dollars back into the pockets of the wealthy, more than under any fiscal policy in American history.

Now middle-class people are paying for more of the national budget than ever before, while the top 1 percent of wealthy citizens pay less than ever. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 43 percent of the $1.6 trillion tax cut in 2001 wound up with those whose incomes are $915,000 or more per year. People making more than a million a year received an average tax cut of about $100,000! Of course, the president claims this giving to the rich spurs economic growth, but there is no evidence that this is true.

Bush has led a privileged life, as have many who enter politics in this country, where the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own a stunning 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. But, more than most, Bush has allowed bias toward his own kind to direct his policies. He favors the elite. And that puts the majority of Americans in disfavor.

No. 9: He surrounds himself with ideologues.

Bush is not the head of a vast right-wing conspiracy, no. But he has risen to be president at a time in American history when ultraconservatives have climbed to positions of great influence and power in the overlapping worlds of politics and media.

Unlike conservatives of past generations (people often known for their dislike of big spending and big government), the new ultraconservatives have a radical agenda for America that favors wildly increased government size and spending. As documented in former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich’s new book, Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, these new conservatives support giving large tax breaks to the rich, privatizing Social Security, cutting social services and restricting civil liberties. They seek to impose their private morality on the rest of us by preventing sex education, banning abortion and condemning homosexuality. They also favor the use of American military might and unilateral action in matters of foreign policy. (Mere mentions of the United Nations at the Republican National Convention got sustained and resounding boos!)

President George W. Bush surrounds himself with these ultraconservative ideologues—e.g., Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle. These men walk the halls of power in America not because of some deep, dark conspiracy. They are there, along with Bush, because the people they represent figured out over the last two decades how to be more effective than everybody else in raising money, electing candidates and shaping public opinion in America.

The election on November 2 is the country’s chance to take back America from these ideologues.

No. 8: His judicial appointments are too extreme.

As we all know, the president has the power to appoint judges, most notably to the top-level federal circuit courts and the Supreme Court. By setting up judges who favor his agenda, a sitting president can influence the country—long after he is out of office—on crucial matters such as reproductive rights, privacy, separation of church and state, civil rights, workers’ rights, environmental enforcement and equal access to justice.

We haven’t had a Supreme Court vacancy in almost 10 years. But John Paul Stevens, an important member of the court’s moderate-to-liberal faction, is in his mid-80s and may not be able to stay on the court another four years. Also moderate to conservative, Sandra Day O’Connor has indicated she’d like to retire.

So far, almost all the judges George W. Bush has nominated to circuit courts have been men and women who favor an extreme and ultraconservative view. Miguel Estrada, Priscilla Owen, Carolyn Kuhl and Charles Pickering are just a few of his judicial nominees—and all are simply too extremely conservative in their politic/social views and out of touch with America. Bush cannot be allowed four more years to appoint judges, especially if openings arise on the Supreme Court.

No. 7. He has hindered scientific and medical progress.

Government interference into scientific research has soared off the charts under the Bush administration. In fact, 4,000 scientists (including 48 Nobel laureates and 127 members of the National Academy of Sciences) issued a statement opposing the Bush administration’s use and abuse of science since 2000. The unprecedented collection of scientists claims the Bush administration has wrongfully and repeatedly politicized what are clearly unbiased scientific findings, by suppressing and distorting findings on issues like global warming, stem-cell research and mercury pollution.

Americans need to be able to look to the future with the hope that new scientific discoveries may help us solve problems in ways now unimaginable. The future can’t afford four more years of an American president who undercuts the scientists.

No. 6. He likes government secrets and has thrashed civil liberties.

The U.S. News & World Report published a scathing investigative report titled “Keeping Secrets” in December of last year that documented how the Bush administration had quietly dropped a “shroud of secrecy” across many critical operations of the federal government. A brand-new report by Democratic Congressman Henry Waxman also details an “unprecedented assault” by the Bush administration on the principles of open government. Examples abound about exactly how the Bush administration—through the USA Patriot Act and the Homeland Security Act—has used the post-9/11 era to put large amounts of information (such as data on the quality of drinking-water supplies or possible chemical hazards in neighborhoods) out of the reach of regular citizens.

This comes in tandem with a frightening chilling of free speech, as with Attorney General John Ashcroft’s statement to antiwar protesters: “Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.”

Certainly, Americans desire increased security since 9/11. But democracy dies when free speech is burdened and when the government keeps too many secrets.

No. 5. He’s not smart enough to be president.

There is no denying that George W. Bush took a slack-off approach to his own education. His lack of discipline and apparent disdain for the rigors of reflection and examination seemed as obvious back then with his C-average college years as they do today.

Plenty of fun has been had with Bush’s capacity to misspeak (“They misunderestimated me”). When he goes off the cuff in a speech, interview or press conference, his language is filled with malapropisms, a lack of clarity, and goofs. But the real danger isn’t the butchered rhetoric. It’s that Bush thinks simply, without ambiguity, and seems to perceive everything as black and white, good or evil. Do we really want a president who can’t (or won’t) fully grasp the complex choices facing the country?

Let’s put it another way: Would you choose someone with Bush’s intelligence to be principal at your child’s high school, chief executive officer of your company, or manager of your pension fund? Didn’t think so.

No. 4. He protects polluters of our air, water, and forests.

Many people have declared that Bush has the worst environmental record of any president in the history of the United States.

While hiding his anti-environmental agenda with deceptive rhetoric (“Healthy Forests” initiative and “Clear Skies” program), the Bush administration has: (1) gutted key parts of the Clean Water and Clean Air acts. Both are crucial laws that featured support, through the decades, from both Democrats and Republicans; (2) demolished the Superfund program (charged with cleaning up the most dangerous toxic sites across the country and here in our region) and allowed polluters to not pay to clean up their messes; (3) opened millions of acres of wilderness—including some old-growth forests in the Sierras—to logging, mining, and oil and gas drilling; (4) hampered the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to enforce regulations (even against the worst polluters) and seems highly motivated to protect the oil and coal industries from having to follow environmental rules; (5) withdrawn the United States’ participation from the Kyoto Agreement, a global effort to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and since then censored or fired scientists whose findings on global warming did not line up with his political agenda. Enough already.

No. 3. He has decreased our national security since 9/11.

By now, most of us have heard of the “Jersey Girls,” the 9/11 widows turned activists who helped force a reluctant George W. Bush to accept an independent commission to investigate the terrorist attacks of September 11. Though many of the Jersey Girls voted last time around for George W. Bush, it was no surprise last week to find them holding a press conference to endorse Senator John Kerry for president.

One of these GOP widows explained how she’d come to recognize that national security had not been enhanced since 9/11 and that the current administration instead seems to revel in war. “I am scared by the mentality that my daughter, who is 5 years old, is being handed a tomorrow that will be a war for a lifetime,” she said.

But it’s not just the Jersey Girls who now doubt Bush’s ability to secure the nation. An unprecedented group of 26 American ex-diplomats and military leaders—several of whom were appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush—recently came out saying George W. Bush has jeopardized our national security and isolated America from the world and should be ousted in November.

By shifting America’s resources and focus away from dismantling the Al Qaeda network and toward the disastrous war in Iraq, Bush actually has made the world safer for terrorists while doing little to secure America from future threats.

No. 2. He went to war unprovoked and without international backing.

Thousands of articles and dozens of books have already been written about the ever-mounting problems with the war in Iraq (the first pre-emptive one in U.S. history) and the ongoing insurgency in that country. To summarize a few points: (1) Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of 9/11. (2) The United States’ unilateral war in Iraq actually disrupted the search for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda at a crucial time, because it caused America to pull intelligence and resources away from Afghanistan and Pakistan. (3) No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq. (4) The war vastly increased anti-American fervor around the globe since America launched the war without international support.

The fact that Bush continues to call Iraq “the central front” on the war on terror is worse than a joke. It’s an arrogant, dangerous lie that is being met every single day with the truth of more dead and dying American soldiers and Iraqi civilians. If re-elected, Bush only will dig this hole deeper.

No. 1. His presidency endangers future generations.

Tens of millions of people in this country and around the world believe that President George W. Bush is the worst leader the United States has had in more than 200 years of history. This is a terribly strong statement; there is clear evidence that it is true.

Since the attacks of 9/11, Bush and his administration have used the threat of terrorism to vastly increase the size of government, to pass shameful tax cuts for the wealthy, to cause long-lasting harm to the environment and to wreck the United States’ reputation as a force and a source of hope for peace in the world.

Who will ultimately pay the price for Bush’s wrongful policies? Our children and grandchildren.

In three short years, what was a budget surplus in the trillions has transformed into an unimaginable deficit. The debt Bush is taking on (like the $500 billion projected deficit for next year) is structural and long-term and will hit at precisely the wrong time—when the baby boomers start retiring.

When it comes to our environment, Bush has an abominable record. He seemingly will go to any length to protect the oil, coal and timber industries from pollution regulation. His cavalier attitude on the issue of global warming will have dire consequences for future generations.

In the arena of foreign policy, Bush led us into a grievous war, and he did it based on false pretenses. His national-security policies have greatly increased anti-American sentiments and potential threats from abroad.

So now for the buried lead: It sounds overblown to suggest that we must vote on November 2 because the continued presidency of George W. Bush is a grave threat to the health, prosperity and happiness of future generations.

But the statement is true and, therefore, the top reason among these inverted ten, to get out and vote on November 2.

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