Bush the Coward
According to conventional wisdom, George Bush leads John Kerry based on the perception of his strong leadership qualities and decisive action in the war on terror. The polls back this up, with CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls showing Americans prefer Bush over Kerry by large margins in the fight against terrorism (61%-34%) and the situation in Iraq (57%-35%).
On his "courageous leadership" as with virtually every aspect of the Bush presidency, however, reality and perception diverge wildly. As Perrspectives has described in detail, Bush's hallmark political trait is cowardice. His refusal to admit error, his unquenchable thirst for vengeance against opponents, Orwellian communications tactics and abject fear of unscripted appearances show a small, pusillanimous man both disdainful and afraid of the American electorate.
Bush's cowardice is a far larger and far more serious issue than his scandalous National Guard "service." Just for starters, consider:
Bush far and away is the least accessible president of modern times. He has held only a fraction of the number of press conferences as Bill Clinton or even his father had at this point in their terms. As his disastrous and almost incomprehensible April 13, 2004 conference showed, his aversion is well-founded.
Bush's "town hall" meetings and other campaign appearance are scripted love fests in front GOP faithful, who in most cases must sign a loyalty oath even to attend.
The President of the United States could not even meet with the 9/11 Commission alone. Instead, he was Dick Cheney's sock puppet.
George W. Bush has opposed virtually investigation of any aspect of his administration. He opposed the formation of the 9/11 Commission as well as its extension, and stonewalled documents and witnesses at every step along the way. He opposed the Iraq WMD panel, finally caving to public pressure by authorizing a body led by right-wing stalwart Lawrence Silberman and due to deliver its findings only after the election. Bush balked at pursuing those in his administration who revealed the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.
The secrecy of the Bush administration makes Richard Nixon seem like Joan Rivers. Cloaked in executive privilege or in the name of national security, Bush withheld the names of the participants in his energy plan. He tried to prevent Condi Rice from testifying before the 9/11 commission. It goes on and on.
Bush's lies are so numerous as to defy listing. He lied about his close relationship with Enron CEO Ken Lay. His administration lied about the cost of its Medicare reform, and even threatened the actuary if he told the truth to Congress. He lied about his position on CO2 omissions. In one sense, Bush is right that the stories about the National Guard service fraud, Harken Energy insider trading, and past cocaine use are old news. They have been displaced by so many, much more recent lies.
In February 2003, General eric Shinseki rightly told Congress that the occupation of Iraq would require several hundred thousands troops. Unable to sell the truth, the Bush administration in the guise of Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz savaged Shinseki and drove him to early retirement. 18 months later, 1000 US troops are dead, 7500 wounded and Iraq is in chaos.
The Bush mantra appears to be "deception is the better part of valor." That may make him an interesting case study for psychoanalysts; it also makes him unfit for the White House. The American people deserve better.