April 23, 2002
By Michael Shannon
Reality Check can be found here.
There may be very little that I like about or agree with
when it comes to Team Bush but I have to give them credit
where credit is due; they certainly do provide a fella with
an awful lot of inspiration. So much so that I find myself
not searching for something to comment on but rather trying
to winnow down my choices.
With that in mind here is another installment in what may
very well become an ongoing series.
President of Oz. In the Hollywood version of the Wizard
of Oz the film makers introduced one of the great cinematic
special effects of all time. The first 15/20 minutes of the
movie were filmed in black and white as was the custom of
the day. But when Dorothy's house crashlanded in Oz the world
outside her window suddenly became a Technicolor dreamland.
The audiences of 1939 were left gasping in delight.
Fast forward to 2002: President Bush's view of the world
has undergone an equally startling chromatic transformation.
But whereas it may have been somewhat accurate to depict life
in Depression era Kansas as predictable and easy to understand
it was a fantasy to begin with for the President to try to
define the world at large in the simplistic and unrealistic
terminology he has employed so relentlessly since September
Mr Bush has not lost the "moral clarity" of the weeks immediately
following the 11th of September. He never had it in the first
place. His statements may very well have appeared on the surface
to be a declaration of war against all who "harbor and support"
terrorism but in reality they were merely a rhetorical device
designed to mollify a domestic audience - an audience that
was in great need of reassurance after suffering through an
atrocity unlike any in their collective memory.
Although there are countless examples available to buttress
this argument here are two that are particularly galling.
Exhibit A -- Mr. Bush never ordered a cutoff of Iraqi oil
imports to the United States even as he insisted that the
government of Iraq was siphoning money from their sale of
oil to both fund/reward terrorist organizations and build/buy
weapons of mass destruction. Exhibit B -- there has to date
been no public pressure put on Saudi Arabia to explain how
it is that 15 of 19 of the murdering scum who so viciously
attacked our country came from the Kingdom of Saud. Nor has
there been the public announcement of one single arrest of
any Saudi within the country who may have been involved in
some manner, shape or form with Al Qaeda or its allies.
Perhaps the President has held the Saudi government to task
outside of the public eye? On the contrary, as you read this
the President and the Saudi Crown Prince will be dining on
Texas BBQ at the Presidential ranch in Crawford with big smiles
for the cameras.
I Meant What I said -- Or Did I? No where is the unraveling
of the paint-by-the-numbers school of governing more obvious
than in the manner in which the administration has handled
the Israeli-Palestinian nightmare.
As admittedly complicated and perilous as the situation is,
Mr. Bush has zigged and zagged from one position to another
on this issue over the course of the past several weeks with
such incoherence that even some of his most supportive loyalists
have been left openly questioning his competency. And as is
usually the case with this man, it is the President's own
words that have caused him the most trouble.
You would think he would have learned his lesson after the
Dead or Alive episode concerning Usama bin Laden. But no,
there he was again making a declaration -- Israel must withdraw!
-- that left his credibility -- not as an individual mind
you, but rather as the head of state of the United States
of America -- entirely exposed with little or no control over
how the events would play out. And not only did he say it
once, he repeated it three or four times over the course of
the next several days. (Even Condoleeza Rice, NSC head, got
into the act when she chimed in, "The President means now".)
When Israel went right on about its business it not only left
Mr. Bush looking irrelevant in this matter, it led to the
question: The next time he gives an ultimatum will anyone
take it seriously?
Oh Canada. Canada is the best neighbor any nation
has ever had. In the almost two full centuries since the end
of the War of 1812 the border between Canada and the United
States has been -- by a country mile -- the longest undefended
national frontier in the world. And not only do we never have
any trouble with the Canadians, they are always there for
us when we have a problem.
Canadians have fought side by side with Americans in every
major war of the past one hundred years with one exception;
Vietnam. An omission that not only does not for an instance
diminish their sterling legacy of courage or commitment in
the defense of liberty but rather serves to reinforce their
sense of priority and soundness of judgement.
As was very evident, particularly in the battle of Tora Bora,
the Canadian forces serving in the current conflict in Afghanistan
have been invaluable in the struggle. In what can only be
described as a tragic mistake, an American fighter bomber
inadvertently struck a contingent of Canadian soldiers involved
in a live fire exercise; killing four and wounding close to
As terrible as this accident was, it is inexcusable that
President Bush made five separate public appearances Thursday
-- the day after it happened! -- with out mentioning it once.
Leaving the Prime Minister of Canada to ruefully note, "it
would have been a comfort to the families to hear the President's
own words". And when those words did come on Friday they were
woefully inadequate; "I wish we could bring them back but
Those brave young men deserved far better.
Cry for Me Venezuela. Talk about Freudian slips. The
reaction of the Bush administration to the overthrow/reinstatement
of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was reminiscent of a Monty
Python skit where the authority figure denies -- with all
sincerity and with a completely straight face -- that what
is as plain as the nose of his face is in fact not true at
And for this administration to announce that a democratically
elected President was not inherently legitimate raises irony
to a whole new level and is not worthy of another word of
The Buck Stops Over There. It has been readily apparent
that from the inception of the Bush Jr ascendency that he
was a very fragile commodity. One which needed to be handled
with kid gloves. Allowing him to stray too far from the protective
cover of his message du jour or out of arm's reach of his
handlers was to invite disaster. This mind set, while obviously
beneficial from a candidate's perspective, has spilled over
into the Chief Executive's area of concentration with disturbing
effect and implications.
Every time something goes wrong -- and lately that has been
quite often -- one of Mr Bush's mouthpieces is quick to point
out that it was someone else's fault. The right wing is up
in arms because Secretary Powell met with Yassir Arafat? "Well,
you can't hold the President accountable for that. The secretary
did that on his own volition". What?!?!?!?
Mr Bush may be the first MBA to hold the office of President
but he seems to have forgotten a basic tenet of Management
101. It may not be your fault if someone under you performs
in a less than satisfactory manner but it damn sure is your
Summary. As I mentioned in the opening, I could go
on and on -- the ANWR defeat in the Senate, the Secretary
of State being publicly snubbed by the President of Egypt,
the President calling for a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan
on the same day that the Secretary of Defense announces that
no further buildup of American personnel is in the works --
but we will leave those faux pas and the ones which invariably
are soon to follow for the next installment.
Stephen Kotkin, writing in the New Republic, April 15, 2002,
says that "the media handle Bush's non-gravitas the way they
handled Roosevelt's legs". But whereas FDR's physical infirmity
had the converse effect of making him stronger and more effective
as a leader in time of crisis the same can not be said for
Mr Bush's substantive one. As every day goes by and Toto pulls
the curtain back a little further the truth of his inadequacies
becomes ever more apparent.
Contact Mike at email@example.com