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The Three "I"s - Integrity, Intentions and Intelligence
February 17, 2004
By Gerald Plessner

One of the funniest parts of this primary election season has been the amazement of Republican pundits about the dislike of so many voters, Democrats and otherwise, for George W. Bush. I almost fell off my couch when Republican leak-artist Robert Novak said he just didn't understand all this hatred of the president.

You have to admire the acting ability of a pundit who can say something like that with a straight face. It was like the last twelve years had never happened.

A lot of people don't understand why the last two years have fermented growing distrust and displeasure for George W. Bush. It is because people are reacting to his failure to live up to their expectations about the three "I"s - integrity, intentions and intelligence.

When it comes to integrity, George W. Bush has broken the mold. In his campaign he said he would bring us together, but his 'leave no billionaire behind' anti-environment record and tax breaks have show a devotion to his financial backers that is so far to the right and cynical that no self-respecting Democrat can support them - even if they were allowed into the room where the decisions were made.

Calling himself a compassionate conservative, Bush slashes programs that help the needy, the disabled and veterans. He boasts about his "Leave no Child Behind" act but then doesn't budget enough money to make it happen, making it one more unfunded mandate.

His appointments to important jobs are a mockery of his promise to return integrity to the Oval Office. He brings admitted perjurers like Elliott Abrams, who plea bargained to stay out of jail, into the center of his White House, working for Condolezza Rice. His vice president funnels billions of contract dollars to his former employer Halliburton, in which he still has a financial interest, and the president thinks no-bid contracts are a good idea.

Bush's defense department appointees cook up excuses to go to war and through their arrogance, have corrupted what could have been an honorable international action at reasonable cost. Then they feign ignorance on the war's cost until after 500 Americans have died, thousands of Iraqis are dead, and billions of dollars of debt is piled up. They refused to tell Congress what the war might cost because that would have stopped their plans cold if we had known the truth. And they still haven't been honest about the future costs of their war.

What were their real intentions? Just when did Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz decide to take us to war against Iraq? Were their intentions based on facts or ideology? Did they get their ideas of American imperialism from a 1997 article by Irving Kristol, the godfather of neo-imperialism, and then bring their intentions into government well before the atrocities of September 11? We know the answer to all those questions now, and they are a big reason why people don't trust this president or his people.

Americans must not be fooled again. We must understand that their intention to go to war was related to their intention to run up the national debt to sap the government of funds. They want to kill programs that Republican Libertarians can't stand, the programs that help poor people and not big corporations.

It isn't that they think deficits are good in themselves. They really don't care about the debt they will pass on to our children and grandchildren. Their intentions are to force cutbacks on programs for people or face national bankruptcy, a real possibility in the next decade. Their plan is shown for what it is in their latest budget, which makes major cuts in programs they hate. And they haven't included in that budget the costs of attaining peace in Iraq either.

Many of the issues that have cost hundreds of lives, thousands of wounded and billions of dollars in Iraq could have been less expensive except for the lack of a truly engaged leader, one with self-confidence bred of the intelligence needed to keep bright people in line.

Such a president would have told Donald Rumsfeld to stop establishing foreign policy and offending our friends because we would need them after Saddam Hussein was removed. He would have demanded legislative programs that were built on honest and accurate cost estimates and talked straight to the American people. He would have been the fiscally conservative president that candidate Bush promised he would be.

The hardest thing for his admirers to see is that George W. Bush is not that man. They can't admit that they have been taken. By his own admission Bush sleeps ten hours a night and works out on a treadmill two hours a day. By his own admission he doesn't read newspapers, preferring to be told what is important by the people around him. He refuses to have impromptu news conferences and reads every statement written for him. His only endearing quality is his admission of his own limited intelligence.

And that is why so many people are mad about George W. Bush and the Republican party. And it isn't about Florida in 2000, although for some that would be reason enough. Many Americans - including the long-time Republicans who write me to say they won't vote to re-elect this president - are mad as hell and they aren't going to take it any more.


Gerald Plessner is a Southern California businessman who writes regularly on issues of politics and culture. He would be pleased to hear from you and may be contacted at gerald@geraldplessner.com

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