Three "I"s - Integrity, Intentions and Intelligence
By Gerald Plessner
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
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 email@example.com