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A Question of Patriotism
April 28, 2004
By Joe Fields

I have no doubt that George W. Bush loves America. Why wouldn't he? It isn't everyone who can live the life he's led and still end up in the White House, even if it was through the back door. What's not to love? Yet it takes much more than an appreciation of one's priviledged status in life to deserve the top position in our government. There is the question of patriotism - a quality that always places the best interests of the people ahead of all other interests.

There is an old saying that "actions speak louder than words." Judging by Bush's actions, our 43rd president is certainly no patriot. It takes more than sparkling diamond and ruby flags pinned on the lapels of cheap navy blue blazers to exhibit patriotism. It takes more than hollow "rally 'round the flag, boys" jingoistic rhetoric, or a dozen flags displayed as a backdrop for our politicians to prove that they have the best interests of all Americans at heart.

Actions really are all we have to go on, when judging a president's fitness for re-election. So, let's take a look at President Bush's acts of patriotism and see just where his interests lay.

Was he patriotic when he lied about the war in Iraq? When he told us there were weapons of mass destruction? When he said he had proof that Saddam had links to al-Qaeda? When the administration knew that Hussein and al-Qaeda were sworn enemies?

Was it patriotism when he sent young men and women in uniform to sacrifice themselves for their country based on those lies?

Did Bush have our best interests at heart when he may have circumvented the Constitution of the United States by diverting specifically appropriated funds for the war in Afghanistan to secret Iraq war plans? Or when he slashed veteran's benefits, who deserve nothing but the best in treatment?

And what, exactly is so patriotic about the Patriot Act? It is an act that cuts the courts out of the careful review of 4th Amendment issues; the issues that provide safeguards against domestic surveillance and seizures. F.B.I. agents can now conduct searches, seize bank records and mine library and business databases without disclosing they have done so.

Where probable cause used to be the standard by which such searches were allowed, virtually any reason can be used, leaving the door wide open for abuses of power. Such abuses can be expected in an administration that has proven time and again that it cannot be trusted.

Was it an act of patriotism for the administration to trade our budget surplus for tax cuts, the bulk of which went to people who earned $300,000 or more, at the expense of domestic security?

Because of Bush's tax cuts, numerous national security mandates go unfunded or grossly underfunded. The First Responders mandate is underfunded by $1 billion dollars. The Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration and Port Authority budgets are being slashed. Airport security is badly in need of more funding, and at present, there is no money, nor are there any plans to safeguard our rail infrastructure.

Because of Bush's tax cuts, the "No Child Left Behind" budget is underfunded by $9 billion. Because of Bush's tax cuts, much-needed after school programs, which provide a safe haven for children with working parents, will be underfunded by $1 billion. It will leave 1.3 million children with no critical guidance while their parents struggle to survive. Because of Bush's tax cuts, child abuse prevention programs will see a $13 billion budget shortfall.

Is Bush being patriotic by allowing 9 million kids to go without health coverage? Was it patriotic for Bush to stand idle, while almost three million people have lost their jobs?

Is it patriotic for the president to do nothing about the 43 million people without health coverage? Or to cut out Section 8 housing assistance to 150,000 low-income families, due to budget cuts totalling $789 million?

Is the president being patriotic when he works to deny overtime pay to employees who have earned it? Is it in American's best interests when the Department of Labor, at the direction of the White House, conducts workshops for employers on how to get around having to pay overtime to their workers?

Is it patriotic to deceive senior citizens on a Medicare bill that only benefits HMO's and pharmeceutical manufacturers?

Is it in our best interests for the president to alienate us from the rest of the world, fostering resentment and hatred due to our unilateral aggressiveness?

Is it patriotic to crush any form of debate by the opposition party on important issues? There is something quite telling about a president who e-mails committees and declares that, "all requests for information and materials be coordinated with the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee." Naturally, since all committees are chaired by Republicans, any requests by Democrats are denied, thus cutting off any meaningful debate.

Was it patriotic for President Bush to be against the formation of the 9/11 Commission - a bipartisan committee formed to collect and assess information concerning government actions leading up to the acts of terror performed against us on September 11, 2001? Was it also patriotic for the president to stonewall the commission, then send his top cabinet officials out in force to assassinate the character of anyone whose testimony put this administration in a bad light?

Has it been in the best interest of the people for this president to direct a rollback of environmental laws, effectively gutting more than thirty year's worth of legislation designed to protect our land, air, water and wildlife, all for the sake of corporate greed? Does it benefit us for the president to allow corporations to pollute communities at will, knowing that such acts will be met with indifference, or at most a slap on the wrist?

These are but a few acts of "patriotism" performed by our president and his administration. And while it may be true that politics has always been a contact sport, it has only been in recent years that the "win at all costs" attitude in Washington D.C. has completely and thoroughly hijacked the democratic process, shortchanging us all.

In an article by University of Illinois professor Jerry M Landay for Mediatransparency.org, there are more than 350 tax-exempt organizations within the right-wing activist front who have a direct pipeline to George Bush and Dick Cheney. These organizations have done a masterful job of penetrating all three branches of our government. Not only do they guide and oversee the White House agenda, but mouthpieces of these well-funded organizations permeate the electronic media, demonstrating a slick, disciplined, on-message propaganda machine.

According to Landay, the center of the right-wing universe is Grover Norquist, operations director for Americans for Tax Reform. Once a week, by invitation only, more than a hundred representatives from conservative organizations, as well as White House aides and Congressmen, gather at Norquist's D.C. headquarters to strategize their agenda. The result of such a pipeline is the bypassing of democracy - the obliteration of checks and balances.

There is no doubt that the standards of what we tolerate from our leaders have been lowered. Given what we have been subjected to, it's really no surprise. We are like a punch-drunk prize fighter, less able to hit back after consistently getting jabbed in the face. But, like Rocky Balboa we must not give up. As Americans we have a right to expect more, to demand more from our elected officials. What kind of patriots are we if we don't?

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