"The Buck Stops Here" to "I Didn't Do It"
By Ed Hanratty
President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read "The
Buck Stops Here." It was nothing fancy; it wasn't a catchy
campaign slogan like "Compassionate Conservative." It wasn't
a show of bravado along the lines of "Bring'em On" or "Dead
or Alive." It was a simple statement about the structure of
our federal government. Our government is multi-faceted and
complex, many people and many agencies and departments have
unlimited input as to how the government should operate. But
at the end of the day, when all is said and done, the buck
stops in the Oval Office. When all is said and done, one man
is accountable for the thousands of bureaucrats, agencies
and advisers: The President of the United States of America.
But I'm starting to think that the current man sitting in
the Oval Office has a different sign on his desk. I think
that sign reads something along the lines of "I Didn't Do
It." Bart Simpson would be proud. What makes it worse, is
that he has legions of apologists: from the party faithful,
to congressional republicans, a small but influential band
of super-soft democrats, and most importantly, a willing and
able media bought and paid for by some of his biggest corporate
donors. For heavens sake, while the integrity of The Presidency
and American Credibility is at stake, MSNBC on Friday ran
the following Question of the Day: "The Sausage Smackdown:
Did (baseball player Randall Simon) get off too easy?" Granted,
it's a welcome relief from the Pearl Harbor-like disaster
known as the Laci Peterson case, but it's still doing the
American people a great disservice.
I often wonder if Mr. Bush plans on creating a new cabinet
position: Secretary of Excuses. The pool of viable candidates
would be as deep as the day is long. Colin Powell, Condi Rice,
Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough,
Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Frist and Denny Hastert
would all posses the necessary qualifications.
There is little doubt that these are tough economic times.
Unemployment is at a ten year high. The last time the US lost
this many actual jobs, Hoovervilles were being set up across
the nation and breadlines were forming in every American city.
The American Dollar is failing to hold its own on a consistent
basis. Consumer confidence is shaky. There's no reason to
be overly optimistic that it's going to get better anytime
soon. What does Mr. Bush do? Cut the taxes for the uber-rich.
Why should we think that these tax cuts would work when the
last ones had no positive economic impact whatsoever? He tried
to buy us off in 2001 with $300. Fool me once, shame on you.
Fool me twice, shame on me. Yet who is to blame for this?
Well, how many times does he have to say "I inherited a recession"
until we tell him that's not working anymore. President Clinton
inherited a much weaker economy than the one Bush did, and
that was turned around through balanced budgets and tax cuts
aimed at the middle class.
The Administration and its apologists have even gone so far
as to blame the Clinton Administration for the September Eleventh
attacks. They claim that Clinton was "soft" on terrorism.
But if I remember correctly, it was Republican Senators who
watered down the 1996 Anti-Terrorism bill. Orrin Hatch called
tracing chemical agents used in explosives "a phony issue."
Other Republicans complained about the limits it placed on
civil liberties and surveillance. Yet, when the so-called
"PATRIOT" act was passed, anyone who raised concerns was immediately
Furthermore, those of us without selective amnesia remember
the reaction to President Clinton's targeted air strikes against
both Iraq and Afghanistan. Remember the term "Wag the Dog"?
How often did we hear that? Remember Trent Lott saying that
he could not support the use of force, but stood by the soldiers?
Compare that to the reaction that those who voted against
the Iraq War resolution received. I don't remember Sean Hannity
blasting Lott for aiding and abetting the enemy, do you?
Now we have the latest accountability debacle. The White
House is now admitting that it used phony evidence in the
2003 State of the Union Address to a joint session of congress,
on national television. Not exaggerated evidence, outright
wrong evidence. While the whole world was watching the buildup
to the eventual war in Iraq, Mr. Bush told us that Iraq was
attempting to purchase weapons-grade uranium from Niger. This
was used by many pundits at the time, along with the ice cream
truck sketches and the satellite images of circus tents, as
the overwhelming evidence that Iraq was building an arsenal
of weapons capable of blowing the entire planet back to the
Stone Age. Those of us who didn't lockstep behind the Office
were very skeptical at the time and -- no matter how many
statues falling you want to show us -- remain as skeptic or
more to this day.
So is the President accountable for this snafu? Of course
he's not. The official company line is "Blame the Intelligence
Community." They provided said information. Now, I'm not President.
But if I were, the intelligence that I'd lean on the most
would not be from Britain, Israel or Australia. For better
or for worse, I'd think that the CIA would be the first and
last organization that I would rely on before speaking or
acting publicly on any issue. But in the case of the nonexistent
uranium, the CIA warned Mr. Bush that there was no reason
to believe that the intelligence was anywhere close to suitable
to speak of publicly. But Bush turns around and basically
says that it matters not, the Brits say so, so it's good enough
for me. This is extremely consistent with the line of thinking
of the Administration and its army of apologists: If you have
two opposing thoughts, take the one that you like, and call
it true. Research and facts be damned. Let's Roll.
So once again, America finds herself at a crossroads. We
could take the easy way out again. We can continue to give
this Administration a free pass. We could just throw a mini-flag
on the antenna, play some Lee Greenwood, and act like we won
Powerball the next time we get a $300 check in the mail.
Or we can awake from this long slumber and say "Hold it there,
partner." We can demand accountability from the White House.
We can chose to not take every word slipping out of the Ministry
of Information as golden fact and ask ourselves a series of
very simple questions:
* Could the economic decisions of the past two years have
been handled differently, and if possible, better?
* How have I benefited from the tax cuts? What impact have
they had on my state and local taxes?
* Has the White House been completely honest regarding its
positions on the use of military force in Iraq?
* Were we blind and deaf to the criticism of the international
community leading up to the war?
* If we had devoted as much time to restoring water and energy
in Iraq as we did to pumping oil, would our troops be in as
There are many more issue-oriented questions that one could
ask; the list could go on and on. But I do, however, believe
that there is one question that Americans will eventually
start asking themselves in the coming months: Am I better
off now than I was four years ago?
Here's hoping that they can be honest about it.
You may email Ed Hanratty firstname.lastname@example.org.