Walker Bush - Texas Ranger
By David Sirota
the 1980s, America watched a B-movie actor become president.
Today, it seems things are reversed: we are watching our president
become a B-movie actor. George W. Bush plays a president for
the cameras, but acts very different off-stage. And while
the made-for-TV "G. Walker Bush, Texas Ranger" might make
us feel safe and secure, the real George W. Bush should not.
On the economy, G. Walker Bush the character plays the up-from-the-bootstraps
Marlboro Man, a guy who spends his free time in blue jeans
moseying on his ranch and thinking about how he can help average
folk. The real President George W. Bush grew up wealthy, worked
his family's connections to get ahead, calls his palatial
mansion a "ranch", and thinks ordering around his landscaping
servants for five minutes means he's "clearing brush" on the
frontier. He is, as his wife calls him, a true "windshield
cowboy", a man who thinks he's a real wrangler simply because
he drives a luxury pickup truck, wears boots with spurs, dons
an engraved brass belt buckle, and once saw a double feature
of City Slickers and City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly's
This Bush - the elitist under the 10-gallon hat - is the
one really making economic policy. He is the one who gave
people making $1 million an average tax cut of more than $22,000,
while giving people making $22,000 about $13.
Similarly, on the War on Terror, G. Walker Bush is the blunt-talking
Texas loner, gutsy enough to tell terrorists to "bring on"
the attacks, as if he will face them himself. But President
George W. Bush will face none of the consequences of such
saber rattling. His declarations may fire up supporters who
want a Dirty Harry in the White House, but he will be the
last to bear the brunt of the increasingly lethal attacks
Iraqi insurgents have directed at US troops since his taunts.
On military issues, G. Walker Bush is the compassionate
wartime leader who bravely delivered a Thanksgiving dinner
to troops in Baghdad and praised them for their service. President
George W. Bush actually held up a fake Turkey and used troops
as a prop in a photo-op. President George W. Bush has yet
to punish his pals at Halliburton for repeatedly feeding these
soldiers unsanitary food, and has "thanked" soldiers by refusing
to provide them with adequate body armor.
On Iraq, G. Walker Bush is the fearless naval aviator, borrowing
a flight suit for a courageous appearance on an aircraft carrier,
to declare "Mission Accomplished" and America secure. President
George W. Bush is the man who skipped his National Guard service
during Vietnam, and who now appears so disinterested in the
human toll of war that he refuses to appear at any funeral
for the fallen. The real man has no explanation why nine months
after putting on the Top Gun costume and saying the war was
over, 500 soldiers are dead, $166 billion has been spent,
and the US Army now says the entire Iraq endeavor "diverted
attention and resources away" from defending against more
pressing terrorist threats.
So with Bush's growing resume of acting experience, it is
not surprising that we will be treated to a grand finale of
political theater come election 2004. This time, we will see
G. Walker Bush at his finest, playing up his national security
machismo while playing down the economy - all while President
George W. Bush works behind the scenes.
The State of the Union address provided the preview: G.
Walker Bush was the tough-on-terrorism sheriff. As the New
York Times noted, the Texas Ranger "held himself out as the
candidate who can best protect the nation from the evils of
a post-9/11 world." His speech "was a remarkably candid acknowledgment
of how much he intends to exploit the political value of his
posture as the only effective warrior in the war against terror,"
said Stanford history professor David M. Kennedy. And the
swagger sure made for good TV - it tapped into the same desire
for strength that still garners a wide audience for John Wayne
The problem is that President George W. Bush is pushing
tax cuts while refusing to provide what's necessary to protect
the homefront. While G. Walker Bush bragged that "my 2005
budget has got $30 billion in there for homeland security,"
President George W. Bush's budget proposes to provide $66
billion in new breaks to his friends who earn a million dollars
or more per year. All this while the experts say his homeland
security budget is dangerously inadequate. That's right: while
G. Walker Bush said he pledged "to give our homeland security
and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend
us," President George W. Bush proposes to allocate double
the amount for millionaire tax cuts than for defending the
Meanwhile, there will be only token reference to the economy,
as new polls show 80% of Americans feel no benefit from President
George W. Bush's tax cuts. Certainly, G. Walker Bush will
say he is concerned about unemployment and wants more funding
for job training, but President George W. Bush tried to slash
more than $1 billion from job training programs, rejected
efforts to raise the minimum wage, prevented eight million
workers from receiving overtime pay, and yet is still pressing
for $1 trillion in new tax cuts that primarily benefit the
So as the campaign moves ahead, and the showmanship intensifies,
it is important to know what to watch and what to ignore.
The next time you wonder why your wages are stagnating and
why you really haven't felt any benefit from all the tax cuts
you've heard about, ignore G. Walker Bush's assurances, and
remember President George W. Bush's decision to give the top
5% of the population more than three-quarters of his latest
The next time you get nervous about being on a plane that
is carrying uninspected cargo, don't take comfort in G. Walker
Bush's "dead or alive" rhetoric. Instead, remember that President
George W. Bush thinks it is more important to give millionaires
a $41,000 tax break this year than deal with the problem.
In short, the next time you get worried that we simply aren't
doing enough to prevent another terrorist attack or fix the
economy, disregard the "windshield cowboy's" twangy tough
talk, and remember the disturbing realities being perpetrated
by the guy who's really in charge.