Question of Patriotism
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
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
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?