Monday, January 30, 2006

The Sad State of the Presidency

I will not be listening to Bush's State of the Union address. Whether made by a Democrat or a Republican, there was a time I felt obligated by my own terms to listen to an annual address sizing up where we are and proposing where we might go. I won't pretend I've heard every speech of the last 35 years but I've heard most of them. I should say right now that I haven't bothered to listen to Bush's last two State of the Union addresses. The first two were enough to get the picture.

Bush is not a man who has a good grasp of America or a reasonable understanding of the world. He does have a reasonably good grasp of how to campaign even when he campaigns for things most Americans would oppose if they had all the facts. His opinion of his campaigning skills was so great last year that he thought he could bamboozle Americans into accepting the destruction of Social Security, one of the most successful government programs in American history. For once, Americans saw through Bush clearly and his poll numbers began to fall.

But Americans still do not have all the facts before them concerning the Bush Administration. Recently, an expert at NASA was told not to speak out on global warming, an area in which he has considerable expertise; he was told by people who have no expertise to keep silent. This kind of thing happens frequently in the Bush Administration and for some years now in a Congress led by Republicans. This is an odd state of affairs too easily tolerated by the media and the American people. The American people have a constitutional right to the facts. The government belongs to us, not to corporations, or the wealthy or some select group of right wing busybodies. The American voters and taxpayers have not only a right to the facts but need those facts in order to help understand where things are at and to decide where things should go.

I'm not going to go into the details of Bush's speeches over the last five years. Suffice to say that Bush has difficulty being straight with the American people. No doubt he will say things his supporters will want to hear. No doubt he will leave out facts that clearly contradict what he is saying. No doubt he will once more make promises that at the end of the day will mean little because Bush either has no intention of fulfilling his promises or is incapable of doing so.

There are two main kinds of credibility in this world and Bush fails at both. The first kind of credibility has to do with how reasonably honest and truthful a person is. In politics, it doesn't mean a politician can only be credible when that person stops being a politician; but it does mean that in critical moments we can reasonably rely on that's person word. If a politician is specific about how he will help New York after a terrorist attack, he better mean it. If a politician says the federal government will make a committment to rebuilding a major American city after a hurricane and flooding, he better mean it. There are many promises George W. Bush does not keep. So he fails at the first kind of credibility.

The second kind of credibility has to do with whether a person is capable of getting a job done; do they understand what needs to be done, do they know what resources are needed, do they have a team in place that can handle the job, do they know how to get the job going in a timely manner, do they understand how to follow through on the job, can they make the changes necessary when the inevitable mistakes or misjudgments occur? The war in Iraq and the handling of Hurricane Katrina are just two examples that Bush lacks this second kind of credibility.

Now Bush is not entirely without credibility. He promised to cut taxes for the wealthiest one per cent and he has done so. He has been very generous to his campaign contributors as well. So with his staunchest supporters, Bush has some credibility. But if all the facts were on the table, it would be clear to an overwhelming majority of Americans that we are witnessing a failed presidency and that the United States and our democracy are growing weaker as a result.

But Bush's lack of credibility is not the only reason I won't be listening to his speech. When a political leader uses fear to cover up his failures, it is hard to have respect for him. And when we have a president who is afraid of the facts, a great deal will have to change before this country goes forward again.

On Wednesday morning, I'll read a summary of Bush's speech and in the afternoon I'll be digging up more facts that no doubt our president is afraid to see. If we have the facts, there is still much this country can do.


Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Bush is living proof of how valid The Peter Principle is.

For anyone who may have missed it, The Peter Principle states that people rise to their highest level of competence, then tend to make it one step higher — to a level where they're incompetent.

I watched the SOTU last night. It was less strident and in the opposition's face than previous ones. Bush sounded standard themes of doing more about AIDS and energy independence. He asserted his belief America's workers can outcompete any in the world but must have a level playing field.

We've heard all those things from Bush before. They're always goals. Details of what to do, when and how , always remain somewhere off in the indefinite future.

What makes that really ironic is the fact he has Republican majorities in both houses of Congress.

In the end, what counts is what Bush does and doesn't do, and there we can be sure cutting of entitlement programs and the push to make his tax cuts permanent will dominate his thinking and energies.

So will using the terror war and Iraq debacle to keep Republican majorities in Congress. Indeed, given the prospect of Democrats gaining subpeona power, plus Karl Rove's proclivities, this will be Jobs No. 1, 2 and 3 this year.

2:41 PM  

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