October 17, 2002 (Ira Pilgrim)
When I was a boy I was told that anybody could become President; I'm beginning to believe it.
Clarence Darrow (1857-1937)
I have lived through many presidents, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt on. George Bush II strikes me as the strangest of them all.
To begin with, his choice for vice president. Most presidential candidates select running mates who they consider of no consequence; people who no one would want as president. In this way they provide themselves with a small deterrent against their own assassination. For example, the thought of President Dan Quayle (George Bush I'st v.p.) would frighten any thinking American. Who did George II chose? William Cheney, a man with considerable experience in government, including serving in his father's administration, and a man with one foot in the grave. Cheney articulates our country's foreign policy, while he, the president, remains undecided. It is the equivalent of the quarterback sitting on the bench while the head cheerleader passes the football. Every other vice president in my memory has been in the background, unless there was a tie vote in the senate, when he would cast the deciding vote. Vice president John Nance Garner said that the vice presidency wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit, while Harry Truman thought that the vice presidency was the best and easiest job he had ever had.
What is not unusual is the fact that Bush has been on the campaign trail, giving speeches and raising money, since he assumed the presidency. It seems obvious that his number one priority is insuring that he has a Republican congress and, unlike his father, that he be re-elected . Priority two is paying back the people who have given money for his campaign chest. Priority three might possibly be the state of the nation and its people.
It should be obvious that George II is a master of the art of getting elected and staying popular with the average, and below average, American. He says all of the things that he is told to say by his advisors, which are what they think most Americans want to hear. They are probably correct.
His knowledge of foreign policy, history and other political leaders is wanting. I got the impression that he considered Vladimir Putin as the equivalent of the governor of Alaska and a member of the Republican party, not the president of a nation that has an arsenal of over 6,000 hydrogen bombs and the missiles to deliver them anywhere in the world. He also seemed to buy whatever Ariel Sharon told him. The 10/6/02 broadcast of Sixty Minutes shed some light on this. Apparently fundamentalist Christians, who are a base of his political support, are enthusiastic supporters of Israel and Sharon. It is not the Jewish vote that he is courting, which mostly goes to the Democrats. A number of Jews consider Sharon to be a Jewish Nazi whose only virtue is that he is not anti-Semitic.
H.L.Mencken said that "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." President Bush is aware that presidents at war stay in power and get re-elected, so it is important that he keep the nation at war, whatever it takes to do it. He is also aware that if that war results in a lot of dead Americans, he will not be president for long.
If his wanting to invade Iraq is a bluff in order to get Sadaam Husein to let the inspectors back in, it is worthwhile. If it works, I take my hat off to a skilled Texas poker player. If he actually means to invade Baghdad, it would be a disaster similar to the Viet Nam war. We will just have to wait and see.
Oh well, our country has survived the mistakes of many presidents and it will survive many more.
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