Too many Americans seem to think that everything in politics is about being either for President Bush or against him. They are encouraged to do so by partisan propagandists.
That's wrong. That's no different from people living in a dictatorship who have only one choice, to be either for the dictator or against him. We don't have a dictator. We have an elected politician, and as free American citizens we can either agree or disagree with some or all or none of his policies. And we have a God-given right to express that disagreement.
Americans' loyalty is owed to the Constitution, not to any particular politician or political party. Every American has a duty to oppose any politician who violates the Constitution or shows disdain for it. That includes federal judges.
My beef with the president is not with George Bush, the man. He seems like an affable and decent chap. My beef is with his policies and with his administration's apparently rock-solid determination to never tell the truth to the American people. His chief adviser, Karl Rove, seemed to have launched the 2004 re-election campaign the day after inauguration in 2001. Consequently, everything the president does and says seems guided by that goal.
Take, for example, his fly-in photo op on Thanksgiving Day. Yes, it was nice to boost the morale of the 600 or so handpicked GIs, but think this through. The president had to fly in under the cover of darkness, spend his two hours in the Baghdad Airport, a heavily fortified American military compound, and then steal away again under the cover of darkness. If our operations in Iraq were really successful, he could go there and tour the country. His actions contradict the spin of his people that the Iraqis welcome us as liberators and that everything is going along according to plan.
His sneaky in-and-out trip is a sharp contrast to the pictures of Saddam Hussein walking around with a huge crowd of admirers in broad daylight after Baghdad had fallen and the American Army was looking for him. And what about Sen. Hillary Clinton and all the other politicians and entertainers who have visited Iraq? Granted, they fly into Fort Baghdad Airport and travel by military escort to Fort Green Zone, a heavily fortified area of central Baghdad. But at least they let the Iraqi sun shine on them.
I'm not questioning the president's courage. I'm sure he's a brave man. I'm merely pointing out that his policies and his style of executing them have made him immensely unpopular, not only in Iraq but in Europe. And, by extension, his unpopularity also affects the United States, which makes diplomacy difficult.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's snide remarks about the "old Europe" notwithstanding, the powers in Europe are Germany, France and the United Kingdom. Having Poland, Romania and the Czech Republic as allies is like having middle-school kids as offensive linemen in a National Football League game.
Because of President Bush's policies, we are entangled in two guerrilla wars that show no signs of slackening; our trade deficits have reached such alarming highs that foreign-capital investment has been drastically reduced, and the dollar seems headed for a financial meltdown. His policies have produced more terrorism, not less; more unemployment; and a fiscal threat that is scaring money people from Hong Kong to Geneva.
But what alarms me most about our president is that he appears to be totally oblivious to everything outside his small, tightly controlled circle. He seems smug even.
it remains to be seen if he will be re-elected. It will depend not on
what polls indicate today, but how the American people feel next November.
That is as unpredictable as all the foreign and domestic events that
might occur between now and then. Until then, Americans should debate
policy and not attach themselves like mindless groupies to either Bush
or any of his opponents. We are not fans or followers. We are citizens,
with the responsibility to think about what is best for the country
and to make an informed decision at the next election.
2003 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Recent columns by Charley Reese
Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969-71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column three times a week for King Features, which is carried on Antiwar.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner.
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