Now that polls show Sen. John Kerry soundly beat the president in the debates sweepstakes, watch Bush fall back on charm and personality to try and win re-selection as president. I'm beginning to believe he'll fail. Too many people despise his policies, and his personal appeal—that smirk, that smile, the name-calling--are wearing thin.
Some leaders are lightning rods for strong passions. Churchill, Lincoln, Stalin, Mussolini, Nixon, Saddam, Clinton, to name a few. I'm not saying they're morally equivalent, far from it, but they all ignite passions because they embark on radical new courses for good or ill and either affirm or assault the values of large segments of the population. They're often wedge figures (you're either for us or against us) who arouse extreme feelings.
Bush is such a figure. Because he's destructive to much of what I hold dear, it's nigh-impossible to discuss him politely, civilly, as if he were just another politician. Such conversations fall apart when I begin naming the things he's done as president.
His destruction of international treaties, of the natural world, his war-making and fear-mongering, all without a mandate, should be obvious to anyone who bothers to dig at all.
Exhibit A. He's opened a Pandora's box of new weapons research worldwide by undermining treaties against nuclear testing, anti-ballistic missiles, biological weapons, landmines and many others. In addition, he's creating a whole new class of nuclear weapons for use on the battlefield in violation of international law.
Some say such moves represent the “new realities” of a post 9-11 world, but that won't wash. Months BEFORE 9-11, Bush pulled out of the Biological Weapons and Toxins Convention of 1972 and signaled he would not sign the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. What were those moves for if not to prepare for war? Twenty thousand corpses later, and counting, the answer is clear.
Walk outside and inhale unseasonably warm autumn air to encounter Exhibit B. Bush denies global warming in the face of overwhelming evidence and has done virtually nothing to stop it, despite dying coral reefs worldwide and record-setting heat waves, droughts, killer storms, skin cancer deaths and other bad agents. It's possible something other than greenhouse emissions causes global warming, as Bush sometimes says, but what if he's wrong?
Other policies are just as bad. He's done nothing to save rain forests that produce so much of the world's oxygen they're widely called “earth's lungs.” He would finance new nuclear reactors in a big way, even as countries like Iran, North Korea and Pakistan use the cover of such “peaceful” uses to build bombs.
Bush claims to be a born-again Christian, and maybe he is, but anyone with a developed sense of the sacred would save our last old-growth (never-before-cut) forests. Not Bush. He's encouraging new road construction that will open more of them to timber interests—a short-sighted policy that temporarily lines the pockets of timber corporations at the expense of eco-systems pre-dating man's existence in America. Who knows what's lost when that decimation is complete? Similarly, he's overseen a rollback in protection of our rivers and streams and reduced the liability of polluters in a variety of ways.
It's true he recently made oil refineries more environmentally friendly, but he undermined the EPA's prosecution of major utility companies that expand in ways that'll keep them polluting indefinitely. He's put known polluters in charge of almost every agency that regulates polluters—the old fox in charge of the henhouse strategy—and he early on allowed other polluters--some of them now in prison--to help write environmental and energy policies. His energy bill was so bad that his new ally, John McCain, nicknamed it the “no lobbyist left behind bill.”
Bush has vetoed NOTHING. He signs every destructive bill that comes along—often with names masking their true effects—the “Clear Skies” initiative,” the “Healthy Forests” initiative. And if none comes along he rolls back regulations his predecessors put in place, so that now, for instance, it's legal to mine coal by blowing the tops off mountains and dumping them into valley streams.
I've shown previously why I think his war in Iraq was based on lies or faulty intelligence. Twenty-thousand corpses later, he still denies he's made any mistakes worth mentioning. The National Intelligence Estimate conducted in July and Robert Novak's revelations about Bush's true intentions in Iraq--pointed out in my column of Oct. 1--show that he's either self-deluded or lying to us still most every day. The truth is that Bush is enamored of death and destruction. And it's a tragedy that he's somehow become the most powerful man in the whole wide world.
Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, as well as a freelance journalist, short story writer and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. His writing awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, ORACLE OF THE ORCHID LOUNGE, set in his native Tennessee. His book of selected journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People by Don Williams, is now available for pre-ordering. For more information, you may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the NMW website at www.mach2.com.