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Bush's Politics of Betrayal

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What do the conviction of Scooter Libby, the revelation that wounded Iraq veterans are receiving poor treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and the firing of eight US attorneys have in common? They're further proof the Bush Administration has betrayed America. Betrayal is a strong word that has several meanings: One is "to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling." Closely related is "to deceive, misguide, or corrupt." Most of us who oppose the Administration blend these two notions of betrayal: unfaithfulness and deception. Believe George Bush betrayed the oath he swore to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." Used the specter of 9/11 to promote his "wartime" power as commander-in-chief, operate as if Congress and the courts did not matter. These strong feelings originate In August of 2000, when Bush accepted the Republican presidential nomination. He pledged to "to lead this nation to a responsibility era... when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to not only uphold the laws of our land, I will swear to uphold the honor and dignity of the office to which I have been elected." Indicated he would govern by a higher standard: "to uphold the honor and dignity" of the presidency. "If you give me your trust, I will honor it." Looking back on this speech, we see that it wasn't just Bush's words that convinced many Americans he was the best candidate for President. It was the carefully manufactured tone of his campaign that portrayed him as a unique individual with a good education, successful career as a businessman, and family history of service to the nation. We were assured Bush was humble, down-home, and a man of the people. What knit these positive qualities together was his faith: George W. Bush was a true Christian. In a word, Bush was trustworthy. Looking back on six years of the Bush Administration, it's obvious George Bush is not remotely the person he claimed to be. He deceived the electorate: Instead of ushering in a "responsibility era" he oversaw a period of unparalleled venality. Instead of upholding the laws of the land he ran roughshod over them. Instead of governing from a higher standard he brought dishonor and indignity to the presidency. Instead of proving worthy of America's trust, his conduct led many Americans to disbelieve every word he says. George W. Bush has not merely been a bad President. He has been a treacherous President. As instance after instance of betrayal are revealed, two questions demand answers. What explains Bush's behavior? And, why hasn't Congress spoken more forcefully about the President's treachery? Some argue George Bush means well but is not very swift and, therefore, was victimized by the poor advice proffered by his staff. Others describe him as singularly inflexible; a man who operates by gut feel and then, however bad his decision may be, believes changing his mind is a sign of weakness. Some speculate Bush talks to God; believes he receives special instructions from the almighty. The most likely explanation is that Bush is a political animal: someone who loves to campaign but is not interested in governing. A man with a limited attention span, who likes the idea of being President, but doesn't care to do the hard work the office requires. As a result, Bush's decision-making has been motivated by political considerations: what's in it for me and the GOP? The President's willingness to maximize the political consequences of every decision explains why Washington Republicans, like Senators McConnell and Kyl, steadfastly support his Administration: they don't want to derail the gravy train. The GOP puts the accumulation of political power above the national interest. But that doesn't explain why non-dogmatic Republicans, like Senator McCain, and Independents, like Senator Lieberman, back the President. It may be that they simply don't see his betrayal; they're too close to Bush and, therefore, can't see the lies and stealthy accretion of Presidential power that jeopardizes our democracy. Still, given Bush's treacherous record, why have Democrats been so reluctant to criticize this President? Why hasn't the Democratic Party picked up the theme of betrayal? Why are they afraid to call George Bush by his true names: tyrant, fascist, and betrayer of the public trust? We know that some Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, are not afraid to talk about Bush's betrayal. But far too many have shown an unwarranted timidity when it comes to describing the true nature of this Administration. It may be that the reluctant Democrats suffer from a Capital Hill variety of battered wife syndrome; a psychological infirmity that has left them "depressed and unable to take any independent action that would allow them to escape the abuse." The New Testament teaches: "the truth will set you free." It's the responsibility of the new Democratic majority to describe how George Bush's unfaithfulness and deception. Americans must be told the truth about Bush politics of betrayal. It's an essential element of reclaiming democracy.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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