“Key moments – – social security, Katrina, Harriet Miers” – – caused the president to be “uncharacteristically out of step with the American people” writes David Brooks in his most recent column,NY Times, 10/27/05. Actually, these were mind-altering occasions that revealed the frailty of this administration’s governing principles and the inability of its closest advisors to be effective in anything but political skirmishing. It isn’t that the president is suddenly “out of step” but, rather, that the American people have finally realized that following in his footsteps was not only unwise but dangerous.
Currently, the likelihood is that indictments will be handed up in the Valerie Plame matter while top Republican leaders in both houses of Congress are now under ethics or criminal investigation, with Tom DeLay already under indictment. Mr. Brooks says “Plamegate” is not a “big scandal”; others see things somewhat differently and think whatever the end game, the ramifications will be far reaching and of long duration. And it is difficult to imagine the president can recover from the multiple wounds he has sustained or that he will be able to change the public perception that the White House is filled with incompetent, corrupt cronies.
As a result of Katrina et al questions are finally being asked about matters that should have been discussed before the war and during the last election cycle. Why, for example, if the administration “knew” where WMD were located, didn’t we have the inspectors who were there on the ground go to those locations and verify that information? Those sites could then have been destroyed in bombing raids, a more efficient, less costly approach than invading a country. But it has become obvious that invasion was always the administration’s preferred course of action, not its fallback position. Would the American people have supported a war to “liberate” the Iraqi people or did they support the war effort because they believed Saddam Hussein was an identifiable threat to our nation?
Why, in any case, was a military man appointed Secretary of State while a civilian political ally was selected to be Secretary of Defense? It became increasingly clear that Rumsfeld was ill-equipped to direct an invasion followed by an occupation, and he had refused to heed advice from military leaders that might have prevented some of the mistakes that came to be made. Meanwhile, Colin Powell, relegated to the outer limits of policy decisions, was given tasks that caused him to lose credibility and tarnished his reputation as he tried to soldier on in the service of an administration that failed to be straight either with him or the American people.
Now far right Christian Conservatives, intent on pushing their agenda, are insisting that ‘this time’ the president nominate a “true conservative” to the Supreme Court, by which they mean someone who agrees with them. Let’s face it if the president were a true conservative he would have appointed people of wit and experience to positions in his administration instead of political pals, the country wouldn’t be facing mounting deficits, and he wouldn’t have failed at government’s most important task – safeguarding the American people.
It is those issues of honesty, sound judgment and competence that will continue to plague the administration. Nothing down the road holds the promise of this president “getting back to the key challenges that face the country”, as Mr. Brooks suggests, especially in the case of “rebalancing the fiscal situation.” If Mr. Bush and the Republicans in Congress continue tax-cutting policies that grow the national debt while creating downward pressure on funding for important government programs, Iraq won’t be the only place in for a long hard slog.

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