Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Bush Is a Coward

I try not to indulge in attacks that are gratuitously -- okay, solely -- ad hominem. And I don't automatically disagree with everything President Bush says, or attribute to him every negative trait possible. But in the last week it's become increasingly clear to me that President Bush is a coward, and that this aspect of his personality is at least partly responsible for a number of the awful things he is doing to this country.

We've seen two signs of cowardice in the last couple of weeks. He's panicking, and he's lying to cover up his cowardice. Remember how shaky the president was in his first remarks after being informed of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Remember the look on his face when he was first told what had happened, and remained seated in a Florida classroom rather than rise immediately, excuse himself and go do his scary job.

Remember that Bush's very first reaction to the attacks was to treat them like criminal acts to be dealt with by law enforcement. Only when the scope of the nation's outrage revealed itself did he get serious. But then, like a child terrified that something bad might happen again, he pledged not just to get al Qaeda, but "to rid the world of evil."

President Bush said in the first days after Sept. 11, 2001, that part of the nation's responsibility now was "to rid the world of evil." I think, at the time, many of us saw this as rhetorical hyperbole referring to al Qaeda. I no longer think so. I think Bush was speaking literally. He was so terrified by what had happened, of its recurrence, of being blamed, that his instinct really was to eliminate any and all bad men. That's not how rational, calm, brave men respond to danger. They confront the danger. They don't panic and call for the end of all potential dangers. That's why the first President Bush, who had personal experience facing physical danger, could let Saddam Hussein remain in power -- because he could handle the reality of knowing that a bad man was still at large. Because he knew his job wasn't to eradicate all evil, but to protect the American nation and the American character.

President Bush keeps talking about how Sept. 11 has changed everything. Well, it didn't change everything, and it shouldn't have. Yes, preceding presidents could have and should have done more to bolster our defenses against asymmetrical attacks and to eradicate the source of those attacks. But they didn't need to see a Sept. 11 made manifest to understand its theoretical possibility. They recognized that possibility and yet still refrained from the sweeping overhaul and contravention of our nation's laws undertaken by the current President Bush.

When a previous president confronted the dangers of violent Muslims taking American hostages and commandeering American craft, he responded not by rewriting America's character, as expressed in its laws, but by defiantly proclaiming, "Millions for defense, but not a penny for tribute." Pres. Thomas Jefferson was talking about using military sacrifice to maintain American principle. He was, in essence, saying that submitting to blackmail would violate America's character and that he would rather spend the millions necessary to defend that character, and risk the lives of those Americans in harm's way (both the military and the hostages) than sacrifice a single aspect of America's character.

Pres. Bush has done precisely the opposite. He has stated, repeatedly -- even before, supposedly, he knew who had attacked us -- that they "hate us for our freedoms." Like a bully's victim, he responded almost immediately by working to erase those things he proclaimed made us a target: Our freedoms.

Pres. Bush is working to make us absolutely safe. What he fails to understand is that this is a fundamentally un-American goal. America, at its best, understands that freedom is not about safety. Freedom is a risk, one that, as Mr. Jefferson so calmly, confidently accepted, makes American deaths not just a likelihood but almost a necessity. The loss of American life in defense of liberty is not restricted to the actions of men and women in uniform abroad. It is also a price incurred by civilians, here at home. It was a price paid by men, women and children in Oklahoma City. But, perhaps because its methodology was familiar to us and its perpetrators not exotic to us, the attack led to a relatively restrained legislative response. And even then, there was considerable debate -- among honorable members of both parties -- about how far to go beyond chemically tagging fertilizer.

Not so with President Bush and Sept. 11. He has advocated wide-ranging abandonment of long-held, time-tested American principles about the necessary restraints on executive power. I no longer believe it's just because he's power-hungry. I believe he's scared and, feeling helpless and out of control, seeks to compensate by trying to accumulate as much power and control as he can. That's part of why, failing to get Osama bin Laden, he set his sights on an identifiable target (remember Rumsfeld's desire to hit Iraqi targets due to accessability, not Iraqi culpability) that his advisors assured him he could get. And then he began to act as though bin Laden weren't an issue to him, whistling past the graveyard.

In other words, when the issue is his failure to get bin Laden, bin Laden isn't important. But when the issue is how much power Bush should have, the answer is that his fear has driven him to seek virtually unlimited power, and the reason is bin Laden, even when the reasoning is unsound. Pres. Bush has suggested that those who disagree with him don't understand the situation, don't appreciate its gravity or lack his conviction in addressing it. None of those is true. They lack his fear. They're not so scared of terrorism or even death that they're willing to do anything, to sacrifice any American principle, to avoid it. In fact, they often summon the bravery to defy the president, and even the law, to defend both American principles and the American public's right to know when those principles are being subverted. So outraged was the president by the revelation -- which he knew was coming -- of how far his fear has driven him, that he not only took the highly unusual step of acknowledging what he had done, but he mounted an attack on the unknown patriot who exposed him. He said, "the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." He was RIGHT. What his cowardice blinds him to is the reality that patriots WANT to be at risk. They don't believe that absolute national security is worth the price. "Give me liberty or give me death," wasn't just bravado, it was the expression of the new American ethos -- that some things were more precious than life itself.

Bin Laden's goal was not to physically destroy America. It was to isolate America and to turn America into something un-American. His weapon was not four airplanes. It was fear. The point of terrorism is not to kill, but to wield fear in such a way that it motivates your enemies to change the way they act. By this measure, Pres. Bush is losing the global war on terror and his own personal war with terror. Because, judging by our nation's recent laws, and the executive-branch violations of our fundamental, literally constitutional principles, we are no longer the home of the free. And judging by our president, we are no longer the home of the brave.

2 comments:

the old guy said...

I usually throw in my own opinions, but you've said it all.

Anonymous said...

<< after being informed of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Remember the look on his face when he was first told what had happened, and remained seated in a Florida classroom rather than rise immediately, excuse himself and go do his scary job. >>

Hey, dumbass... in another one of your postings, in reference to Bush saying it's his job to defend America, you write that it's his job to defend the CONSTITUTION, implying it's not his job to defend the country, but just the constitution.

Granted, that position of yours was profoundly stupid. Nevertheless...

In THIS posting of yours, you complain that Bush didn't hop up immediately from his chair on 9/11 to go defend the country (as if the buildings could have been "saved" if Bush suddenly "hopped up" and ran... somewhere.

Well, which is it, ass-face? Why don't you choose a position? First, you whine that he doesn't understand his job, which it's really just to protect the constitution, not the country, as he thinks.

But then you whine he didn't get up out of his chair fast enough to defend the country.

You can't even land on what it is you want to whine about. Because the truth is, you just want to whine.

Yeah, I know, I've "missed the point," right?

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