AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 2/23/2004 09:53:00 AM ----- BODY:
Four More Reasons
Whenever I tell my mother how distressed I am at the shortcomings, follies and pure evils of the Bush Administration, she answers simply, "I remember when Richard Nixon was President." Well, last night I watched a PBS special about Nixon, and while I still reached the same conclusion--he was a maniac--that I have on previous occasions reading, watching or thinking about Tricky Dick, I still would argue that Dubya's worse. Why? Well, for one thing, Nixon's biggest blunder (besides Watergate) was his bombing of Cambodia even as he promised to remove troops from Vietnam. In essence, he used a nearby war to justify bombing a neutral country, which sent it into twenty-some-odd years of political, economic and spiritual chaos. Sound familiar? Then there was Watergate. What Watergate amounted to was a violation of the personal rights of other individuals by a President desperate to get re-elected. Again, very familiar. But while Nixon knowingly broke the law and had others break the law on his behalf to perpetrate Watergate, the Bush administration has merely made such activities as wiretapping and other close surveillance on private individuals perfectly legal under the Patriot Act. Worse? In my opinion, yes. What also makes Dubya worse is that, unlike Nixon, he was not handed a foreign war or international diplomacy crisis by his predecessors. Nixon, following Kennedy and Johnson, had inherited Vietnam and the Cold War. Nixon also made great strides domestically with healthcare and labor initiatives, and even his foreign diplomacy wasn't as thoroughly terrible as history would have you believe--Nixon made forays into China and held a detente with Russia even as he privately descended into paranoia about Communists. Dubya, meanwhile, has taken ten years of economic prosperity and international peace and turned them into debt and turmoil. Even if you argue that Sept. 11 and not Bush was chiefly responsible for this, and if you turn a blind eye to the fact that the name "Osama bin Laden" did cross Bush's desk many a time before the disaster occurred, you can still make the case that Bush has squandered the international goodwill that followed Sept. 11, and that he has made a bad situation almost irrevocably worse. I'm going to ask this till I'm blue in the face, and no conservative bully is going to shut me up: why did we go to war in Iraq? If you can come up with a reason, be sure to tell me. The Bush Administration doesn't even know. And speaking of conservative bullies, are we really such a nation of simplistic cowards that we don't see the value in thinking critically about the actions of the government? Whose freedom are we defending if we insist that destabilizing an entire region amounts to the creation of democracy? My argument is that we're not defending freedom of speech, or freedom of the press, or freedom of and from religion. No, what it amounts to (especially if you consider a report from last night's 60 Minutes that shows just how much our own government "Supports Our Troops.") is the freedom of already extraordinarily rich men to get even richer. Is that really what those of us who aren't extraordinarily rich executives really want? No, we want education for our children. The Bush Administration isn't delivering on that, either. In the richest country in the known universe, it's ridiculous and scandalous that we don't yet have some type of universal healthcare. And yet not only does the Bush Administration not deliver on that, they lie about how badly they're failing. Conservatives will try to tell you that my focus on these failures is unpatriotic, even treasonous. They say that in the current political climate (which they have made possible, of course), support for the President is necessary for national security. But I would ask, where was this sense of patriotic duty when we had a Democrat in the White House? Even as the Clinton administration brought unprecedented stability to our country in nearly every way possible, the same conservatives who now trumpet patriotic slogans were trying in nearly every way possible to bring him down. And now they expect that they can shame me into supporting a President who is nearly as stupid as he is evil? Please. And here's some news: many former Bush supporters feel the same way. But, really, the number one reason why Nixon pales in comparison to Bush? He didn't get away with it. Bush, meanwhile, is making off like a bandit. And, though it's less rational, it's still a factor: Nixon was then. Bush is now. Nixon is over with, the domain of PBS educational specials. We still have a choice about what we do about Bush; I personally voted against Bush in 2000, and I'm going to do it again in 2004. Maybe one of these times it'll make a difference. But back to my mother's comparison. Ultimately, what I keep coming back to is that even though I acknowledge that Nixon's reign wasn't exactly the most idyllic time, I think if given a choice, I'd rather have dealt with him than Dubya: at least back then, protest was still legal. In November 2004, we should try to make it that way again.