Monday, October 18, 2004

The New York Times has endorsed John Kerry for President, in an unusually strong editorial today. The editorial calls George W. Bush's presidency "disastrous." Four years after "the Supreme Court awarded him the presidency," the country is bitterly polarized--a direct result of Bush's decision to govern from the far right rather than the center, even though he knew he had no mandate. The list of GWB's assaults on American ideals and democratic values are well and eloquently reviewed by the Times's editorialist.

  • Bush's appointments--most notably John Ashcroft as Attorney General--were a gift to the farthest right wing of the Republican Party. At the same time, Bush alienated Christy Whitman, a moderate Republican, by appointing her as head of the EPA and then sabotaging her efforts to make sensible environmental policy by placing far-right ideologues and corporate lobbyists in every other major post in the EPA. Whitman resigned in frustration after three years.
  • Bush has shown an alarming inability to change his mind and modify his policies, even when circumstances change radically. Both 9/11 and postwar Iraq are examples of this mental rigidity. With the economy in ruins after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the United States invading Afghanistan, Bush chose to ask for more tax cuts. No U.S. President in American history has cut taxes in wartime. And when the "weapons of mass destruction" bogeyman turned out to be untrue, and the Occupation turned Iraq into a cauldron of civil war and insurgent violence, Bush steadfastly refused to acknowledge that U.S. policy and planning before the war had contributed to this postwar catastrophe; indeed, he could not even admit that it WAS a catastrophe. Instead, he said over and over again that conditions were "improving" in Iraq, and that Iraqis now were blessed with freedom and democracy.
  • Bush used what he and his cronies called an "attack on democracy and American values"--9/11--to launch the most systematic and wide-ranging attack on democracy and American values ever seen in this country. From the unprecedented surveillance provisions and suspension of habeus corpus in the Patriot Act, to the arrest and detention of suspected "terrorists" in prisons without charges, trial, or access to attorneys (many U.S. citizens and many for over two years), to the torture and humiliation of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, GWB demonstrated to the world in general and to Iraq in particular a stunning contempt for the very freedom and democracy he said America was trying to bring to Iraq.
  • Bush sold the Iraq war to the American people with claims of ties to Al Qaeda and possession of nuclear weapons that were based on faulty, misleading, and in some cases fraudulent evidence. High-ranking people in the White House and the Pentagon knew that the evidence was tainted, but said nothing about it and pushed for the war anyway. GWB to this day has never acknowledged even the smallest degree of responsibility for misleading the American public.

Compared with the overwhelming dishonesty, arrogance, inflexibility, and contempt for constitutional principles in the Bush administration, Kerry's so-called "flip-flopping" begins to look less like an inability to stand up for his convictions and more like what the Times calls a "[blessed willingness] to re-evaluate decisions when conditions change."

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