Before There Is Nothing Left
Before There Is Nothing Left
History will remember George W. Bush for his impunity. He does whatever he wants, much of it in plain view, because he knows that the American people, collectively, are like the RMS Titanic: We take a long time to recognize trouble; by the time we do, our core is torn open by an iceberg.
When he conceals something, you can be sure that there is skullduggery afoot. From the beginning, I was uneasy with the vaunted "discipline" of the Bush White House because secrecy defeats the openness we expect from a democracy. We don't have a very good track record recognizing or admitting governmental corruption. We have such a deep desire to maintain stability to preserve our prosperity that we avoid censuring wrongdoers.
Why did the American people believe Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to get us out of Vietnam? He was known as "Tricky Dick" long before he bombed Cambodia, declared victory in Vietnam (which is not the same as winning), and damaged our country with the Watergate burglary.
Lyndon Johnson, who I revere for his attempts to bring racial and economic justice to our country, was known to be a skilled political manipulator. If I had known then what I learned later reading his biographies by Robert Caro, that he was wicked to his underlings while fawning and manipulative with the older men in the Senate who he needed to succeed, I do not think I could have supported him (I was too young to vote for him.) I watched his descent into his own hell as he read the casualty figures every night. It made me more sympathetic to him than I am to the callous and vapid current occupant of the White House.
What do I want in a president? I do not expect perfection but I do want honesty, compassion, empathy and fiscal responsibility. Forget personal saintliness: If Jimmy Swaggart, Tim Haggard, and the many Catholic priests accused of sexually molesting their parishioners are any indication, one cannot look even to the clergy for that extra bit of personal purity. Imperfection is the human condition. I have only voted on the winning side three times in my voting career. For the most part, I have had to swallow hard and accept that most of the voters choose men who I would not trust to take out the garbage.
As for charisma, the only president who I have seen that had it was Bill Clinton. For all his peccadilloes, his combination of charisma and genuine empathy got elected him twice
When W. was running for president, man-in-the-street interviews showed that people liked him because they could imagine having a cup of coffee with him; they did not feel a similar urge with Al Gore or John Kerry. When Bill Clinton was the president , he was one of the best and the brightest, rather than one of the dumb and dumbest.
How can we intuit from a politician the kind of president s/he will make? They put on their costumes and masks, give speeches in ersatz Spanish, eat pork rinds with hot sauce, and grease many, many palms. It should not be a popularity contest but it is. It makes perfect sense that United States' Representatives and Senators rarely are elected to the presidency because all we know of them are their speeches. At least a governor has a track record of administration.
W came from a state where the governor's power is extremely limited but his folksy ways fooled enough people to get him his party's nomination. Then all he had to do was steal the election; twice.
The GOP stole the presidential elections in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004, but the issue is moot as far as the general public is concerned. In the meantime, Bush is dragging us at full speed into the gutter but we do not have the critical mass to stop the abuse and impeach him.
We have to do a better job in the next election. Everything is at stake.
When I'm 80, I want to be able to walk in the woods and breathe the sweet air; to play on a clean beach with my grandchildren; perhaps to read stories to children in the local public library once a week. I want to die secure in the knowledge that this extraordinary planet will survive for my children, my grandchildren, and all the generations that I will not live to see. I hope it isn't too late.
Rosa Maria Pegueros email@example.com is an associate professor of Latin American History and Women's Studies at the University of Rhode Island.