George W. Bush was asked in Friday night's presidential debate to discuss mistakes made during his presidency.
Rather than respond frankly, Bush used his time to defend the invasion and occupation of Iraq, which has cost more than 1,000 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives.
Despite the fact that all of the arguments for the war made by the president, the vice president and their aides have proved to be wrong - no serious weapons of mass destruction program, no consequential connection with al-Qaida, no credible threat to Mideast neighbors, let alone the United States - Bush could not acknowledge that this war is wrong.
Instead, he argued that it was anything but a mistake.
It is said that Bush refuses to admit his mistakes because he is afraid to stir talk about his weaknesses.
The president needn't worry. Thinking Americans are well aware of his weaknesses. What they don't understand is why this profoundly flawed man seems to think he is infallible.
Tonight, the president will have a chance to come clean. It's doubtful that he will admit to having led the United States into the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But, as the final presidential debate will deal with domestic issues, there are still some opportunities for the president to admit his missteps. For instance, he could admit that:
- Upon taking office after the most controversial election in American history, he had a responsibility to ensure that the nation's broken voting systems were fixed - and that he failed to meet that responsibility in time for this year's election.
- The massive tax cuts for the rich that he advocated have starved the federal treasury to such an extent that deficits are skyrocketing.
- He was wrong to promote trade policies that have done deep damage to U.S.-based manufacturing industries.
- He was wrong to neglect the economic slowdown that has caused a net loss of jobs during his presidency and has led to rising poverty rates.
- He was wrong to oppose calls to extend unemployment benefits as long-term unemployment approached a 20-year high during his tenure.
- He was wrong to set up an energy task force that took its cue from energy industry insiders while paying no heed to the concerns of environmentalists, consumers and communities.
- His administration should not have scrapped new workplace safety rules.
- It was wrong to tell Congress his Medicare reform bill would cost $400 billion over 10 years when his own analysts had reported that the bill would cost more than $500 billion - with much of the money going to increase pharmaceutical industry profits.
- The Alaskan wilderness, and our national parks and forests, are precious resources that should not be exploited.
- His appointees to the Federal Communications Commission were wrong to try to eliminate protections against media monopoly at the national and local levels.
- It was a dumb idea to push for enactment of the No Child Left Behind Act and then fail to fund it.
- He has failed to provide for homeland security because of his refusal to order inspections of cargo entering U.S. ports and being shipped in the cargo holds of U.S. planes.
- The Patriot Act was so broadly written as to pose a threat to the individual rights and liberties of Americans.
Of course, these are just the first 13 items on a list that could fill many pages - or a 90-minute debate.
© 2004 Capital Times