When watching the second debate I, like many others, was amazed that President Bush did not answer the simple question, "What mistakes have you made?"
Since he did not seem able to remember any, I would like to remind him of a few.
1. He made a case for going to war in Iraq ignoring the intelligence that there were no weapons of mass destruction. We have since learned that the sanctions were working, and Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction.
2. Once that fateful decision was made, he then had no plan to win the peace. In his rush to invade Iraq, he failed to build an international coalition to help us.
3. He then essentially fired the Iraqi army and left thousands of armed Iraqis unemployed, which has only helped fuel the insurgency against us.
4. He then disbanded the Sunni Baathist managers responsible for Iraq's water, electricity and sewer system. It is hard to get the country back on its feet when there are no trained people in charge.
5. The American troops he sent were insufficient and without adequate body armor.
6. He then limited the bidding to coalition partners to help with the reconstruction of Iraq while at the same time giving a no-bid contract to Halliburton. And we now find that Halliburton is being investigated for overcharging the government.
7. He opposed the creation of the 9/11 commission. When the families of the 9/11 tragedy insisted, he backed down. He then asked for the testimony before the commission to be limited to one hour. He again relented after much pressure. Everyone agrees that the findings of the commission will enable us to start the process of making our country more secure.
8. The man responsible for 9/11 is still at large. When we attacked Afghanistan we very likely had Osama bin Laden cornered in the Tora Bora region, but we did not commit U.S. ground troops to capture him.
9. Because we needed to relocate our troops to Iraq, we left Afghanistan before we finished the job. We did not provide security outside of Kabul and left 80 percent of the Afghan population unprotected. Warlords and local militia now control these areas. After the ouster of the Taliban, opium production has resumed on a massive scale. It is not a leap to think that much of that will go toward funding the terrorists.
10. We have ignored the Middle East peace process as well as the nuclear buildup in Korea and Iran. All of these areas are of vital importance to our security and the security of the world. And because we have alienated so many of our friends internationally, we are less able to respond quickly as crises develop.
11. President Bush passed tax cuts that he promised would create new jobs and get the country moving again. Many people cautioned that you couldn't fight a war and cut taxes at the same time. We have gone from a projected surplus of $5 trillion to a projected deficit of $4.3 trillion. The Bush administration is the first since Herbert Hoover to not create any new jobs.
12. And because of the expense of the war and the tax cuts, we can't afford to fund what is most important in investing for the future -- education. President Bush has underfunded the No Child Left Behind program. He has broken his campaign pledge to increase the size of the Pell Grants. He has underfunded the Title I Program targeted at disadvantaged kids by $7.2 billion. He has frozen teacher quality state grants, cutting off training opportunities for 30,000 teachers.
13. The number of foreign students coming to our colleges and universities has dropped dramatically. The long-term effects of this could be very serious. We will not be able to continue to lead the world if we isolate ourselves and limit exposure to our way of life.
14. The president has abandoned the Kyoto treaty without offering an alternative for reducing the greenhouse effect. He has gutted the clean air standards for aging power plants. He has relaxed dumping standards for mountaintop mining and lifted protection for more than 200 million acres of public land. He has opposed legislation that would require greater fuel efficiency for passenger cars. It's not hard to see why the international community is having a hard time following our lead. We are going in the wrong direction.
Since President Bush can't think of anything he would do differently, I think it's fair to say that he would continue to do more of the same. It is not possible for the president to correct his mistakes, if he doesn't see them or is not willing to admit them. We are not safer, we are not richer, we are not better educated, we are not protecting our environment and we are not admired by our friends. It's time to wish him well and send him back to Crawford.
Karen Desnick lives in Golden Valley.
© 2004 The Star Tribune