On July 17, The New York Times ran a story by reporter Denise Grady that was, in a sense, more depressing than the Middle East turmoil stories that dominated the paper's front page. It began this way:
"Several new studies suggest that diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer's disease, adding to a store of evidence that links the disorders. The studies involve only Type 2 diabetes, the most common kind, which is usually related to obesity."
The story went on to note that the studies also add dementia to the list of diabetes-related ailments that includes heart disease, strokes, blindness, amputations and kidney failure.
And there were the mournful numbers: 4.5 million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer's, a number that is projected to possibly quadruple by 2050; 20 million people with Type 2 diabetes; 41 million "prediabetics; " and the probability that one of three American children born since 2000 will develop Type 2 diabetes.
Scary stuff, but there was an even more frightening and depressing "story" on page A9 of the same edition. It wasn't a story actually, but a warning in the form of a full-page message from DEFCON, the campaign to defend the Constitution.
The reminder is simple: that help for those millions of diabetes sufferers and Alzheimer's victims is being blocked by the most dangerous individual ever to occupy the Oval Office of the White House: George W. Bush.
From the day he entered office, Bush has been in thrall to religious extremists who have persuaded themselves and him that embryonic stem cell research is a violation of God's plan for the universe. And since Bush has reminded us more than once that God speaks through him, that settles that. Case closed.
But maybe it isn't. Perceptions have changed over six years. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a one-time physician, and long-time Bush loyalist, split with Bush over stem cell research and supported a bipartisan bill approved by the Senate that would have provided federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. A similar bill passed in the House. But Bush, playing to his core, vetoed the measure; his first.
And while that's despicable, it's also understandable. The religious far right makes up a substantial portion of the 30-something percent of the American public that still thinks this guy is capable of running something more complex than a roadside lemonade stand.
Despite the trappings of his office he is still the intellectually and ethically challenged frat boy he was 40 years ago; a world-class embarrassment, as he unwittingly demonstrated in front of cameras and an open microphone earlier this month at the G8 summit in Moscow. This is the person who was going to restore dignity to the White House, remember?
There are two ways to approach this worsening problem. There is the one put forward by Sen. Joe Lieberman: That Bush is going to be with us for 2 1/2 more years and we must find a way to work with him.
Then there is the fact that he, himself, is not veto-proof. He is impeachable on any number of counts. The man does not just pose a threat to the health of millions of Americans, he poses a threat to the very credibility of this once proud land.
It is time for him to go.
© 2006 Press & Sun Bulletin