July 09, 2006
So He's Not One Himself
This from the New York Times:
President Bush said Friday that the court had tacitly approved his use of the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.In other words, Bush is interpreting the meaning of a Supreme Court decision based on what was not specified, reading meaning into it that was not explicitly stated.
"It didn't say we couldn't have done — couldn't have made that decision, see?" Mr. Bush said at a news conference in Chicago. "They were silent on whether or not Guantánamo — whether or not we should have used Guantánamo. In other words, they accepted the use of Guantánamo, the decision I made."
Mr. Bush's remarks put a favorable spin on a ruling that has been widely interpreted as a rebuke of the administration's policies in the war on terror. The court, ruled broadly last week in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that military commissions were unauthorized by statute and violated international law.
The question of whether Mr. Bush had properly used Guantánamo Bay to house detainees was not at issue in the case. At issue was whether the president could unilaterally establish military commissions with rights different from those allowed at a court-martial to try detainees for war crimes.
So much for strict constructionism.
If the White House press corps had any balls, the next chance they got, they'd ask him if he believed in the principle of strict constructionism, of not reading anything into legal matters that was not explicitly stated; when he replies in the positive, hit him with this.
It's always fun to see the president of the United States stammer and stutter.
March 12, 2006
"Honor And Dignity"
Remember Bush's pledge to "restore honor and dignity to the White House" after eight years of the Republican Party machine in high gear trying to smear Clinton with everything they could think of? Well, Clinton may have been nabbed for having sex with an intern, but what Bush has brought to the White House is anything but "honor" or "dignity." A president who lies to get us into a war and then loses the war? A president who has used false terror warnings as a political weapon, who betrays the American people in favor of wealthy corporations at every turn, who has dirtied the name and reputation of the United States of America all around the world. The first president to enter the White House with a criminal record, who lied about it repeatedly to the American people before he even took office. This is the man who said he'd "restore" such institutions as "honor," "honesty," "integrity," and "dignity" to the White House.
But then, he never promised that he was a genius, that he would be the one with his hands on the wheel. He said that he would "surround himself with good people and build a strong team." That was the promise to balance his oafishness, his clear lack of intellect: I may not be smart, but I'm a good judge of character, and the people I choose will do the job right." Of course, he then surrounded himself with manipulative neocons, witless yes-men, and corrupt cronies. His own vice president, whom Bush allowed to choose himself for the job, swears like a sailor, sells the country out piecemeal to corporations, and betrays one of our own intelligence agents so he can dish out political payback. Bush's chief political advisor, Karl Rove, a destructive, conniving political hack halfway on his way to prison. These are the "honorable" men he chooses? And does Bush act with honor in regards to them? When it was revealed that Rove had a part in revealing Valerie Plame's CIA identity, Bush promised that anyone involved would get the boot--then reneged and backtracked, so that apparently Rove will have to be frog-marched in handcuffs out of the White House before Bush will ask him to resign. The one honorable man Bush did hire--Colin Powell--was disregarded and dismissed while he lasted, his integrity abused to spread lies to the international community.
And it goes on. Every once in a while, we get a peek at others Bush allows into his inner circle. Take, for example, Claude Allen (pictured at far left), a "top domestic policy adviser." Allen resigned a month ago, ostensibly to "spend more time with his family." What he did not say, and neither did Bush (it could not be more obvious that Bush knew at the time), was that he had been arrested for felony theft. Allen, whom Bush had appointed to handle the Katrina response team at the White House, and who advised Bush closely on domestic issues, was reportedly going to Target and Hecht's stores in his spare time and stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
As explained by the police, Allen would go into the store and buy merchandise, then take it out to his car. He would then return to the store with the empty bag, and place new merchandise identical to that he just bought into the bag while placing additional items into his cart. He would then use his prior receipt to "return" the duplicate goods, and then leave the store with the money as well as the other items in his cart, items he did not pay for. If true, this would indicate a serious character flaw in the man, stealing a few thousand dollars from retail stores when the man makes a $161,000 salary in a West Wing office. Bush even tried to make him an Appeals Court judge, possibly on track for a Supreme Court nomination. (Democrats blocked him from taking the seat, however.)
These are the "good" people Bush surrounds himself with. Now, you might say that Bush can't be held responsible for these people. However, that is exactly what Bush promised he would do. He promised that he would be responsible for the people he chose--and with that promise, he can't be excused on the grounds that the people around him are incompetent cronies or corrupt thieves.
January 04, 2006
Remember What It's About
As Bush tries to divert attention by using fear in a new offensive against Congressional Democrats, the media seems to be buying into it, giving Bush good press and riffing on his themes. CNN ran a recent TV-headline titled "Bush's Staunch Defense," and failed completely to point out a number of facts completely contradicting Bush's claims.
But one item I think is worth noting is how this all got started in the first place. By now, most Americans have probably bought into Bush's recasting this as the Democrats trying to kill the Patriot Act--which is far from the truth. The politically-named act is complex and has many provisions. Many are needed, but some are controversial, and Democrats hold that those controversial provisions threaten Americans' civil liberties. One example of this is Section 215, which allows the government to look at the personal records of Americans, such as financial, medical, phone, internet, student or library records, without probable cause, in conflict with the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. Already, some sections of the act have been ruled as too vague or outright unconstitutional by courts.
The current mess came up when Democrats and some Republicans refused to agree to make many of these controversial provisions permanent, instead insisting on sunset clauses that would allow renewal of the provisions upon future review.
Let's make sure we understand that. The Democrats (plus some Republicans) were not trying to shut down the act. They were not even trying to shut down those provisions. They were only trying to make it so that the most controversial provisions would have to be renewed every few years. That's all. That's it.
So, why did the act almost expire? Because Republicans decided they would rather see the act expire than to agree to the sunset clauses on those few provisions. Because they saw they could make a political play--act like the Democrats were trying to kill the law, frighten people into thinking it would expire, and then blame the Democrats for everything.
Even as the Democrats were offering a temporary extension so debate could continue, Bush and the Republicans were screaming at everyone who would listen that the Democrats were trying to kill the act. When, in fact, the Democrats were ready to approve the full act for a number of years, and the Republicans were the ones refusing to accept these extensions.
Essentially, Bush and the GOP want everything or nothing: give us 100% of what we want, or we let the act die and blame the Democrats.
While I am sure they really want the provisions which threaten our civil liberties to become permanent, I am convinced that this is more about simple opportunism: the GOP is in bad shape for the 2006 elections, and Bush is in huge trouble with his domestic spying program, so they are fabricating a non-existent issue in hopes of eliciting fear among the American people. That's their way of gaining popularity, after all: frightening people. As Aaron Sorkin once wrote for the title role in The American President,
He is interested in two things, and two things only: making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.Sorkin got the Republican playbook down to a tee, didn't he? Because that's exactly what Bush and the GOP are trying to do here: make you afraid, and tell you who's to blame.
November 02, 2004
One More Time: He's Not What You Think
Probably you've heard Republicans for Bush telling about what a kind, decent, generous, caring, loving person he is. Yes, he had a few "youthful indiscretions," but that was the alcohol acting, not sweet, gentle George. And since he's gone clean and sober, he's a good Christian and a kindhearted soul.
QuickTime movie, 1 MB; Click photo to play
And let's not mention that time Bush cruelly mocked the woman on death row in Texas who had become a born-again Christian and was doing good works, with religious leaders begging Bush to reduce her sentence to life imprisonment. How he joked about her dying with reporter Tucker Carlson while using the word "f***" repeatedly.
This instance was well after Bush "recovered," when he was Governor of Texas. Just like he was in the video clip above.
You see, when someone takes on the appearance of a saint but every so often you see a sinner's face, it is the saintly face that is almost certainly the facade. There not really much getting around that.
If you would like to see what Bush and Kerry were both doing throughout their lives and compare them side by side, visit this site. They've done a pretty good job, and it is not hard to see where Kerry is the far more competent, honorable, and accomplished man.
I have my own Bush Record page, visited 559 times in October despite the fact that I don't advertise it--at least, not until now. People just found it. It takes you through a lot of Bush's history up to his being elected president.
While Kerry, in the Naval Reserves, is regarded a "top-notch officer in every measurable trait," Bush gets a 25% on his pilot aptitude test and yet is accepted into a champaign unit of the National Guard; while Kerry earns his rank of Lieutenant and goes off to the Mekong Delta where he earns a Silver Star, Bush is promoted without merit and stays at home. While Bush goes AWOL and then is given an easy early out from the guard, Kerry, back at home, is district attorney putting organized crime figures behind bars. Meanwhile, Bush gets arrested for drunk driving. As Bush drives his first family-money-backed business into the ground and begins his second failed business with Saudis funding him, Kerry gets elected to the Senate without even using PAC money.
While Kerry gets appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports deficit reduction and stops a Dick-Cheney sponsored oil tax, Bush gets involved in a variety of insider trading and other questionable activities; this is also about when he drunkenly explodes in a hail of obscenities and threats against newspaper editor Al Hunt, his wife and their four-year-old child. Kerry, meanwhile, is on the job rooting out corruption as he chairs the Senate subcommittee on the Iran-Contra hearings. The same year Kerry saved the life of Republican Senator Jacob "Chic" Hecht by using the Heimlich maneuver, Bush buys the Texas Rangers in a sweetheart deal and trades away Sammy Sosa. Bush violates the law at least three times in insider trading, tax law violations, and other financial scandals, but as the son of the President is not investigated by the SEC. Soon afterward, Kerry works closely with John McCain to investigate US soldiers still missing in Vietnam, eventually working to normalize relations with Vietnam.
Bush gets elected Governor of Texas and immediately gets a new driver license number to wipe the public records of his criminal past. He accepts a call to jury duty and leaves the legal forms referring to his criminal record blank; he soon has his staff finagle him out of jury duty when he gets assigned to a drunk driving case and will be asked under oath if he was ever arrested on that charge. Kerry, meanwhile, co-sponsors the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Bill, and fights for better pay and benefits for soldiers, veterans, police, and teachers. Bush, on the other hand, gets involved in a corporate scandal and lies under oath to get out of having to testify.
This is just a partial list. Read the two pages and get a better idea of how the two men spent their lives. An alcoholic, draft-dodging three-time-loser in business with an abusive character and a criminal record, versus a decorated Vietnam War vet with a conscience, spending his life putting bad guys behind bars and rooting out corruption.
Not really much of a challenge to pick the better man.
October 30, 2004
When Bush Loses...
...what will happen?
Remember how the Bush administration claimed that when the came to occupy the White House, they discovered all kinds of vandalism, from the alleged missing "W" keys on the computer keyboards to much more serious damaging and pilfering? Remember how the GSA, which maintains the White house, debunked the story, saying that most of the damage claims were false, and the "vandalism" was "consistent with what we would expect to encounter when tenants vacate office space after an extended occupancy"? In other words, it was a Bush administration dirty trick after all--they just made it up as a way to attack the Democrats.
To be honest, I'm not worried about the Bush people pilfering all the "J," "F" and "K" keys from the keyboards when Kerry moves in. I'm much more worried about what damage his administration will do to the country and to the world in the three months they will occupy power whilst knowing they are leaving, and are going to be bitterly, angrily vindictive about it.
I do not consider Bush's father, H.W. Bush, to have been even nearly as bitter or vindictive, and yet look at what he did: after spending his entire presidency refusing to engage in any messy third-world quagmires, he chose one month after he lost the 1992 election to order 25,000 U.S. troops into Somalia--without an exit plan. Knowing that the start of the operation would appear victorious, strong, forceful and decisive, just as he knew that it would soon turn bloody, violent, and remorseful--on his opponent's new watch. Bush Sr. knew without a doubt that "winning" in Somalia was impossible; that if Clinton stayed in for too long that he would get caught in a quagmire, and that if Clinton pulled out, the Republicans could thoroughly attack him for weakness and being a "cut and run" president.
No president, unless under dire necessity, should ever begin such a military action, unilaterally, so close to exiting the White House. It was a low, mean and dishonorable thing to do--and violated the trust a president must keep with the military not to use them for political means.
We know that Bush Jr. has even less a problem with abusing the military to achieve his means. What will this Bush administration do when they know they can hand off any number of messy, bloody situations to an incoming John Kerry administration? Will they refuse to fund Iraq, leaving the troops in the cold, so Kerry's first move will have to be massive emergency funding for the Iraq conflict? Will they make a plethora of last-minute edicts on controversial issues so that Kerry's first move will have to be deconstructing presidential orders on flag burning, abortion counseling, the pledge of allegiance and other hot-button issues? Or will Dubya go whole hog like his father did and start a military action in a country where there is no chance of winning--say, the Sudan--leaving Kerry the option of watching our soldiers die in a quagmire, or looking weak by cutting and running?
Personally, I will not put thing one past this Bush administration.
October 22, 2004
He Didn't But Says He Did
From the Des Moines Register, October 21:
President Bush touted himself as a man of his word Wednesday, reminding a crowd of 4,000 supporters about promises he made four years ago when campaigning in Iowa, and maintaining he's fulfilled them.From Knight-Ridder, October 20:
"I kept my word," Bush said repeatedly at a morning rally held at the North Iowa Fairgrounds in Mason City.
President Bush will end his four-year term having fulfilled about 46 percent of the  promises he made during the 2000 presidential campaign, according to an analysis by Knight Ridder. ... A similar Knight Ridder analysis found that, during his first term, President Clinton had fulfilled about 66 percent of the 160 commitments that he made during his first presidential campaign.This Reality Distortion Field Bush puts up is not a mistake; he very much wants people to believe things that are patently untrue--and it's working. According to PIPA, most Bush supporters have a completely mistaken idea of what Bush stands for. A slight majority are correct on his standing on defense spending (increase), and 70% know that he wants the U.S. to do nation-building in Iraq. But fewer than half know his standing on missile defense, the international court and even (unbelievably) the Kyoto accords--and fewer than 25% know that he opposes nuclear weapons testing bans or the land mine treaty. Only 13% know that he opposes labor and environmental conditions in trade agreements.
Kerry supporters, on the other hand, know their man much better. On only one topic--defense spending--do a minority understand his position, and that's 43%. On all the other above-mentioned topics, a majority of his supporters know where he stands: International court, 65%; Missile defense, 68%; Kyoto accords, 74%; Nuclear test bans, 77%; Land mine treaty, 79%; Role in rebuilding Iraq, 80%; and Labor/environment in trade agreements, 81%.
In short, people who support Kerry do so because they know that Kerry stands with them on the issues, while Bush has hoodwinked his own supporters into voting for him by making them think that he stands with them on the issues when he really doesn't.
September 15, 2004
An Overlooked Question
Critics point out that Bush failed to take a physical exam required of him by the Texas Air National Guard in 1972, and this got his flight status revoked.
The White House counters that Bush didn't take the physical because he "was not going to be flying." Okay, even if we ignore earlier conflicting White House claims about that issue, let's say that what they now say is true. Bush was not going to be flying.
So here's the question: why was Bush not going to be flying?
Bush had entered the Guard claiming that he wanted to make flying a part of his life. He has commented on how important flying was to him. Was being a flunky on the campaign staff for a House seat in Alabama more important than that? And why go permanently off of flight status? He would have returned after a few months, why would he not fly again after that?
When you think about it, it doesn't make too much sense. A physical exam only takes, what, an hour? I don't think I have ever heard the president say why he made that decision. I'd like to hear it asked, because the only explanation that comes close to making sense is this one.
September 09, 2004
Last Nails in the Bush National Guard Coffin
Not that diehard Bush supporters will care, but the evidence has now mounted to prove that Bush (a) got into the guard through family influence, not merit, and did so in order to avoid serving in Vietnam; (b) he did not fulfill his service; and (c) he received special treatment in the guard and escaped punishment because of who he was.
The story is often confusing because it is often told in a disjointed way, often just focusing on a few specifics and rarely told in full. A fully-detailed telling of the story could probably fill a book, but here are the highlights:
When Bush applied for the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), there was a long waiting list--usually one and a half years long--and absolutely no guarantee of a spot. Bush checked "do not volunteer" for overseas assignment on the application forms. Bush admits to having called Colonel Walter Staudt, commander of the TANG, to ask about getting into the Guard.The above rather clearly proves that Bush used connections and family influence to get into the Guard, and once he was in, he was rather blatantly guided into a position of status, safety, and comfort.
Sid Adger, oilman and Bush family friend, asked then-Lt. Governor Ben Barnes to get young Bush into the TANG. Barnes contacted General James Rose, head of the TANG, and asked him to take Bush in. Barnes just recently recounted that story on 60 Minutes.
Bush joined the TANG just 12 days before his college deferment ran out. Col. Staudt immediately became Bush's mentor and guardian. Staudt held a special ceremony to swear Bush in, complete with photographers--even though Bush had already been sworn in. Staudt held another ceremony for the cameras when Bush was made an officer, with the Elder Bush in attendance.
Bush was made a Lieutenant despite not having accomplished any of the requirements for the rank; Bush was made a jet pilot despite getting only a 25% score--the lowest possible without failing--in his aptitude test. Bush was elevated into the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron over the heads of far more qualified pilots. Col. Staudt insisted that there was no favoritism. Bush was assigned to an F-102, which was being phased out and would never be called to Vietnam. (additional source)
The next stage of the whole affair comes in 1972, when Bush is still a few years away from completing his comfy service in Texas:
In the spring of 1972, George H. W. Bush, then the U.S. Ambassador the to U.N., directly called Jimmy Allison, Bush family political guru and manager of the Blount campaign in Alabama. The elder Bush asked Allison to take young George under his wing, and get him to work on the Blount campaign. Said Allison's widow in a recent interview, "The impression I had was that Georgie was raising a lot of hell in Houston, getting in trouble and embarrassing the family, and they just really wanted to get him out of Houston and under Jimmy's wing."The White House has been trying to explain this away, mostly by simply lying--claiming Bush served when not only do they have no proof, but when there is substantial evidence showing Bush did not complete his duties. White House spokesman Bartlett summed it up thusly: "The bottom line is, is that President Bush would not have received the honorable discharge that he was granted when he returned from Alabama if he had not met his requirements."
In April 1972, all overseas and stateside military services started instituting drug testing.
A new document, just released, shows that on May 4, 1972, Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, then Bush's commanding officer, gave Bush a direct order to have his annual physical exam no later than May 14. It was previously assumed that Bush was due for his exam in August. The question is, why was he ordered to have his exam two to three months earlier than normal? This memo also shows that the Bush camp lied when they claimed Bush did not take the exam because Bush was in Alabama and his family physician was in Texas--Bush was in Texas when ordered to take the exam.
Another new document shows that on May 19, Bush called Killian to see if he could get out of performing his duties and go to Alabama. Killian noted that Bush had not taken his physical, and reminded Bush of the $1 million investment the TANG had made in training him. Killian wrote that he suspected Bush was "talking to someone upstairs."
On May 24, Bush put in a request to be transfered to an inactive postal Reserve unit in the Alabama Guard; Killian recommends the transfer for Bush. One week later, his request was turned down by the National Guard Bureau headquarters. Bush remained in Alabama, however, and did not return to Texas as was required. Doing so could be considered going AWOL (it is desertion if it is more than 30 days).
Bush 'campaigns' for Blount in Alabama; according to the widow of Jimmy Allison, Bush constantly showed up late, shirked regular work, bragged about his heavy drinking, and that the only work he did during that time was "contacting people who were impressed by his name and asking for contributions and support." Allison also had no idea Bush was in the Guard and never saw or heard of Bush attending drills.
On August 1st, Killian suspends Bush for not taking his physical exam. A mandatory report by a Flight Inquiry Board detailing Bush's situation is still missing from the documents released from the Bush administration.
On August 18, Killian wrote a memo titled "CYA," almost certainly standing for "Cover Your Ass." This is one of the most damning memos; in it, Killian notes that Bush's superior officers (Lt. Cols. William D. Harris Jr. and Bobby Hodges) are being pressured by Staudt to go easy on Bush and "sugar-coat" his reviews. Killian writes that he'll falsify the date of a report on Bush but will not rate him better than he deserves. Staudt was clearly going to a great deal of trouble to get Bush off the hook for his failure to follow orders or even show up for duty.
On September 5, 1972, Bush was ordered to start service in an active but non-flying Alabama Guard unit, but it is doubtful that he ever served there at all. Of all the people on the base, only one man, James "Bill" Calhoun, ever claimed to have seen Bush there--but Calhoun's story was shown to be a lie when records showed that Calhoun claimed to have seen Bush on dates when Bush was not even assigned to the unit. Other witnesses (the base commander Lt. Col. William Turnipseed and then-Lt. Bob Mintz) state definitely that Bush would have stood out like a sore thumb, and yet they never saw him, despite having looked. The only evidence Bush even went to the base is a dental exam--which only proves that he got free medical treatment, not that he served.
Bush's absence at this time violates a ''statement of understanding" which he signed in which he swore to achieve ''satisfactory participation" which "included attendance at 24 days of annual weekend duty -- usually involving two weekend days each month -- and 15 days of annual active duty." (source)
In November 1972, Bush finally returned to Houston Texas, but did not report for duty with his home squadron.
In December 1972, Bush inexplicably began working as a counselor with black youngsters in Houston, in a community service stint--often a punishment for offenders who are let off easy. His public criminal record for that period was wiped clean when Bush became governor of Texas and had his driver's license number changed. (Rumors suggest that Bush was either caught with cocaine or for a second drunk driving offense.)
In May 1973, Bush was ordered to serve "nine certain duty days" in person at Ellington Air Force Base in Montgomery between May 22 and June 7; he never showed up. In fact, Bush never returned to duty in Texas; Lt. Col. Hodges said that "If he had come back to Houston, I would have kept him flying the 102 until he got out, but I don't remember him coming back at all."
On July 30, 1973, when he was cleared to go to Harvard, Bush signed a document reading, "It is my responsibility to locate and be assigned to another Reserve forces unit or mobilization augmentation position [in Massachusetts]. If I fail to do so, I am subject to involuntary order to active duty for up to 24 months..." Bush never did so, and therefore disobeyed a direct command and failed to serve duties he swore to uphold.
Upon leaving the Guard in the summer of 1973, Bush was awarded 35 "gratuitous" inactive Air Force Reserve points, which means that he did not attend his duties but was credited with serving anyway. This was not normal, and went directly against the rules at that time. In essence, Bush did not complete his duties, so higher-ups simply gave him credit for the service so he could receive an honorable discharge.
October 1, 1973: Bush is honorably discharged eight months before his duty is scheduled to end.
However, the new evidence, in addition to a great deal of prior evidence, clearly shows that Bush was being given special treatment, that his superiors were being pressured to falsify records, and that he was given far more breaks, promotions, positions and credits than he deserved. All of this proves without question that he very well could have received the honorable discharge without fulfilling his duties, and--as detailed above--he did in fact NOT fulfill his duties on many separate occasions.
Bush has lied about this. His people have lied constantly about this. Which begs the question, what else are they holding back? There are still a great many documents that should exist but which the Bush administration has not yet revealed.
What does all this mean? What relevance does it have? It means that Bush is and was dishonest; that his character is and was unacceptable; and that he cannot be trusted to carry out his responsibilities. If honesty, character, and reliability are important in a president, then all of this is of great importance for voters considering whom to elect to the nation's highest office.
September 04, 2004
Barnes on Bush
Former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes seems to have had a turnaround when it comes to what he did for George W. Bush during the Vietnam War. It is rumored (but not confirmed) that Barnes will appear on the CBS news show "60 Minutes," and tell how he feels now. But for a foreshadowing of that, watch this video of Barnes in front of a crowd, explaining how he feels today about what he did for Bush then. Long story short, he got Bush into the guard because the Bush family had money and influence, and now Barnes is ashamed he helped Bush avoid going to Vietnam. Below is a transcript:
Let's talk a minute about John Kerry and George Bush, and I know them both. And I'm not name-dropping, saying I know both.... I got, I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was lieutenant governor of Texas, and I'm not necessarily proud of that. But I did it, I got a lot of other people in the National Guard because I thought that's what people should do when you're in office, and you helped a lot of rich people. And I walked through the Vietnam memorial the other day, and I looked at the names of the people that died in Vietnam, and I became more ashamed of myself than I have ever been, because it was the worst thing I did, was help a lot of wealthy supporters, and a lot of people who had family names of importance get in the National Guard. And I'm very sorry of that, and I'm very ashamed, and I apologize to you as voters of Texas.The source of the video is here.
August 11, 2004
As Then, Is Now--He Just Learned How to Hide it Better
The photo at right kind of says it all, doesn't it? In a way, that is--there's more to it than just the punch. Bob Harris, over at the This Modern World blog site, explains how:
Incidentally, while rugby is a contact sport, every player knows that tackling above the shoulders is a foul. So is leaving your feet during a tackle. Either of these is serious enough that the other team is immediately awarded a penalty kick, often directly resulting in points for the other team.Of course, this is in line with a lot of other stuff Bush did in college. Arrested twice (once for stealing a holiday wreath from a department store, again for rushing another college's football field and tearing down the goal posts), interviewed in the national press defending the branding (with a red-hot coat-hanger) fraternity pledges, admonishing classmates for wanting to avoid going to Vietnam and then using family connections to do exactly that--lots of stuff of this nature. Gary Trudeau, writer of Doonesbury, was at Yale with Bush and describes him as being cruel back then: "He could also make you feel extremely uncomfortable. He was very good at all the tools for survival that people developed in prep school -- sarcasm, and the giving of nicknames. He was extremely skilled at controlling people and outcomes in that way. Little bits of perfectly placed humiliation."
So even without throwing a punch, Bush is already well outside fair play.
Grasping an opponent by the back of the head and punching him in the face is beyond the pale -- I've watched rugby avidly for years, and I've never seen it during an open-field tackle like this, honest -- and will typically result in a player being immediately sent off.
Bush apologists say that these were "youthful indiscretions," but they do show character; people change a great deal, but many fundamental characteristics will last a lifetime, and Bush has carried some of these principles into his later life, as governor of Texas and as president. For example, while governing Texas, he refused to use his power to grant clemency, particularly in the case of Carla Faye Tucker, who was born-again and was doing good works, and pleaded to Bush for her life. Bush's response? To cruelly mock her in a purse-lipped, falsetto voice, mimicking her saying "Please don't kill me!" Not a youthful indiscretion--this guy is, in truth, fundamentally cruel. Look at a rundown of Bush's pre-presidential record, and see the category, "Bush and Character."
February 05, 2004
Conservatives, it seems, are indignant nowadays because people are actually paying attention to discussion about President Bush's rather inglorious military record. Didn't we dismiss that four years ago, they wonder? No, it might have been dismissed by conservatives, but the question was never answered to satisfaction, and the press pretty much ignored it. That is not, by any measure, a justification for saying that it is irrelevant today. In fact, with Bronze- and Silver Star winner John Kerry looking to be the candidate for the Democratic ticket, Bush's record seems all the more relevant.
While John Kerry, like George W. Bush, was the son of a prominent East Coast family and a Yale graduate, Kerry decided to go to Vietnam the honest way--while Bush, who admonished others to do their duty, got his daddy to pull strings so he could join a celebrity unit of the National Guard, guaranteed never to see combat anywhere. At an age when John Kerry was commanding a fifty-foot gunboat and taking on a Viet Cong soldier, about to fire a rocket at his crew, in personal combat, George W. Bush was sniffing cocaine and then bugging out of service for an entire year or more when they started drug testing in the Guard.
So you can see why, just maybe, Bush's "war" record is fair game again. The question was not resolved, and all the evidence points directly at the conclusion that Bush did indeed go AWOL.
Here are just a few of the facts.
- Bush joined the Texas Air National Guard just 12 days before his student deferment ran out and he would have been eligible for the draft.
- The Guard unit Bush got into was a "celebrity" unit, with sons of two other senators (Bentsen and Towers), sons of oil magnates, and 7 sons of Dallas Cowboys players, among other offspring of powerful and influential people.
- At the time Bush applied, there were 100,000 young men or more on the waiting lists for the National Guard. The wait was usually one and a half years. Bush was accepted into the Texas Guard the very same day he applied.
- Texas Speaker of the House Ben Barnes admitted to receiving a request from a Bush family friend to get Bush into the Guard, and contacted Brig. Gen. James Rose, head of the Texas Air National Guard, to accomplish this.
- Col. Walter Staudt was so eager to take Bush in that he held a special ceremony in which he was photographed swearing Bush in, even though Bush had been sworn in earlier by a captain.
- Bush was accepted for Air Force officer and pilot training despite (a) having no flying experience whatsoever, and (b) scoring an abysmal 25% (the lowest possible passing score) on the pilot aptitude test.
- Bush specifically checked "do not volunteer" for overseas assignment.
- Bush was commissioned as a second lieutenant by "special appointment" by the unit's C.O., despite having no ROTC in college nor having taken the 18 months' of military service or training school--required for any commission except for surgeons.
- Was elevated into the 111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron over a waiting list of far more highly qualified and deserving pilots.
- Bush "volunteered" for action in Vietnam flying the F-102, but was unsurprisingly turned down because he had only 300 hours of flying time, whereas only volunteers with 1,000 hours flying time or more were accepted.
- The plane Bush was trained in, the F-102, was soon thereafter excluded from any active service, something that had been decided before Bush started training in them.
- In April 1972, all overseas and stateside military services started instituting drug testing.
- In May, Bush put in a request to be transfered to an inactive postal Reserve unit in the Alabama Guard. One week later, his request was turned down. Bush remained in Alabama, however, and did not return to Texas as was required.
- In August 1972, Bush was grounded from flying for "failure to accomplish annual medical examination." It is not entirely clear exactly what happened--whether he simply did not attend the exam, or if he attended and failed; Bush's service records are still sealed.
- Usually a Flight Inquiry Board is convened when a pilot is suspended, but none was for Bush, suggesting family connections put the kibosh on an investigation.
- In September 1972, Bush was ordered to start service in an active but non-flying Alabama Guard unit. While Bush and his people swear up and down that he served there, no records can be found of this service, and the base's C.O. at the time, now retired Gen. William Turnipseed said, "To my knowledge, he never showed up... I had been in Texas, done my flight training there. If we had had a first lieutenant from Texas, I would have remembered."
- In November 1972, Bush finally returned to Houston Texas, but did not report for duty with his home squadron.
- In December 1972, Bush inexplicably began working as a counselor with black youngsters in Houston, in a community service stint--often a punishment for offenders who are let off easy. His public criminal record for that period was wiped clean when Bush became governor of Texas and had his driver's license number changed. (Rumors suggest that Bush was either caught with cocaine or for a second drunk driving offense.)
- In May 1973, Bush was ordered to serve "nine certain duty days" in person at Ellington Air Force Base in Montgomery; he never showed up.
- In summer 1973, Bush was awarded 35 "gratuitous" inactive Air Force Reserve points, which means that he did not attend his duties but was credited with serving anyway.
- Bush applies for admission into the University of Texas law school, and is turned down.
- In October 1973, Bush applies for Harvard law school, and is accepted.
- Bush is granted early discharge from the National Guard so he can attend Harvard.
The truth which is revealed in a look at the facts listed above shows that he was far from distinguished in his "service"--that in fact, he was a chickenhawk hypocrite who used family connections to sit out the war and then deserted even that safe and comfy post. It is also of note that Bush scored exactly 25%, the lowest passing score, on his pilot's aptitude test--which seems to suggest that he scored even lower, but was bumped up to the minimum so he could be scooted through. While this is conjecture, Bush's record (both in the Guard and out) is full of suggestive coincidences like this one. In any case--
Bush has no authority--zero, none--to speak as a veteran or for veterans, or to use any such image for his public persona.
I was both surprised, and in a way, not surprised, when I learned today that a co-worker of mine, a Democrat and a very intelligent person, had not even heard that Bush had had any problems in his Vietnam "service." The press covered for Bush in the last election and virtually buried the story. The facts must come out, they must become widely known. Please feel free to re-use and/or reprint this information and distribute it widely. Americans need to know who it is that they're voting for, and who they should most definitely vote against this year.
November 02, 2003
Today, a Chinook helicopter was transporting as many as three dozen troops from the lines of battle--or perhaps I should say, the lines of "post-mission-accomplished-peacekeeping"--for some much needed R&R. Many of these guys signed up for weekend duty, not for the long haul halfway around the world while their families go without, their bank accounts wither, and God knows if their jobs will be there when they get back. Over the city of Fallujah, west of Baghdad, a missile struck the helicopter, and it went down. Thirteen of the men died. Another twenty were injured. Iraqi citizens rushed in on the flash point, shouting anti-American slogans, some grabbing souvenirs.
Maybe Bush will find some way of telling us how this is a good sign. Frankly, I kind of doubt it. Okay, it's cool that people up north like us, that schools are opening and that people have electricity. Fine. That doesn't erase the deaths, the injuries, the cost in blood and money.
To this day, 374 Americans and 51 British troops have died in Iraq. A total of 258 coalition forces have died since Bush's "Mission Accomplished" speech on the aircraft carrier with the flight suit photo-op. (This site does a good accounting of the casualties in Iraq.)
Republicans are trying to tell us that we shouldn't complain, that if we criticize, then we are saying that we want to cut and run. Sorry, but that's bull. Others say that by disparaging the president we are helping our enemies, so we should tone it down. That's even more dangerous bull. This president has claimed that this is his responsibility. Well, responsibility doesn't mean that you just say you're responsible and then everybody admires you for it. What it means is that when you screw up, you take a hit for it. People remember it. People lose trust in you.
The fact is, this president has to be held to account for what he's done. Just because we are where we are, that we have no choice but to stay, that we have to support our troops--does not mean that Bush should be allowed to draw a bye on this one. He screwed up. And we're paying for it. In blood. In escalated terrorist activity. In regional instability. In worldwide scorn. In billions of dollars badly needed at home.
The answer is not to cut and run. The answer is to not have such a dangerously incompetent fool in office. Even if it were necessary to go into Baghdad and take out Hussein, there were better ways of doing it. Getting the facts straight. Garnering support from our allies. Building a real coalition, not the fiction of one despite however many scathing denials come from this failed administration. Having a plan of action and a sound exit strategy. Having sharp vision, not blinded by political gamesmanship. In other words, doing the job right.
Bush never did that. He initially said he would go without the permission of Congress, even laid out legal arguments. Then he said he didn't need international support. Then he went to the U.N., but as he asked for help he also chided and insulted them. Then as he claimed U.N. authority as a reason to go in, he flushed out the weapons inspectors, who were just starting to make progress--to hell with the facts, he had a war and it was on a schedule and he didn't want our troops sitting there waiting too long. And even up to the post-war PR celebrations, he still had no post-war plan, no exit strategy.
This war was not even planned as a war. It was planned as a domestic political campaign. And today, 13 Americans who should have been in Des Moines, Iowa, or wherever, barbecuing, watching their kids grow, making love, living their lives, instead died as their helicopter crashed before jubilant Iraqis. And this president says we have to consider this all as part of a good thing. That it was somehow necessary. That he had good reasons to do it to us.
Many of us were against it from the start, and many trusted the president to do what he knew was right. All of us were betrayed as the man used--no, abused the government for unjust means, for unjust reasons. Taking responsibility means you pay the price for your actions. He was responsible for this. And we are responsible for him and what he has done.
So we stay in Iraq and do the best that we can. We support the troops. And next November, we go and we vote, and if we take our responsibilities seriously, we do anything but to re-elect this unfaithful, irresponsible man to the office he never really earned.
Edit: Updated numbers. Make that 15 men dead in the crash. 376 Americans killed to date.
July 31, 2003
Judgment and Character
You're at a bar on a warm Saturday evening in New England, and there is a group at the table next to you. At least one of the members, a 30-year-old man, is drinking several beers; the young woman next to him, only 17 years of age, is not old enough to drink yet.
They finish their drinks, and head for the exit; you note that the man who had been drinking several beers is fishing his car keys out of his pocket, and you wonder if anyone in his party will stop him from getting behind the wheel. After they leave, you may wonder if they get home in one piece, and wonder at the judgment of the driver--after all, he was not so drunk that he would lose the ability to understand that you don't drive while in that state. You might wonder what kind of person knowingly drives drunk, what kind of character it takes to do that.
You pay the bar tab, and your group's designated driver takes you home; on the way, you see a car pulled over by a policeman on the side of the road. You see that the driver is being given a sobriety test, and you recognize him: it's the guy from the bar. Perhaps there is some justice, you think, but wonder how many times that guy drove drunk before he finally got caught.
The night was Saturday, September 4, 1976, and the driver was a future president of the United States. Bush's passengers were tennis star John Newcombe and his wife, in addition to his underage sister, Dorothy. Bush had indeed, by his own admission, drunk "several beers" before getting behind the wheel. A police officer, Calvin Bridges, reported that Bush was swerving off the road when he pulled him over. Bush failed the sobriety test, and later tested a 1.0 on a blood-alcohol test, just exceeding the legal limit at the time. Maine's legal limit today is 0.8, and had he been arrested today, Bush would have spent two days in jail for having a minor in the vehicle.
Bush received a $150 fine, and his driver's license was suspended in Maine for no less than six months (several reports say two years). Bush, however, went to court to have his license reinstated about a month after his arrest, even though he did not take a rehabilitation course that is required for reinstatement. Although, by later confession, Bush was in his heavy-drinking period that would last until he was about 40, Bush testified in court that he drank only once a month, and had "an occasional beer." The court granted his request remove the suspension on his license.
What is just as questionable as Bush's decision to drive drunk that night with his underage sister in the car is how Bush related this event to the American people while trying to get himself elected to the nation's highest office.
At first, he did not relate this to the American people at all; in fact, he lied about it several times.
In 1998, Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater asked Bush if he had ever been arrested. Bush replied, "After 1968? No."
In November 1999, on Meet the Press with Tim Russert, Bush was asked, "If someone came to you and said, 'Governor, I'm sorry, I'm going to go public with some information.' What do you do?" Bush replied, "If someone was willing to go public with information that was damaging, you'd have heard about it by now. You've had heard about it now. My background has been scrutinized by all kinds of reporters. Tim, we can talk about this all morning."
Also in 1999, Bush told CBS News Correspondent Lee Cowan that there was not any "smoking gun" about unrevealed incidents in his past.
In November 2000, Bush told a press conference that he did not go to court about the DUI, when he in fact did so.
And then there was the infamous 1996 juror incident. At that time, Bush was randomly selected for jury duty. Wanting to make a PR stunt out of it, Bush made a big deal about how he was just an ordinary guy, and of course, he would do his duty and serve on the jury. He claimed to the press that it is "a feeble excuse" to say he's too busy or important. When he was given the forms for jurors to fill out, there is a section where jurors are required to detail prior arrests and court proceedings they experienced. Bush left that section blank. Apparently, the court did not want to bother the governor with such legal niceties, so he was not required to fill it out as everyone else is. But then Bush ran into a bigger snag: by chance, he was assigned to a drunk driving case, and, as a potential juror, he would without doubt be asked, under oath, if he had ever been arrested for drunk driving before.
Time for a feeble excuse to come to the rescue. Bush asked to be dismissed from jury the night before the trial, and was helped by Alberto R. Gonzales, his legal counsel. (Bush later appointed Gonzales to the Texas Supreme Court, and later as a legal counsel in the White House.) The excuse? "It would be improper for a governor to sit on a criminal case in which he could later be asked to grant clemency." Huh? How often was Governor Bush asked to grant clemency for drunk driving? He was obviously taking positive action to hide his past from the public.
During the previous year, Bush had also taken another step to hide his past: On March 31, 1995, George and Laura Bush were given new driver's license numbers; Bush's was #000000005. Bush was born on July 6, 1946, and his license was not near expiration. The reason given for the change was "security," but there was no precedent for Texas governors doing this. The change destroyed the records of his previous license, which would have detailed any arrests. This bears on the many rumors that Bush was also caught DUI in Texas, which would in turn explain why Bush mysteriously performed community service, for Project P.U.L.L., an inner city Houston program for troubled youths, from 1972. There may yet be other arrests we still do not know about.
And when the arrest came out in public, did Bush take full personal responsibility, as he likes to claim that he does?
Heck, no. He lied some more, of course. He started by claiming, "I have always been honest with the American people." Uh, yeah, right. He then turned on the person who released the information, calling it a "dirty trick." The timing of the announcement may have been (albeit a very clumsy "dirty trick"), but the DUI arrest was not. And he even tried a bit of revisionism, claiming that he was not pulled over because of his erratic driving, but rather because he "was driving too slowly." Makes it sound less damaging that way--but nonetheless is just still another lie.
And how did Bush take full personal responsibility for lying to the American people about it for so long? He used his daughters as a publicity shield. He said he wanted "to be a good role model for his daughters." Which, of course, is bogus, because any good parent, especially when it comes to alcoholism, knows that the best way to deal with such things with your children is to be honest and up-front. Of course, this course of action might explain why these same daughters have been repeatedly arrested for underage drinking. It might give Bush an excuse for lying to the people, but it also makes him a bad father.
This is the person we have leading our country, sending our young men and women to die in battle, making decisions that will affect this nation's prosperity and security for decades to come.
July 29, 2003
More (or Less) Character
In order to know a person, you have to look at their defining moments, not their publicity or their hype. Here is another glance at the life of George W. Bush. The idea here is to get a true glimpse of his character; when reading, imagine you know this man, and then consider what you think of his morality, his actions, and his personality.
It is the late 60's, and you are in college, at Yale. One of your schoolmates is a young man from a wealthy family, a frat man, a bit of a jock. His grades are far less than stellar, and the only reason he got into such a prestigious school is because his father went there--a legacy student. (Remember that Bush is opposed to quotas, yet depended on them himself.) In fact, legacy is pretty much how he got into everything at the college, including a highly secretive organization called "Skull and Bones." He is so unimpressive as a student that one teacher, Yale History professor James Hutson, years later, is amazed to hear that Bush had been in one of his seminars, which only had 15 students.
While at school, he is often drunk and rowdy--not too far off the mark for an average low-scoring jock, but he seems to push the limit at times. He is arrested twice--once for helping pull down the goal posts at a football game, and again when he steals a Christmas wreath off a department store window. One evening you see him so inebriated, he lays down in the middle of the street and then literally rolls himself all the way back to his dorm.
As a frat man, his attitudes are not exactly glowing. In an interview with the New York Times, he defends the practice of taking a red-hot coat hanger and using it to "brand" pledges, young men who desperately want to gain entrance. He says that such painful mutilation is acceptable because it was no worse than "only a cigarette burn." (It is not known if Bush himself bears such a scar.)
On the Vietnam War, he is so blind to what people are doing and saying that he does not notice any anti-war activity on campus, despite the fact that it is quite ubiquitous. But he is strongly in support of the war, and believes it is the right thing to do; he also feels that it is important for young American men to do their duty and go to the war.
One schoolmate, Robert Birge, tells him he was thinking about going to Canada. Bush replies, "That's [expletive], that's irresponsible." According to Birge, Bush believe that young men should "back up the country and stop whining."
Soon after that, however, on May 27, 1968, 12 days before Bush's own college deferment runs out, he does not do the "responsible" thing. Instead, he, his family and their business associates lobby to have Bush placed in a "celebrity" unit of the Texas National Guard. Despite a year-and-a-half waiting list, Bush applies and on the same day is accepted into the 147th unit of the Texas N.G. Also in the 147th are the sons of federal and state politicians, sons of wealthy businessmen, and sons of professional sports players (by coincidence, of course). Bush scores only 25% on the piloting aptitude test, but is instantly promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, despite not going through officer candidate school. Bush is trained to fly the F-102 Delta Dagger, a plane that is slated for the scrap heap, reassuring Bush even further that he will not be called to duty in Vietnam.
Bush claims that he signed up for the NG because he wanted to fly for his country, and has repeatedly claimed he was not avoiding the draft. However, this does not explain why he did not sign up for service in the Air Force or the Navy (as his father did), nor why he actively requested not to be sent overseas while in the NG.
And Bush does not even complete his tour of duty. Apparently, he is well into his drug habit as well as being an alcoholic. When the U.S. military institutes universal drug testing to be carried out at the annual physical exam on each soldier's birthday, Bush fails to appear. (Ironically, the Guard used his name in a press release about drug use: "George Walker Bush is one member of the younger generation who doesn't get his kicks from pot or hashish or speed," the release said. Make up your own "...but alcohol and cocaine, on the other hand..." joke here.) From this point on, he goes missing from his duty and continues to be absent until he asks for, and of course is granted, permission to leave the Guard early so he can go to Harvard Business School. (Here are images of documents detailing Bush's absences from the NG post.)
What would you think if you knew someone like this? A privileged kid, family pulling strings to get him into and out of everything, admonishing others for shirking duties and then shirking his own in a far less honest way. The criminal record, the hazings, the hypocrisy. Knowing someone like this personally, would you think he would ever be capable of holding a position of great responsibility? How about being the leader of the free world?
Bush, by the way, is the first President of the United States to enter office with a criminal record. Quite a distinction. But more on his non-"youthful indiscretion" years later.
July 25, 2003
You're in a Mexican diner in Dallas, Texas. You're sitting at a table, eating your dinner quietly. At the next table, there is a a couple eating with their four-year-old son at the table.
Suddenly, another man storms up to the small family. He is apparently drunk, and furious. "You fucking son of a bitch!" he shouts at the father. Everyone stops eating and stares at the man. You cringe when you see the young boy.
"I saw what you wrote," he rants on. "We're not going to forget this." You feel shock at this kind of drunken behavior in a public restaurant. You feel sympathetic fear for the man and his wife, being threatened in such an ominous way, as if the man were a member of organized crime and the family could expect thugs to visit them in the night with baseball bats or something.
You might fear the man who stormed in and raved, you might feel disgusted, angry, or perhaps, if you are more compassionate, you might feel pity.
But would you elect him president?
The above incident did in fact happen. It was early April, 1986. The drunk was George W. Bush, and the man and woman with the child were Wall Street Journal editor Al Hunt and his wife, Judy Woodruff. Hunt had written an editorial in which he predicted that Jack Kemp, not George Bush Sr., would win the GOP presidential nomination in 1988.
Think about this person, think about what he did. Drunk or not, could you ever respect a person who did this kind of thing? If someone you knew did something like that, wouldn't you feel like just not talking to them again? I mean, what kind of person does that kind of thing?
Apologists for Bush try to brush it off as another "youthful indiscretion," because he had a drinking problem then, and has since turned his life around. But his behavior did not really change.
Consider when bush was governor of Texas, long after he quit drinking.
The case concerned a woman named Carla Faye Tucker. Tucker was a convicted killer on death row, but she was also, like George W. Bush himself, a reformed drug addict and a born-again Christian. She plead for clemency, begged for forgiveness.
Bush, however, was not sympathetic. According to Talk magazine writer Tucker Carlson, Bush mimicked Tucker's plea for her life. "'Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, 'Don't kill me.'" (quote from Time Magazine) During the same interview, then-governor Bush reportedly used the word "fuck" repeatedly throughout the conversation.
Again, would you respect a person who did this kind of thing?
Remember when "character" was the issue in politics, according to Republicans and conservatives in general? It was all about character... but not, apparently, now. The Republican Party shut up about character the moment Bush walked in the door, and for a very good reason. He doesn't have any. Most people don't pay attention to what Bush did in his past--but these are not rumors, not fake smear attempts. They are documented facts, and these two are just a small sampling. If most Americans knew exactly who they had allowed take the presidency, they would recoil in disgust.