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Thursday, October 07, 2004

The emperor has no clothes

On November 2nd Americans will go to the polls and hold an election. Hopefully this time the votes will be counted but alarm bells ring when we hear the Governor of Florida ridicule former President, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, and all around good guy Jimmy Carter's concerns about the electoral process in Florida. This is particularly distressing because Mr. Carter has overseen and certified dozens of elections all over the world and is recognized as an eminent authority on holding fair elections! Given Florida's inability to hold fair elections last time around Jeb Bush would better devote his time (1) consulting with Mr. Carter on how to hold elections, (2) explaining butterfly ballots to senior citizens in his state, or (3) checking state rolls to make sure floridians are not being illegally disenfranchised. We absolutely want freedom for the Iraqui and Afghani people, for all people's really, but we also want to be free to vote in the US.

Americans by now have had nearly four years of George W. Bush's service as president. As he is an incumbent we can benefit from consulting his track record in weighing if his performance makes him deserving of four more years.

Nobody believes that being president of the United States of America is an easy task. We understand, Mr. Bush, that, as you so often reminded us during the first presidential debate, "'s hard work." But, when we elect our president we privilege that individual by depositing our collective trust in him to act in our best interests.

Because George W. Bush is an incumbent the first question, even before looking at possible alternatives, is if he interprets and executes our wishes appropriately. Unfortunately, it often seems that this President and his administration fail to realize that they work for us. They don't appear interested in hearing from us on what we wish for them to do and this makes the job, yes, harder than it need be. Rather, this President seeks to minimize contact with us and limit accountability for the actions undertaken. He has held the fewest press conferences of any sitting president in recent memory and when he actually meets with a select few of us (I stress he is working for us- he is our "public servant") he does so in carefully scripted, tightly controlled and pre-packaged townhall meetings open to those in agreement with and supportive of the president. Then when he, and his vice-president, are forced to debate on, and yes even defend, THEIR track record and future plans for US they seem peeved and unhappy. They emit a "how dare we have to stand up here and talk to these other pretenders to the throne" vibe all the while making faces. During the first presidential debate George Bush, public servant number one, visibly appeared to resent providing answers and defending his record in keeping us safe. Meanwhile, his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, on numerous issues simply refused to provide any answers as opposed to other issues where he simply answered questions of his own imagination (Mr. Cheney, the question was about AIDS in the US not Africa! the question was about JOBS!). The President and his team apparently believe that "democracy" is an exercise we undertake every four years while during the rest of the time we blindly follow their directives. Lucky for us we know that in reality democracy is a constant process where they follow us!

September 11, 2001 was a very bad day for americans. I am not as sure as the President and Vice-President, however, that because of September 11 everything must change. There were terrorist attacks on the US before September 11 and there will surely be attacks afterwards. Its not always popular being top dog. A lot of things have had to change and a lot more will continue to change. Yet life goes on despite September 11 and I still check to see if the Red Sox won last night, or Bob Dylan is still on the "never-ending" tour just like I did on September 10. There is little doubt that September 11, 2001 represents a huge failure of the government to keep us safe. I do not think much is accomplished by debating wether we should blame one administration or another. Yet however painful it may be for the administration to acknowledge the attack of September 11 happened under George W. Bush's leadership. A lot has happened since September 11th. Sometimes it seems another lifetime and sometimes I am a bit fatigued thinking back on all that has happened. But one of the things I believe we must do in deciding wether to reelect George Bush is look back at his response to September 11.

There is no doubt that attacking the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was the appropriate response given the fact the Taliban was providing safe-haven to Al Qaeda terrorists that attacked us (Mr. Bush, and I know you probably know this but just in case, the mastermind of September 11 WAS Osama Bin-Laden NOT Saddam Hussein). However, there is also little doubt that George W. Bush has been unable to bring Osama Bin-Laden to justice. The man who masterminded the attacks on us is at large. This constitutes failure. The inability to bring to justice the man responsible for killing 3000 citizens and destroying the lives of tens of thousands more is the second biggest failure of the Bush administration. Again, Mr. Bush, we understand its "...hard work" but thats why you get to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and drive around in fancy cars! Currently, opinion on the success of the war in Afghanistan is divided. The Bush administration emphasizes that Afghanistan is free, that women are free to go to school, that the Taliban has been destroyed, and that Afghanistan is about to hold democratic elections for President for which more than 10 million afghanis have registered to vote including millions of women. Some observers however point out that large sections of Afghanistan are under the control of warlords that in the past were sympathetic to or openly allied with the Taliban. Others mention that the number one afghani export consists of poppies used to make illegal drugs- heroin- sold to, among others, our people. Still others point to the fact that many international development non governmental organizations have left Afghanistan citing security concerns, or that the President of Afghanistan's helicopter was nearly blown up on a recent attempt to campaign outside of Kabul while the Vice President was very nearly killed this week, as ominous signs that a battle still rages. Regardless, it is clear that the Taliban are in hiding, and that President Bush has been able to somewhat internationalize efforts to rebuild Afghanistan and this must be recognized.

Yet one wonders what happened to the "we will hunt them down in their caves and kill them" cowboy spiel we used to get from the President.

to be continued/updated/edited

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