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Thursday, February 7, 2008

An Appraisal on the Bush Presidency – Part III

It has been alleged that George Bush tampered with the election results in 2000 during his race against Al Gore. I understand the suspicion, because the final state to have its votes tallied happened to be Florida, where his brother Jeb is the governor. As you may recall, it was not until December 13, 2000 that Gore conceded the presidential election to Bush, ending an election that should have been over five weeks earlier. The American public will probably never know what happened in Florida on election night; however, despite the dubious activity that took place, there has been no proof that Bush ‘stole’ the election. Plus, if Gore had won his home state of Tennessee, Florida would not have been an issue.

I don’t think we’ll ever know if Bush stole Florida in 2000, but one thing is certain, there has been a trail of dishonesty that has followed his administration from the time he took his initial oath of office. It has been said that all Presidents lie, and if this is true, then George Bush is simply one more in a parade of presidential perjurers who have deceived the public. In fact, every President going back to Lyndon Johnson was involved in policies that deceived the American public; with the exceptions of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter:

  • Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin;
  • Richard Nixon lied about Watergate and then conspired to cover it up;
  • Ronald Reagan lied about Iran Contra and conspired with his vice president, George H.W. Bush, in the October Surprise where they negotiated a deal with Iran to delay the release of the hostages until after the 1980 elections;
  • George H.W. Bush lied about “no new taxes;” and
  • Clinton lied about his illicit relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky.

If there is any truth to the saying that 'birds of a feather flock together,' then George W. Bush is right at home with his predecessors, with the only difference between he and his colleagues is that he seems to have rewritten the playbook on presidential deceit. It is ironic that he has a prominent position on the Mount Rushmore of presidential dishonesty, considering the fact that many of his supporters claimed he was bringing integrity back to the White House. The Bush presidency has been the most furtive of any administration in the 20th Century, and his lack of candor to the American people is astonishing.

One week after his first inauguration, Bush signed an Executive Order that created the National Energy Policy Development Group. The task force, also known as the Cheney Energy Task Force, was made up of executives from the oil industry, and it produced a national energy policy report in May 2001. Despite numerous demands by special interest groups, including the impartial General Accounting Office, the task force has refused to disclose the report to the public. This is particularly troubling since gas prices and other energy costs have skyrocketed since the task force was created.

What is so confidential about the energy taskforce’s report that the Bush administration continues to refuse to make public? Certainly if sections of the report need to be kept secret as a matter of national security, that’s understandable, but it is difficult to fathom that an entire energy report needs to be classified. There may not be any state secrets in the task force’s report. However, refusing to make it public may suggest that President Bush is embarking upon a new road where the President is not accountable to anyone including Congress; which would be a striking departure from previous administrations. To buttress this theory, the Bush White House has classified more documents than any other administration since WWII.

One of the most important policies of the Bush Administration is his Iraq War. This war, we were told, was necessary, because Saddam Hussein was vigorously pursuing an atomic weapon’s program and would be willing to launch a nuclear attack against the United States or one of its allies. This report was bolstered by a speech given to the United Nations by, then Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Powell urged the administration to obtain support from the U.N. prior to launching its offensive against Saddam. However, he did not realize until after the fact that his speech, written by Vice-President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, contained dubious intelligence regarding Saddam’s quest to obtain weapon’s grade nuclear material from Niger known as yellow cake.

The theme of the yellow cake acquisition was not only forcefully presented in Powell’s speech to the U.N, but President Bush also made it the centerpiece of his 2003 State of the Union Address. This is highly disturbing, considering the fact that the CIA had already discounted this intelligence report as false (see former CIA director George Tenet’s statement on this issue). But what is more disturbing is that it appears that the WMD diversion and the alleged link between Saddam and bin Laden were smokescreens to obtain public support to overthrow Saddam; a foreign policy goal that the Bush Administration had developed prior to the September 11th terrorist attacks.

Now, after nearly $500 billion, 4,000 America lives and 50,000 Iraqi lives, no series public official, Democratic or Republican, will testify that Saddam had a WMD program or was in anyway linked to the September 11th bombing. So public support for the War in Iraq hinged on the feedback from an unreliable source in the intelligence community; however, according to the Downing Street Memo, senior officials from the Prime Minister’s office believed that Bush had already formulated his intention to overthrow Saddam in early 2001.

The secret memo recorded the head of MI6 (British equivalent of the CIA) as expressing the view following his recent visit to Washington that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

The Downing Street Memo was leaked to the Sunday Times and was first published on May 1, 2005. It is considered by many to be the smoking gun of an alarming abuse of presidential power; especially when one attempts to reconcile Bush’s public comments concerning the buildup towards war in Iraq with the facts of the secret memo. In a March 8, 2003 Radio Address President Bush is quoted saying, “We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force.” However, the memo quotes the head of the MI6 as saying, “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.

The bigger issue is not that George Bush fixed the facts and intelligence around a pre-September 11th policy to invade Iraq, but why was an Iraq invasion important to his administration. Since the “why” question is beyond the scope of our current subject, I will address it in a subsequent article. However, the Downing Street Memo demonstrates an unprecedented betrayal of the public trust by the President of the United States.

…to be continued

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