The final question of the Oct. 8 presidential debate was addressed to President George W. Bush by a woman named Linda Grabel: “Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it.” After informing the audience of what Linda was really getting at—the War in Iraq—the president talked for a couple of minutes without naming one real mistake.
I can’t deny that I sometimes revel in watching Bush make a fool of himself in front of millions. However, after watching Bush in another display of stupidity in the second debate, I thought I’d lend him a helping hand this time. I can easily think of three wrong decisions the president made, without even mentioning the war. The difficulty is in picking which ones because there are so many to choose from.
I’d say Bush has much to learn about “how this world works.” Bush is the president that asked the former Brazilian president, “Do you have blacks here too?” and called Africa “a nation that suffers from incredible disease” (in fact, Africa is a continent, made up of many nations). This ignorance, coupled with arrogance, has been reflected heavily in international relations, an area where Bush has made many mistakes. For example, Bush has repeatedly weakened years of collective effort by walking away from international treaties, such as the land mine treaty signed by 142 nations, the international women’s rights treaty signed by 177 other countries and the international criminal court, which he actually unsigned, to the dismay of many human rights organizations. While Bush has named the anti-proliferation of nuclear weapons in rogue states as his main priority, he refuses to hold the United States to the same standard. This presents obvious obstacles in getting other nations to comply. In addition, in his four years in office, the president has overthrown three governments—yes, three, including the less publicized incident in Haiti, where Bush removed the democratically elected leader. Bush has severely wounded the international reputation of the United States.
Bush has also made critical mistakes concerning the environment. He abandoned the Kyoto Protocol which committed 37 industrialized nations to reduction in gas emissions. The agreement sought about a 33 percent mandatory reduction in emissions for the United States, the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions. Bush instead unveiled his plan offering businesses incentives to achieve an estimated 4.5 percent voluntary reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 10 years. In Friday’s debate Bush stated, “I’m a good steward of the land. The quality of the air’s cleaner since I’ve been the president. Fewer water complaints since I’ve been the president.” One of Bush’s first actions as president was to increase the allowable level of arsenic in drinking water. While it’s true the air has gotten cleaner over the last 30 years, Bush has weakened the very root of this improvement, The Clean Air Act. Instead, Bush has the Clear Skies plan, that dramatically increases the levels of dangerous toxins allowed.
Bush has imposed violations on the civil liberties of Americans through the Patriot Act, which he wishes to expand through Patriot II, rather than re-examine, as suggested by the ACLU and the American Library Organization. Without a warrant or probable cause, the FBI has power to access your private medical records, your library records, your e-mail and your student records, and it can prevent anyone from telling you it was done.
Bush made a clear mistake in not pushing for renewal of a ban on assault weapons. There are many more Americans worrying about being gunned down in the streets than about being attacked with nuclear or chemical weapons.
Bush also made mistakes in the high level of secrecy in his administration. He has taken steps to tighten the government’s hold on information and limit public scrutiny of its activities, using restrictive views of the Freedom of Information Act, increasing use of national security classification and resisting investigations. In 2002, the president stated, “I’m the commander—see, I don’t need to explain.... That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
This is a president who doesn’t feel accountable to the American people or to the rest of the world. This sentiment was once again made clear through his refusal to acknowledge weakness in the second debate. Any great leader can acknowledge weakness and learn from mistakes. It is clear that Bush is not a great leader, nor has he learned anything over these past four years.
While campaigning for the presidency in 2000, Bush made a foreshadowing statement, one I hope you’ll keep in mind when you head for the polls Nov. 2: “I don’t know whether I’m going to win or not. I think I am. I do know I’m ready for the job. And, if not, that’s just the way it goes.”
Amelia Herbert is a Trinity senior.
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