A Uniter, Not a Divider
27 May 2001
"I am a uniter, not a divider." How many times did George Bush mouth this lie during the 2000 presidential campaign?
The decision of Jim Jeffords to leave the Republican Party bears truth to that lie. In his own words, a life-long Republican, a 12-year Republican Senator holding "the longest continuously held Republican seat in history," a man who became a congressional Republican in 1975, choose to "leave the Republican Party and become Independent" because the Bush administration and Trent Lott would not give him the freedom to "best represent [his] state of Vermont, [his] own conscience and principles [he has] stood for [his] whole life." I am not surprised at Jeffords's actions. Nor am I surprised at the heavy-handed politics on the part of the Bush administration that led to his decision.
The Bush campaign was based on lies. It should not be a surprise that his presidency is likewise based on lies. Candidate Bush told Americans that Washington was a mess, a mass of gridlock, and that his people skills would fix their capital. Candidate Bush promised to change the tone of government if elected. Candidate Bush promised voters that he would work with Democrats to build a consensus. Candidate Bush told voters in the fall of 2000 that "no child will be left behind." None of this was true.
President Bush took office despite losing the popular vote and proceeded to promote an agenda that was far more conservative than the one he campaigned on. As president, he rewarded individuals and groups instrumental in the "Get Clinton Movement" (e.g., Ted Olson and Jim Rogan) who were largely responsible for much of the negative tone in Washington. President Bush did not work with Democrats to forge a consensus, and he tried to use force and intimidation to get moderate Republicans in line with a conservative agenda that went against their principles. Political operatives subjected the reputations of independent-minded Republicans like John McCain, Colin Powell, and Jeffords to negative attacks. There is no compassion to Bush's conservatism. If there were, Jim Jeffords would still be a Republican.
Candidate Bush promised a tax cut and President Bush will deliver one. Was that a lie? Yes. Candidate Bush told voters America needed a tax cut because the taxpayers were owed a refund. President-elect Bush told Americans that they needed a tax cut because a weakening economy required a stimulus. President Bush told Americans they needed a tax cut to pay for increasing energy costs. The truth: the Bush tax cut was always designed to redistribute wealth in America from the middle class to the wealthiest Americans and to force future cuts in federal spending. Shame on the national media for letting Bush tell these lies. Shame on all of us for letting the tax cut pass.
I admit that I take pleasure from seeing yet another right-wing Republican revolution die a quick death. Similar to the demise of Gingrich's Contract with America, the loss of Senate control under Bush-Cheney-Lott was self-inflicted. Alas, despite this small victory for progressives, real Americans will suffer for years to come from the Bush-Cheney presidency. Any pleasure I take is short lived.
Bush and Cheney also promised that they would run the White House like a corporation. Sadly, they confused promptness, discipline, and their own self-interest for success. Bush and Cheney are use to a revolving door between the highest levels of government and corporate boardrooms. Success to George and Dick is a world where the few reap the benefits while small shareholders, employees, and voters are disenfranchised. Both Bush and Cheney made windfalls (with the Texas Rangers and Halliburton) when the private enterprises they led bilked the government to fund their profit taking.
Corporations, well-run ones anyway, should be sustained through success. The Bush-Cheney White House was as over promoted as some of the dot-com companies Wall Street took public. Investors, as opposed to speculators, look for a return on their investment over the long term. A CEO sits on a stool with three legs: shareholders, workers, and customers or clients. In a free market (at least in theory), all three legs must be solid. If their needs are not met, they vote with their feet and leave. CEO Bush sits upon a stool that our founding fathers built 214 years ago. The three legs are the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch. Bush and, to use Senator McCain's term, the Republican apparatchiks believed that they could tilt all three legs to the right without the consent of the American people. Why? Arrogance and the knowledge that without popular support for their agenda they either had to force their will or reach out and build a consensus. They choose force. They choose to abuse power.
There is a lesson here for those on the left that would abuse power without consensus. Often in America, a lone voice has spoken in the face of the abuse of power. Let's hope America hears the voice of Jim Jeffords.
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