Less Safe/Less Free
George W. Bush often jokes that trading Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs when he was an owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team was his biggest professional mistake. The latest Bush trade, freedom for security, makes even less sense. Americans are now both less safe and less free. It would appear that Bush has a slow learning curve, assuming that he cared about liberty when he made the trade. He didn't.
Owners of professional sports teams do a lot of crazy things. In 1920, the owner of the Boston Red Sox traded Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees for $125,000 in cash. Generations of Red Sox fans since have lived with the curse of the Bambino. Robert Irsay left Baltimore for Indianapolis with the Colts under the cover of darkness. Private ownership allows for such acts of foolishness and cowardice, regardless of how fans cherish "their" teams. But, don't American presidents have a better track record of protecting our cherished liberty? Sorry, ego and self-interest are not confined to sport.
American presidents have been unabashed at pimping American liberty. Bill Clinton used FBI files to gather information on members of the opposition party. The senior Bush played an integral role in Iran-Contra, lied about it, and then pardoned his accomplices. Ronald Reagan allowed the AIDS virus to grow unchecked because he associated it with private sexual activity that he opposed. Jimmy Carter had a penchant for keeping secrets about domestic surveillance and nuclear power. Richard Nixon unleashed a wave of domestic surveillance on critics and so-called "enemies." Gerald Ford responded to the Watergate scandal and Nixon's resignation by vetoing the bill aimed at strengthening the Freedom of Information Act, calling it "unconstitutional and unworkable." The bill passed over his veto. Lyndon Johnson allowed young men, not old enough to drink alcohol in most states, to be drafted into a war that would kill hundreds of thousands. He did so knowing that America's military and political objectives could not be met. John Kennedy used Mayor Daley's Chicago political machine to cement his electoral victory in 1960. Dwight Eisenhower, who knew both the horror of war and the military-industrial complex dependent on it, let his words speak louder than his actions when he let Americans lose their personal freedoms. Harry Truman criticized the House Un-American Activities Committee but allowed his own administration to promote the idea that America was infiltrated by Communists bent on destroying America. Franklin Roosevelt imprisoned Japanese-Americans because of their ancestry. You get the point.
George W. Bush is not the first president to cheat liberty and he will not be the last. However, being an extremist, Bush now wants to change the world order. Until now, America has held its premier position in the world by promoting the ideals of both security and liberty, in theory if not in practice. We may be the strongest and richest country, secured by the greatest military power, but we have been a paternalistic superpower. If countries obey us, we bestow our favor upon them. We'll even let them trash talk a little to appeal to local nationalism, as long as they do not threaten our hegemony. Extremists in the Mideast have declared jihad against America, and Bush has responded by threatening pre-emptive war on a sovereign country and putting a rein on liberty in his own country. The American Empire meets insubordination, domestic or international, with an iron heel. We saw it in the inner cities in the 1960s and we are seeing it today. Just as his father coddled South American dictatorships, Bush is happy to take into the fold democracies in name only. NATO no longer requires democratic principles of its new members, just subordination to America's will. Bush has the moral character of a Mafia Don.
I fear Bush's America. I fear that after Bush, Americans may no longer remember the meaning of liberty. What will be America's future if liberty is not our guiding principle? Liberty that exists only at the discretion of a paternalistic oligarchy is no liberty at all.