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Is Our Children Learning?

by Paul Begala

 

Paul Begala calls George W. Bush "a man who presents the thinnest, weakest, least impressive record in public life of any major party nominee for the presidency this century. A man who at every critical juncture has been propelled upward by the forces of wealth, privilege, status and special interests who would use [the Bush family name] for their private gain." Texas law, according to Begala, gives little power to the governor—the lieutenant governor has more power. Bush spent much of his workday during his short career as governor napping and playing video games. According to Harper's Index, Bush spent about 40 percent of his first seven months in the presidency on vacation or traveling to and from vacations. The Washington Monthly reports Bush did not fill the Pentagon's top anti-terrorism post till September 15, 2001. The Bush administration spent the months prior to September 11, 2001 helping OPEC, rolling their eyes at old-think moralists who put individuals above oil and wealth, pretending those working to annihilate us are our friends. Bush is ultraconservatism's way of saying thanks for all the blessings the wealthy received from this nation's citizens--thanks, as in, screw almost everyone else.

 

Bush had over half a century to prepare for the presidency, yet redistributing wealth to the least deserving was what he came up with.

 

Begala writes "honor and integrity" Bush lied under oath about interfering with the investigation of a campaign contributor. (To be fair, Bush does have honor and integrity. Honor is merely respect and admiration. Integrity is simply living up to your own standards, no matter how horrific. Nothing ethical is guaranteed from either. Those committing honor murders have honor and integrity, yet horrible character.)

 

Much of Is Our Children Learning? overemphasizes George W. Bush's poor speaking performances. Begala argues that since Bush mangles sentences when not reading from scripts, Bush is "dumb." Big deal. Many smart individuals mangle language. Off the cuff grammar has little to do with intelligence or presidential qualifications. Nerdy, verbally impaired geniuses abounds. Begala does not see the craftiness of Bush. Begala documents a litany of clever lies, crooked practices and, worst of all, vile policies, yet Begala attributes it to stupidity, not poor character.

 

Politicians play folksy for many reasons: When they do something wrong, defenders attribute it to lack of intelligence rather than rotten motives. They can play the victim of advisers. When they do popular actions, spin experts attribute them to good motives rather than tricks to gain votes. When they pursue unpopular actions, spin experts attribute it to failed intelligence rather than trickery. Many individuals believe misbehavior does not count as much if individuals plead ignorance, no matter willful. Bush's advisers allege that Bush is not his own "fact witness," in other words, Bush is not responsible for what Bush says. They plead "common sense." when they sell policies on the repetition of fatuous slogans, few excoriate them because little is expected. They can pretend they know nothing about "Oppo"or other machinations. They get citizens to believe the buck stops someplace else.

 

George W. Bush strikes me as a friendly, intelligent man, yet lazy, ruthless, and willfully oblivious. It's his character. His character stinks worse than the rottenest Houston dumpster in July. A smart person might support harmful tax shifts, but a good moral thinker would not. Bush gave the death penalty to individuals convicted solely on single eyewitness testimony. He gave death to those with incompetent defense attorneys. He supported the execution of the mentally challenged and those with coerced confessions, not to mention those convicted based on criminal informants who lie to get a deal. Those are all character defects.

 

Two lists of "outrages:"

·        Paula Jones

·        Whitewater

·        Gennifer Flowers

·        travelgate

·        didn't inhale

·        Vince Foster

·        Monica Lewinsky

·        draft dodging

·        Ron Brown

·        Kathleen Willey

·        cattle futures

·        LA haircut

·        Jaunita Broaddrick

·        foreign contributors

·        Lincoln bedroom

·        dialing for dollars

·        invented the Internet

·        discovered Love Canal

·        plowed on farm during summers

·        trashed White House

 

Number two:

·        drunk driving

·        coke addiction

·        Alabama AWOL (Bush alleges that he served with the Alabama Guard. Military officers claim Bush never showed up for duty.)

·        influence peddling (Selling stock for far more than it was worth while the elder Bush was in office so investors could gain access to oil reserves.)

·        Criminal insider trading (Selling stock from a failing public company without filing required reports that would let other investors know the company was failing. Insider trading and influence peddling are far worse crimes than oral sex. Unchecked insider trading and influence peddling can destroy economies.)

·        depends how you define perjury

·        Ranger scam (property theft for the Texas Rangers.)

·        friends in sky high places (Begala argues that Bush’s test scores were too low to enter the Air National Guard; Texas legislator Ben Bernes pulled strings to get Bush into the Guard.)

·        National Archives gate

·        kleptocracy-gate

 

Which scandals were more widely known? Must be the "liberal" media. And the last five "scandals" in the first column are fabrications. On the other hand, the democrats had plenty of other pro-rich, anti-worker scandals ignored by both Republican and Democratic media outlets.

 

Bush's other "accomplishments": (1) From the beginning of his administration, helped slow Jihad on behalf of oil interests and defense contractors; (2) poor economic growth; (3) practiced lots of restraint with individuals engaged in evil to maintain short-term stability. Bush is unwilling to punish powerful allies for their crimes, yet regularly uses guile and force on morally good individuals; (4) urged new oil drilling because individuals in the future obviously will not need the oil; (5) protected and expanded harmful subsidies; (6) failed to stimulate economy with adequate short-term tax cuts or spending; (6) failed to reform tax entitlements.

 

Bush's accomplishments:

·        Improved relations with India.

·        Successfully pushed the button on the bull horn.

 

George W. Bush is fairly easy to figure. If it benefits him or his allies or both, he is for it. Inside the rhetoric part of Bush's brain you see compassion, humble servant, and just one of the boys. Inside the policy part you see ruthlessness. Lenin was badly mistaken about almost everything important. Bush won’t sell the rope that hangs himself and his friends. He will buy and sell the ropes that hang others.

 

But much of Begala's argument is sloppy. Begala berates Bush for saying he would defend Taiwan, which overturns decades of US “strategic ambiguity" on the issue. But strategic ambiguity gave Sadam the green light to invade Kuwait. Or at least the yellow light. Ambiguity lets rulers think the can get away with almost anything. If defending Taiwan from attack is not worth the cost and you have no intention of defending Taiwan, it still doesn't hurt to say you will defend Taiwan. Ambiguity can serve some grand strategists in some situations but not the Taiwan situation. Despite Bush's claimed support for Taiwan, much of the ambiguity remains because Bush's words regularly contradict his actions.

 

Bush said: "Intelligence is can you think logically." Begala replies, "it's a very thin standard, making no mention of creativity, which is at the heart of intelligence. Computers, after all, are logical. But they aren't intelligent." Both are wrong. Intelligence and logic are distinct. The differences between computer logic and informal logic are colossal.

 

"Bush said some individuals choose to be uninsured." That happens to be true. I choose to be uninsured because I can't afford insurance. Begala excoriates Dow for pursuing limits on lawsuits. Begala does not mention that Dow pushed for limits on lawsuits because billions in junk science breast implant lawsuits bankrupted Dow Corning. Begala often resorts to wasteful Marxian and liberal bromides on spending.

 

Bush claims he never paid much attention to long-term consequences. In this case he should be taken at his word. His act is a prescription for long-term failure.

 

In the long term view—between now and billions of years from now—there will probably be nuclear weapons exploded in population centers. Other weapons of mass destruction will be used. There will be more genocides and more plagues. Billions will die in natural disasters. The task for individuals with moral character is preventing evils and creating multitudes of moral goods, tasks for which the intelligence first, religion first, and power first groups are ill-equipped.

Book review article by JT Fournier, last updated July 27, 2009

 

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