How history will treat President Bush’s administration won’t be determined for a number of years. Nevertheless, it is a dead-bang certainty that in 2008 syndicated columnists and local editorialists will lose a convenient punching bag in that bashing the president has been a welcome substitute for original journalistic thought or initiative since his 2000 election.
For example, it is impossible to experience a week — day is more accurate — that one is not exposed to the familiar refrain, “Bush lied us into war.” Picked up on by politicos and citizens, this allegation has been repeated so stridently and so often that it is now accepted by many as gospel. But does it pass the test of accuracy? Are people entitled to their own opinions and to their own facts as well?
A review of the last half of the 1990s reveals several facts that are largely ignored by today’s media and members of Congress. In 1998 — before the Bush presidency if my arithmetic is correct, — President Clinton, Secretary of State Albright, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Rockefeller and Sens. Kerry, Daschle and Levin were among many who concluded from available intelligence that Saddam Hussein not only possessed and manufactured weapons of mass destruction but also constituted a threat to the United States.
This bipartisan concurrence evolved from Saddam’s previous employment of WMDs and from the data collected and evaluated by the intelligence networks of England, France, Germany, Russia and Israel. Although a case — and perhaps a good one — can be made that this intelligence was flawed, the inference and outright accusal that it was fabricated solely to invade Iraq is but an exercise in pandering to those either unable or unwilling to confront reality. A lie results from one relating something he or she knows to be untrue, but no lie exists when one acts on information believed factual by virtually all of the principals.
Next on the agenda of Pavlovian anti-Bush sentiment is the claim of invasion of privacy in the “unconstitutional” intercepts of telephonic or electronic traffic between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in Syria, Iran, Yemen or other areas decidedly hostile to U.S. interests. The right to privacy is indeed an inalienable one; however, with but one exception which is now under appeal, the appellate courts have held that the Constitution provides that the office of the president is the instrument for conduct of foreign policy and that in the interests of national security, communication between U.S. citizens and foreign nationals may be intercepted.
This means of surveillance has been employed by all presidents from Jimmy Carter through Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton to the present occupant and, each time the question was raised, the courts have sided with the Executive Branch. The federal government is not eavesdropping on Aunt Lizzie exchanging sweet-potato-pie recipes but is engaged in providing for the common defense. To intimate otherwise in blind hatred or for political gain is foolish — the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
My last example of the Always Blame Bush syndrome is the knee-jerk reaction to Hurricane Katrina’s damage. One never hears of Katrina without the accompanying howls of “Bush incompetence” by the administration’s critics — but, how is it that those responsible as first responders, the mayor and governor, were for all practical purposes nonexistent and were given a pass for their indifference and inaction? In comparison, the other Gulf states, Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, historically have planned and executed first-responder responsibilities without embarrassing themselves.
The public can and will draw its own conclusions, but when the dust clears, the name-calling ends and the warts are balanced against the positives, history may well paint a different picture of this presidency.
J. Karl Miller retired as colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Columbia resident and can be reached via e-mail at JKarlUSMC@aol.com.