Social and Political Commentary

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Where has the "compassion" been hiding?

...a view on the early days of the Bush Administration

by Jackie Wattenberg

I'm torn between feeling sorry for President Bush and being angry at him.

I'm sorry because he must know that Letterman, Leno and the rest are making fun of his brainpower. Even school children are telling funny jokes about him. And then there's his grammar -- or lack of it. He was roundly scorned for saying in all of the media how pleased he was to have Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain coming to see him. "I'm looking forward to having dinner with he and his wife," he said with his constant smile.

Maybe his librarian wife corrected him on that one.

But I'm angry with him too. He acts with such pride and confidence in his disputed, sliver-thin victory in Florida and hasn't begun one step to correct the flaws in our election system. Even his quick-draw friend Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris spoke openly on TV recently of correcting her state's flawed system, declaring, with less makeup and chutzpah, that the punch-type ballots would never be used in Florida again.

As a candidate who spoke constantly about the right of every child to get a good education so that "no child will fall in the cracks," he hasn't gotten very far in that goal. Money for more testing and records of accountability, and making sure that the states, not the federal government, will make all the decisions on how to improve their school grades, hasn't provided money for the easiest way to improve the grades of children -- money for more teachers so class size can be slashed. Fewer children in a classroom has proven the best way to gain the results he spoke so fervently about in his long campaign.

I'm sorry that so many pundits say that Cheney is the behind-the-screen president, so long as his heart holds out. Didn't he know that Cheney had a weak voting record as well as a weak heart, and his heart lacked warmth for police safety, so he voted in Congress against a ban on cop-killer bullets? He also lacked the heart to issue a strong statement from our government for South Africa to release Nelson Mandela from prison? Well, I'm sorry if Cheney is rumored to be the head honcho, it must make George Dubya feel insecure. But he really should have chosen someone with more heart, not one of his Daddy's frontrummers.

There are lots of folks who are happy that he's trying to revive Reagan's Star Wars missile system, even though serious, informed people have maintained that earlier assessments showed it impossible. Who are they who are cheering for it? The military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so earnestly warned us about. A Republican, a warrior, a beloved American, Eisenhower's words have been mysteriously ignored.

Along with Star Wars, Bush and Cheney and his other advisors seem to be bringing back something we hoped was over forever -- the Cold War. He slighted South Korea's leader by holding onto a tough stance with North Korea, insists we must stand tough against Communist Cuba but be open-minded and open-hearted with Communist China. Maybe that's because China's record of executions is even higher than his own as governor of Texas.

And he has said nothing and done nothing about a national disgrace, homelessness in the richest country in the world, in a time of darned good prosperity, even though he prefers to downgrade it. Clinton didn't do much either, but where is Bush's "Compassionate" conservatism here? I think he perhaps should increase the military budget and go after Star Wars -- after the last homeless person is off the street.

And about that happy tax cut -- people all over the op-ed pages and on talk shows are showing that it will give more that 40% of the goodies to our billionaires and millionaires -- just one percent of our very richest, who don't know how thay can handle any more wealth, having already three or four glorious homes all over the globe. What about the homeless?

I'll hardly mention your manly stance on Free Choice for women -- I get too hot under my lace collar hearing MEN telling women that the cannot be in control of their own bodies. Even Laura Bush, bless her heart, let it slip that she was Pro Choice. I say, let a man take this stern stand only if he's willing to take on a pregnancy himself, carry that baby for sometimes difficult nine months, accept the agonizing delivery and then take care of that baby for the next 19 or 20 years.

Otherwise, George ought to take back his ban or aid to countries' organizations that offer family planning including abortions in places where women often bear nine or more children, unable to feed half of them. George should listen to his wife on this one.

Yes, I'm sort of sorry for George, ribbed about his brainpower. But I'm angry that he hasn't shown the "Compassion" he wore around his chest when he campaigned. Is it too late?

April 2, 2001

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