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In the months following the 9/11 attacks, President George Bush rallied the country together masterfully, infusing Americans with confidence and conviction. For a candidate who had squeaked into office with the barest of margins, it was his finest hour in office.
But as Bush completes nearly two years in office, I am less and less certain he has what it takes to lead. His term in office may well go down as one of the worst in American history.
Well before the terrorist attacks, Bush had made clear the kind of president he was going to be. With the unilateral withdrawal from arms control treaties, and the rejection of the Kyoto environmental accords, the message was: We are the world’s dominant superpower, and we will do what we jolly well please.
In the summer of 2001, greedy energy companies created artificial shortages and jacked up prices to unprecedented levels. Western consumers were bled dry for an entire season, but the oilmen in office stood by the sidelines and refused to intervene. It took Enron’s implosion and subsequent media focus to reveal the nexus between the administration and unscrupulous energy interests.
All that was put on the backburner after 9/11, when the country united to battle terrorism. But today, the international outpouring of goodwill and support America once commanded has largely been squandered. On the international front, America stands increasingly isolated because of the Cowboy-in-Chief’s penchant for unilateral action.
While his father went to war against Iraq only after marshalling a solid international coalition, Bush Jr wants to launch a pre-emptive war against Iraq for reasons that are clear only to him and his military-industrial complex staffers.
Even on other seemingly less pressing matters, the administration does not know how to engage in multilateral dialogue. It is alienating even its allies and partners with its positions on global warming, genetically modified organisms, and the conference on racism.
George Bush may have been adequate as a governor for the state of Texas, but he has been disastrous as the leader of a nation such as the United States. The economy remains sour, and the timing of his war rhetoric against Iraq can’t help but make one skeptical about his motives. Having failed to capture Osama Dead or Alive, Wild West-style, Candidate Bush appears desperate for a winning issue for the November election.