George at War | News | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

George at War 

Why is President Bush coming to Salt Lake City? It’s called unconditional love.

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President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush.

If you’re among the many Americans unhappy about your country’s current direction, the name hangs over your forehead like the unending drip of water torture. When will this man leave office? There are Websites keeping track, of course. According to one, Bush’s 2,922-day term in office is almost 70 percent over. In the meantime, the president’s critics reaffirm their agony through Frank Rich’s merciless lashings of our commander in chief in The New York Times, while the president’s fans defend his record like parents in the bleachers of their son’s Little League baseball team.

Even if you’re no special fan of the president, keeping up with the barrage is the surest way to fatigue. This paper stopped giving attention to all the letters criticizing President Bush long ago, even if it was fun publishing a few of them when King George first came to office. There are just too many of them, and too many of those letters are, frankly, uninspired.

This paper’s sure to get more of those letters soon, now that the president will make his third visit to Salt Lake City Aug. 30 for a few words at the 88th annual convention of the American Legion. Last time he set foot here was for a date in August 2005 with the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, in protesting the president, sparked a small firestorm over his “disrespect” toward the office. This time, Anderson’s promised the same sort of protest.

President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush.

It’s tiresome, isn’t it, putting up with all the background noise as the president’s critics and defenders exchange barbs? With a television (or two) in every household, Americans are the world’s leaders in wasting time. Spending time debating politics isn’t quite the same pursuit, since it at least requires that you keep up on the news if you want to participate. Still, there’s no proof that it pays dividends much higher than the indulgent sort of entertainment you’re likely to get from watching television. For most people, even reading the news'or a current-affairs book or two'is no longer requisite for debate with your opponent. If you doubt that at all, take notes on conversations with drum-beating anarchists at the next antiwar demonstration, then take that same notepad with you to the home of a suburban family man who votes straight-ticket Republican. Both are interchangeably close-minded, although most straight-ticket Republicans are marginally more self-righteous.

President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush.

It would be the height of irresponsibility to give the president a free ride, though. Republicans gloat that the reason they currently run this country is that the Democrats are devoid of ideas, when it’s crystal clear to me that the Republicans run this country only because the ideas they sell are simpler and easier to understand than the complexities and nuances only Democrats seem to have the courage to wrestle with. Winning the “War on Terror” was never as simple as invading and remaking Iraq, as recent events have shown. No, winning the “War on Terror” also means active diplomacy, something the current administration’s allergic to. Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth startles because of the necessary sacrifices and changes it presents if we’re interested in staving off global warming. Contrary to its noble rhetoric, the current administration has no interest in any sacrifices whatsoever, whether it be more U.S. troops to bring the Iraqi people needed security, a gas tax that would put the squeeze on oppressive regimes or, the most unthinkable option of them all, higher taxes on the rich.

President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush.

So the beat of morass goes on. But don’t be fooled by those low approval ratings for one second. We’re talking about a man who, for the first time since 1988, won the popular majority of the vote for his second term in office. We’re talking about a man who, among Republicans in 2004 at least, earned higher approval marks than even President Ronald Reagan. This is the president we wanted, and it’s a sign of our national maturation into full-flowered mediocrity that this is the president we earned, in a half-hearted way, of course. Even those asinine enough to vote for Ralph Nader in 2000 wanted King George in charge. Remember that classic line about “no difference” between Democrats and Republicans? Remember all that bizarre talk about how sometimes you’ve got to burn down a village before you can save it?

President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President George W. Bush.

What will the former Yale University cheerleader, trust-funder and recovering alcoholic do next? The suspense is not killing us. He’ll veto expanded federal funding for stem-cell research. He’ll squash any attempt by Justice Department lawyers to investigate his national security policies, just as he squashed their attempt to investigate his warrantless National Security Agency eavesdropping program. He’ll talk about remaining “vigilant in the war against terror,” even if he hasn’t the guts to get rid of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the one person most responsible for Iraq’s deadly state of anarchy. He’ll spend us into bankruptcy even if, according to the conservative Heritage Foundation, less than one-third of his 45 percent increase in federal spending since 2001 is defense and Homeland Security related. And if his poll numbers get too low, he’ll simply whip out the Federal Marriage Amendment and make a scapegoat of homosexuals, just as he did while campaigning his way to the Texas governor’s mansion in 1994.

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