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October 14, 2005

Bush with No Clothes

Roy Meachum

It's almost possible for me to feel sorry for George W. Bush. The conservative furor over his latest choice for the Supreme Court comes on top of troubles that never seem to end.

While partially successful in shifting blame for the Louisiana hurricane FEMA disaster to local officials, Democrats all, the administration stands accused of similar bungling in Mississippi by no less a GOP stalwart than Sen. Trent Lott.

The former Senate majority leader stated flatly his constituents "are disenchanted." He said of FEMA: "We're just going around them."

Republican Rep. Charles W. Pickering has echoed the sentiments of his delegation's conservative Democrat. Rep. Gene Taylor told the former FEMA director at House hearings: "I'm a witness to what happened in Mississippi. You folks fell on your face."

Only Gov. Haley Barbour tries to sell the notion everything's hunky-dory with Katrina victims' treatment by the federal establishment. But what else can be expected of a one-time Republican National Committee chair with his eye on the 2008 presidential race?

While thousands of evacuees linger still in emergency shelters as his publicly proclaimed deadline to get them out and settled rushes in this weekend, Mr. Bush chose to hammer nails in a new house rising on the north shore of Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain and reopen an elementary school on Mississippi's Gulf Coast.

Can anyone seriously believe this is fit work for a sitting president?

Of course, time spent away from Washington means not having to say he's sorry about the soaring prices of gas and heating oil. Wasn't one of the assurances that sugar-coated the Iraq invasion the promise the world's third largest petroleum deposits would go to mitigate the costs?

When faced with calamities that hit hundreds of thousands in this country, a consideration of Iraq's future can be slipped to the back burner; it doesn't disappear.

Upon return to the Oval Office, Mr. Bush will have to wrestle with the reality: his pledge to install the first democracy in an Arab nation has ignominiously collapsed over the summer. The country votes tomorrow on a suggested constitution that institutionalizes a Kurdish state in the north, a Shiite theocracy in the south and a seething, impotent Sunni minority in between.

Having lost the pretense of weapons of mass destruction and the claim that Saddam Hussein's fall would deal a serious blow to world terrorism, the White House has now run out of rationalizations for the continuing sacrifice of young Americans' lives and limbs.

Citing past casualties to justify future losses is a sucker's game that totally defies logic, reason and moral principles. It deeply offends those of us with loved ones in the battle zone.

Then there is the financial cost.

Even before Katrina and Rita tossed taxpayers bills estimated to run hundreds of billions, the national deficit was swelling to gargantuan proportions on the obscene amount being tossed down the Iraqi misadventure's bottomless pit.

And still the GOP president and his pro-business cronies continue to preach the doctrine of tax cuts for the wealthy to an increasingly disenchanted electorate.

No wonder the party has failed in state-after-state to recruit worthy candidates for next year's elections; in some instances, incumbent Republicans, sensing the voters' mood, are desperately distancing their campaigns from the White House.

But right-wing radicals landed the unkindest blow of all. Mr. Bush's heretofore most reliable supporters have turned unreliable by attacking his choice of Harriet Miers to succeed Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

For the first time in his two-term administration, George W. Bush's word cuts little or no ice with the crowd that spearheaded his hunt for votes. The anti-abortion gang, in particular, has demanded proof and a guarantee Ms. Miers will side with their efforts to wipe out Roe v. Wade.

When asked by their president to take his word on the Supreme Court nominee' s conservative philosophy, an evangelical Christian spokesman replied: "That kind of faith we have only in God."

It's possible that all those dissident voices would sing a different tune if Washington's ultimate insider, Karl Rove, were yet firmly in control of his long-time friend from Texas days and the chief executive's power and machinery.

But Mr. Rove remains out of the picture, facing possible charges for having perhaps committed a federal crime by revealing the identity of a CIA spy. She became a target when her former ambassador husband challenged White House false claims Iraq's ex-dictator was trying to buy uranium from African mines. Saddam Hussein wasn't, as proof showed.

With Mr. Rove's enforced absence, House GOP strongman Rep. Thomas Delay made mute by charges of illegal use of campaign donations, and Senate majority leader Bill Frist accused of insider profits, the president has every right to feel naked before his enemies, to paraphrase the Bible.

But from where I sit, George W. Bush is responsible for his own political nakedness. He's sold or given away every principle and each cause that might evoke my sympathy for the republic's 43rd president.

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