The Incompetence of George Bush

(March 1992)


"Fuck the Jews. They didn't vote for us."
-- Secretary of State James Baker III, speaking privately (attributed by The New Republic, 3/30/92)


Will the moral bankruptcy of the Bush administration ever reach a low point?

The long, downward path it has traveled has included such highlights as Bush welshing on his promise to rebuild Panama after "Operation Just Cause"; Bush lobbying for aid to the Iraqis until just before they invaded Kuwait; Bush watching passively as the Kurds were slaughtered (only responding after intense pressure to do so); Bush fearing to take the political risk of proposing a real solution to our mounting debt problem; and Bush cravenly sacrificing NEA chairman John Frohnmayer to blatant political expediency. In the latest act, Bush's closest adviser has exposed as false Bush's claim to be an "honest broker" in the Middle East.

Does Bush have any goals other than maintaining the status quo and furthering his political career? Does he have an idea of where he wants the country to go and a plan to get us there? If he does, he hasn't shown it to us yet. The most incredible claim Bush makes is that he is as mad at Washington as the people are. But hasn't Bush's party controlled the White House for 11+ years? If Bush hasn't set a direction for the government by now, why should we assume he ever will?

There's something pathetic about Bush, who can't run a government, shrilly attacking Speaker of the House Tom Foley for not being able to run a bank. It may be good spin control, but it's a poor excuse for leadership.

I take all this especially hard because Bush was the first politician I ever supported strongly. I became a Republican in 1980 because even a precocious 10-year-old could see that the Democrats were lost. The best they could offer was Jimmy Carter, an aimless, uninspiring leader, and Ted Kennedy, a womanizing lush. Bush was the candidate of the moderate, humane wing of the GOP; he seemed to stand for a mixture of realism and compassion that stood out in that depressing year.

In retrospect, it was good that Bush lost the Republican nomination to Ronald Reagan. Reagan had the "vision thing" that Bush so sorely lacks. We needed Reagan in 1980 just as we needed Franklin Roosevelt in 1932. Each president gave Americans confidence when they feared for the future. Whatever Reagan cost us (we still haven't paid the bill for the '80s) and whatever we may think of his methods, we should give him credit for the badly needed boost that no Democrat was capable of giving us.

(Democrats scoffed at Reagan's re-election slogan, "Morning in America." Their failure to understand the disillusionment and fear caused by the long, cold night from 1968 to 1981 explains why they've been out of power for 11 years and counting.)

But Republican leaders have lost the vision that has kept them in power since 1981. One of the most important (and overlooked) duties of a president is to inspire. George Bush does not inspire. Like Jimmy Carter, Bush has lost touch with the country and has no idea what he is doing. But at least Carter has some noble and deeply held beliefs, as he has shown for the last 10 years. Bush can't even claim that.

In his 1977 book Marathon, journalist Jules Witcover mentioned why President Ford, after replacing Richard Nixon in 1974, filled the vice-presidency with Nelson Rockefeller, a liberal, instead of Bush, a moderate:

"Even the right-wingers saw some merit in selecting Rockefeller over George Bush, the other finalist. Everyone knowledgeable in Republican politics considered Bush incompetent to be president. . ."

Too bad we had to elect him to find out for sure.