G. W. only proves his own incompetence

For the past year and a half, the success of George W. Bush has made a large portion of the electorate quite nervous. Despite a vigorous challenge by John McCain in last year’s Republican primaries, Bush’s lead over both fellow Republicans and Al Gore persisted into the summer. And although Gore received a slight boost following the Democratic convention, his lead has slowly diminished. The polls released this weekend show Bush now in a slim yet identifiable lead.
Defying both political statisticians and, of course, reason, Gore, as a member of the administration that claims responsibility for the nation’s unprecedented prosperity, can’t convince the electorate that Bush is completely unprepared to assume the responsibilities of the presidency.
Perhaps it is not the voters who should be convinced of this, but Bush himself. Even he would have difficulty arguing that he is the most qualified person to lead both the nation and the international community. The presidency, to paraphrase Bush, is “very serious business.”
Actually, Bush was not referring to the presidency when he used that phrase; he was referring to the death penalty. The real issue, though, is not that Bush hypocritically spends a mere 15 minutes reviewing such “serious” death penalty cases, as was reported this week. Instead, it illustrates that perhaps Bush has some racist tendencies. Bush used this phrase in the last debate when responding to a black man’s accusation that he was gloating over his execution record in Texas.
Bush looked aside and down, as he condescendingly responded, “The death penalty is very serious business, Leo.” As if Leo, being black, couldn’t possibly understand the intricate 15-minute review process.
But surprisingly, this process isn’t so detail-oriented, as Bush clearly proved during the second debate when he incorrectly stated that each of the three men convicted in the James Byrd case will receive the death penalty when in reality, only two will.
This was, of course, only one of a few egregious errors Bush has made in the past two weeks alone. Others include his assertion that under a Gore administration, there will be more “I.R.A.” agents collecting taxes when in fact, they would not be agents of the Irish Republican Army but the I.R.S. — the Internal Revenue Service. And on Friday, he declared that American troops should no longer be in the Balkans, that it is time for European nations to provide military personnel, when actually European troops outnumber American troops 6 to 1.
Such errors demonstrate not that Bush is unprepared for the presidency, but that he is seriously incompetent. And many of his proposals only serve as further corroboration. He often mentions “tort reform,” as if he even has a cursory understanding of legal matters, while what he really means is that he wants to make it more difficult to sue large corporations. He refers to increasing “school choice,” when he actually means using voucher programs, in addition to another proposal which would remove federal aid from underperforming schools, to punish students for what is a fault of most property tax systems. And he is adamant that military force should only be used when it would be in the United States’ “vital interests,” but he cannot understand how much the world has internationalized since his father’s day.
And this is where Bush is most vulnerable. At the Democratic Convention when Gore Stated that he is “his own man,” not only did he distance himself from Clinton, but he implicitly criticized Bush, who will assemble a cabinet comprised of his father’s advisers, operating under his father’s policies. W’s vice-presidential candidate, Dick Cheney, was George H. W. Bush’s secretary of state. But to replace Cheney’s vacancy of this post, W would employ former Gen. Colin Powell, another member of the father’s cabinet, as is Candoleezza Rice, who is the son’s foreign affairs adviser.
The value of campaigns is not that they illustrate the candidates’ popularity, but rather they serve as a portent to how the future administrations would operate. It would be reasonable to predict that Bush’s tenure would be filled with elementary errors and inappropriate, outdated policies. Such predictions, however, can be confirmed by his record in Texas.
Most voters are able to overlook the fact that Texas is at the bottom of most quality-of-life indicators. They seem to be attracted, however, to his persona of bipartisanship. In Texas — the most conservative state — this isn’t very difficult, as Democrats are nearly as conservative as Republicans. Bush’s predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Ann Richards, did preside over her share of executions.
As the diaries released this week illustrate, though, Bush doesn’t consider his post to be too demanding. His day lasts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., only punctuated by a two-hour lunch, photo opportunities, visits to schools, and of course, the frequent 15-minutes in which he decides the fate of a person’s life.
In contrast, the presidency of the United States is the most demanding, gravely important position. The president not only has more influence — and often direct control — over the policies and culture of the nation, but now of the international community of six billion people as well. There can be no doubts about preparedness, no evidence of incompetence and no tolerance for indefensible proposals.
Of course, there were questions about Clinton during his candidacy, and accordingly, there were confirmations of these doubts during his tenure. But these were more personal and less relevant to the management of a nation — being sexually opportunistic is a common characteristic of presidents. And while many of the allegations were never substantiated, Bush proves his incompetence every week.
Perhaps his most notorious misconception is his continual accusation that Clinton and Gore have “failed to lead” on a variety of issues. Criticizing their failure on a variety of issues, he doesn’t seem to understand that during the past 8 years, nearly every quality-of-life indicator has improved, explaining why this campaign has been about such arcana as prescription drugs and slight increases in gas prices.
Bush isn’t, however, without an excuse for perceiving the nation to have been overwhelmed with problems for the past eight years.
He has, after all, been living in Texas.

Dan Maruska’s column appears every other Monday. He welcomes comments to [email protected] Send letters to the editor to [email protected]