Posted on Fri, Oct. 15, 2004
Falling short of his own standards
By Jack Z. Smith
Star-Telegram Staff Writer
In several very important ways, George W. Bush hasn't been the president that he assured Americans he would be.
The man who in 2000 touted himself as a "compassionate conservative" has proven incredibly charitable when it comes to providing tax cuts for the rich. But he won't push Congress to raise the pathetically low minimum wage of $5.15 an hour to help low-income working people.
The man who said his tax cuts would stimulate the economy and create droves of new jobs has witnessed an embarrassing net loss of more than 800,000 jobs during his administration.
At a time when America needs to add at least 1.5 million jobs a year just to accommodate population growth, Bush has the worst job-creation record of any president since Herbert Hoover (1929-33). In contrast, America gained nearly 23 million jobs when Bill Clinton was president.
Bush, who decries "tax-and-spend liberals," declared in 2000 that "big government is not the answer." But he hasn't been the responsible fiscal conservative he pledged to be. As president, he has not vetoed a single spending bill and has supported increased spending in numerous budget categories.
His failure to rein in spending, coupled with excessive tax cuts, has resulted in the largest federal budget deficits in history and projections of continued red ink far into the future.
Yet he stubbornly refuses to embrace a responsible "pay-as-you-go" policy requiring that any future tax cuts be offset by similar-sized cutbacks in spending or tax increases in other areas, or a combination of the two.
In 2000, Bush promised to be "a uniter, not a divider." He said he wanted "to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect."
But his administration and the Republican Party that he leads have often been needlessly polarizing and divisive. He has made little effort to rein in the relentlessly partisan GOP congressional leadership that includes bellicose House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Although he portrayed himself in 2000 as a principled straight shooter, Bush heads an administration that sometimes is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
When the administration was desperately trying to squeeze a costly Medicare prescription drug bill through a hesitant Congress, it publicly projected the bill's 10-year cost at $395 billion -- while keeping secret an estimate by the program's chief cost analyst that the real price tag would exceed $500 billion. That's the antithesis of shooting straight.
Long before today's world of $50-a-barrel oil and nearly $2-a-gallon gasoline, Bush promised to champion a comprehensive, balanced energy policy.
But he obstinately refuses to support one of the most obviously needed and beneficial measures: a substantial increase in federal fuel economy standards to diminish our heavy reliance on foreign oil from politically volatile nations.
At the 2000 Republican National Convention, Bush promised to "confront the hard issues," including "threats to our health and retirement security."
Yet today, approximately 45 million Americans lack health insurance, and those who have it are seeing their monthly premiums skyrocket.
As far as retirement security goes, Bush has done virtually nothing to address the huge long-term deficits facing Social Security and Medicare. In fact, he has weakened the nation's ability to deal with the problem by running up big budget deficits and spending surplus Social Security payroll tax revenues on other programs.
In 2000, Bush said, "We will give our military the means to keep the peace." As commander in chief, however, he and his advisers seriously underestimated the troop strength and containment measures needed to maintain calm and order in Iraq after the successful U.S.-led military invasion there -- hence the very messy situation there now.
Being president is an incredibly difficult job. In some ways, Bush has performed admirably, such as in the inspiring leadership he provided immediately after 9-11.
He certainly appears to be sincere, at least for the most part, in believing that his policies are best for America. And some of his policies have been sound.
In a variety of ways, however, his positions on economic, social and foreign policy issues have belied the unifying, compassionate, egalitarian, let's-all-come-together tone of his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in 2000.
Much of that speech was quite inspiring. But he hasn't lived up to it.
It's time for a new tenant at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Although John Kerry has his own warts, he's a breath of fresh air after four years of Bush.
If elected, Kerry will prove a wiser, fairer and better president than Bush. That's the bottom line, isn't it?
Jack Z. Smith is a Star-Telegram editorial writer. (817) 390-7724 firstname.lastname@example.org