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Friday, September 03, 2004

I should've known better. After RNC speakers launched three days of non-stop verbal carpet-bombing at John Kerry and his policies, President Bush put the gloves back on last night and delivered a steady, calm (and lengthy) argument for reelection. I had been so worked up by the rising anger and fear-mongering in speech after speech this week, I assumed that Bush would take the same tack. He didn't. I was Bushwhacked. On the surface, the speech was very effective, one of the better speeches of his political career in fact. But upon closer examination, it fell kind of flat.

In his 62-minute address, as thousands of protestors outside the Garden -and two inside- surrounded him, the president offered up a laundry list of domestic policy initiatives, swiping a tactic from the Bill Clinton reelection playbook (their words, not mine). Naturally though, he opened by invoking "that horrific day" (a pre-requisite for every speech this week), transitioned by drawing the inevitable comparison of himself to Ronald Reagan and then spent a good 35 minutes ticking off a full range of policy proposals. Of course, their was no plan offered on how to fund these proposals, but they sure sounded good. With the country facing the largest deficit in its history, it seems as though the only way to pay for this wish list would be to *gasp!* raise taxes. Read between his lips.

When W. finally got to his perceived strength, the war on terror, half the country had probably fallen asleep or switched over to the Weather Channel to see if Hurricane Frances had slammed Miami yet. For those who did remain tuned in, they saw Bush slip from an awkward and uncomfortable delivery during the domestic section to a hard-charging, uplifting and proud one during the war on terror segment. He spoke of his grand vision for the Middle East, saying that the war in Iraq had provided democracy with a foothold in the war-torn region. Sounds like a noble plan, in an imperialistic sort of way, but how come we didn't hear of this grand vision in the run-up to war? All we heard about was the fact that if we didn't go to Baghdad, mushroom clouds would rise above our cities.

When people say the president misled us into war, this is what they mean. The administration knew it could never rally support for a crusade to transform the entire Middle East into a bastion of democratic, and Christian, ideals ("Freedom is not America's gift to the world. It is the Almighty God's gift.") An effort such as this smacks of colonialism, will no doubt take decades to achieve, and will incur innumerable costs in both lives and money. There was no way the American people would've bought into that, and so they scared the hell out of all of us by hammering us over the head with anthrax, dirty bombs, reconstituted nuclear programs and duct tape. If these people are willing to manipulate us into war, how can we trust them on anything else?

Bush also found time in his speech to pick at his opponent, which a candidate is wont to do in an acceptance speech. Two days after Hollywood's biggest ever action hero stumped in prime time for him, Bush mocked Kerry for saying the heart and soul of America could be found in Hollywood, another out-of-context twisting of words. He once again derided Kerry for saying he "voted for the $87 billion before voting against it," once again framing the issue in simplistic terms as a vote against supporting our troops. But Bush never mentions that the $87 billion "Iraq Supplemental Bill" Kerry opposed included a provision for the use of no-bid reconstruction contracts for companies like, oh, let's just say Halliburton; the bill Kerry approved didn't. These are not simple issues, folks, and so we should not let simple rhetoric be our only guide for understanding them.

Frankly, I'm glad this week is over. I'm glad the weirdly-dressed, odd-speaking people from distant lands such as Kansas and Alabama are going home. I'm glad our hedonistic city can finally be itself once again. And I'm glad I can take some time off and focus on things that really matter... Go Cougs.

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