Saturday, March 12, 2005

Heading Out

The previous post will be my last for some time. I am one week away from departing for Georgia to begin my Appalachian Trail Make Up Hike. Much still remains to be done and, frankly, I am looking for a break in paying attention to the foolishness that is American politics. It's time to go. My sporadic posts the past few weeks show that I am already checking out.

Last time I hiked the AT I sent out email updates of my trip. I'll do the same this time and post them here. And maybe something will simply just force me to post a comment before I leave. You never know with a hiker.

Thanks for reading Unsolicited Opinion. Both of you.

Luck of the Draw

George W. Bush is a lucky man. Always has been. Probably always will be. George has been at the right place with the right connections at the right time all of his life. His presidency is just one more lucky draw in a life that has rarely foundered, despite George’s obvious lack of ability and performance. At the moment, he is strutting the world stage as the Democratizer of the Middle East, the man whose vision and determination are dismantling authoritarian regimes.

Once again, events and circumstances are working in his favor. Palestinians and Iraqis voting, Lebanese demonstrating, authoritarian regimes making democratic gestures are indications of ferment and change. But these changes are not solely the result of Bush’s actions, although he has without a doubt influenced events. Nor are they certain to end well; the changes are no guarantee of democracy and freedom. In the Middle East, as in much of the world, popular expression must contend with religious and ethnic differences, various financial interests and interference from other nations. Peace and stability occur when leaders of the various factions are able to bridge their differences and identify with a common ideal. The Middle East is a long way from that point. But Americans see only the positive images of Iraqi voters and Lebanese demonstrators and decide that George W. Bush was right. It will be enough to carry him for a while yet.

That’s been the pattern of George’s life. Things work out. For him. Not necessarily for those he serves such as stockholders of his failed businesses, Texans whose environment is polluted and schools are among the worst in the nation and, now, the nation at large whose sons and daughters are dying in a questionable war, where many working families still lack the essentials for living, where health care is a crushing burden on citizens and businesses alike. George W. Bush has done little for these Americans. His signature initiative–the war on terror–is a cruel hoax, costly, intrusive and ineffective, doing little to reduce our vulnerability. But somehow, many Americans see George as a genuine leader.

Perhaps George’s greatest stroke of luck was September 11, 2001. Prior to that date, he was a joke, the unelected president. After that day he was the war president. In one fell swoop, the attackers gave Americans reason to believe in George W. Bush and he played the role well (once he got over the shock). He does so to this day. And gets a pass from the American people. He misled the nation into invading Iraq. Against the advice of his military leaders, he sent too few troops to secure post invasion Iraq and has consistently underestimated the difficulties in recreating Iraq after Saddam Hussein. Yet he basks in the light of success. Like I said, George W. Bush is lucky.

Veteran observer Molly Ivins says that Bush is oblivious to his luck. Many lucky individuals, she writes, will acknowledge their luck. Not George. Born to a wealthy, well connected political family, he has had every advantage in life. His name and family connections have saved him from one disaster after another: Vietnam, drunk driving, drug charges and failed businesses. That name propelled him into politics as the candidate of the most encompassing and effective political machines in American history. All he had to do was show up. You don’t get much luckier than that.

Part of Bush’s success is his personality. He comes off as a regular guy, not some effete snob or know it all. George W. Bush is someone you can have a beer with, one of us. In Virginia, this image was known as the “aw shucks shuffle” wherein a well educated official became one of the boys. It’s not always a cynical ploy; some people have that quality, they can reach out and speak to the hearts of people very unlike themselves. Others do it as an act. Bush is not acting–I think he really sees himself as a regular guy–but it is an act nonetheless. His complete isolation from real Americans (not carefully screened crowds of adoring supporters) belies his regular guy image. Ain’t none of us gonna have that beer with George W. any time soon.

A lucky man, indeed. He may even luck out and do some good in the Middle East. Certainly, that benighted region could use some good. But the victims of the violence unleashed by the American invasion and occupation have not been so lucky. If the past is any indication of the future, cheering crowds and enthusiastic voters may well see their future options no better than their past ones. For George, the future is certain and bright.