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8B - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005

COMMENTARY

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Squandering the mandate
SUHAEL MOMIN AN ALTERNATIVE SPIN

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OCTOBER 28, 2004

History does not view as
"great" those presidents who
presided with little challenge
over periods of prosperity. It is only
those who successfully led this nation
to triumph in the face of dire difficul-
ties that achieve "greatness." Follow-
ing Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush
had a chance to distinguish himself
in this manner and join the ranks
of Washington, Lincoln and F.D.R.
His speech on Sept. 20, 2001 to a joint session of Con-
gress was undeniably the best of his career. The "cowboy
from Texas" sounded like John Kennedy when he pledged
that "the advance of human freedom - the great achi~eve-
ment of our time, and the great hope of every time - now
depends on us ... We will rally the world to this cause by
our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not
falter and we will not fail." In the days following Sept. 11,
as members of Congress stood on the steps of the Capitol
singing "God Bless America," they threw out partisan-
ship to celebrate their common love of this nation. When
the Germans played the American national anthem at the
Brandenburg Gate and the French newspaper Le Monde
headlined (in French) "We are all Americans," they stood
in solidarity, political and spiritual, with the United States.
For the first time in its history, NATO invoked Article 5 of
its charter: An attack on one member is an attack on the
alliance at large. Domestically and internationally, Bush
was handed the mandate his administration had previ-
ously lacked. He was given the public support and politi-
cal capital necessary to lead the fight for the fundamental
human values binding the free world.
As an initial, defensive response to Sept. 11, the United
States embarked on a course of action against the Taliban
in Afghanistan. Around the world, Bush did not need to
actively seek support for this war - American allies gave
it freely. Militarily, financially and politically, the major
alliances entwining the free world held firm. Even the
American public was fully committed - for the first time
since Vietnam, we were willing to accept significant mili-
tary casualties to secure a victory. The Bush administra-
tion was not merely leading; it was securing its place in
history.
Three years after the attacks, however, domestic and
international unity is merely a memory. Since 2001, the
international coalition behind the "war on terror" has
faltered, and the bipartisan domestic consensus behind
homeland security has deteriorated into shameless elec-

toral strategizing. The Bush administration turned its
post-Sept. 11 mandate into a false justification for a radi-
cal agenda. The attacks have provided a rationale for the
war in Iraq and explained the weak economy, the gaping
budget deficits and even the need for additional tax cuts.
He took his incredible opportunity to lead the nation and
create a great legacy ... and passed it up.
Instead of continuing this war against known terrorists
in Afghanistan, Bush embarked on a mission to invade
Iraq. Asserting that Saddam Hussein possessed danger-
ous weapons of mass destruction, the administration pre-
sented military action in Iraq not as a possibility, but as an
inevitability. Even though the United Nations sent weap-
ons inspectors to Iraq to find and dismantle WMD, they
were not allowed to complete their work. Even though
Bush pledged to consult the United Nations, he deemed it
irrelevant when the Security Council appeared unwilling
to authorize war. The rhetoric of "rallying the world" to
defend human freedom was forgotten; the chance to unify
the free world in a fight for liberty was lost.
Even at home, Bush's politics obliterated any vestiges
of post-Sept. 11 political unity. During the 2002 midterm
elections, the GOP unabashedly exploited the attacks for
electoral purposes. In Georgia, it attempted to link Sen.
Max Cleland, who did not support the president's home-
land security bill, to terrorists. Cleland's opponent, Saxby
Chambliss, ran TV ads that compared Cleland, a veteran
who lost three limbs in Vietnam, to Osama bin Laden, the
Sept. 11 mastermind. Leading Republicans and conserva-
tive pundits regularly exploit patriotism as a partisan emo-
tion when they make the absurd argument that liberals love
this country less because they don't support the president.
In spite of a campaign promise to "unite, not divide," Bush
has worked closely with the Republican-controlled Con-
gress to remove Democrats from discussions of energy
policy, defense policy, tax policy and health care policy.
The administration has inexcusably taken the immediate
post-Sept. 11 notion of reaching across aisles and working
with all Americans for the betterment of this nation and
put it in a trash can.
When voters head to the polls, they will hold a refer-
endum on the Bush presidency thus far. Whether he wins
or loses, however, history will view these past three years
as nothing more than a missed opportunity. Few presi-
dents are ever given the type of mandate that Sept. 11 gave
George Bush, and fewer yet have wasted it.
Momin can be reached at
smomin @umich.edu.

Mixed up morals
Election results speak to value divisions

NOVEMBER 9, 2004
sthe country recovers from its election
hangover or euphoria - depending on
individuals' political beliefs - two words
are dominating the post-election analysis: moral
values. Exit polls have shown that more voters
made their decisions based on moral issues then
terrorism, the war in Iraq or the economy. The
Bush campaign was clearly more effective in con-
necting with traditionalist voters on issues like gay
marriage, stem-cell research and abortion. Eighty
percent of voters who considered moral values the
most important issue cast their ballots for President
Bush. The Democrats' failure to connect with mid-
dle Americans in the heartland indicates that they
may be out of touch with so-called mainstream
values. However, while Republicans successfully
converted gay marriage into the chief moral issue
of the last election, other issues of moral import
hold sway for the future of the nation.
A third of voters reported the loss of a job by a
faL , m mh rnA-_r the Rich a'Aminctrmatin and

Iraq as their most important issue, as many experts
had believed. Needless to say, foreign policy is still
at the forefront of Americans' minds, and Bush's
victory will be viewed by many Republicans as
approval of his foreign policy. Again, it is worth
examining the morality of Bush's policy. The
moral righteousness of pre-emptive war, especial-
ly in light of revelations indicating Saddam Hus-
sein posed no credible threat, is questionable. With
almost 150,000 American troops bogged down in
Iraq, the president's options for further action are
limited. Is it morally just to cut and run from Iraq?
Is a draft justified?
Health care is an issue that didn't garner much
attention this election, but according to recent
Census Bureau statistics, 45 million Americans
lack health insurance coverage. The candidates set
forth starkly different plans to address health care
concerns, with John Kerry proposing an unprec-
edented commitment of taxpayer dollars while
the Bush proposal centered around tax credits to
enconratne nrivate ownershin of health insurance.

Sam Butler The Soapbox

SEPTEMBER 8, 2004

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