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The character of George W. Bush

Posted By Harry Browne On 10/17/2000 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The Republicans want to feed on public disrespect for Bill Clinton by
making character an issue in the presidential campaign. They’ve tried to
transfer that disrespect to Al Gore — reminding us of his many
exaggerations. George Bush has chimed in by saying he wants to restore
trust in the White House.

Unfortunately, he’s not off to a very good start. So far, he has
demonstrated no more integrity than Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or any other
politician.

Bush morally superior?

Consider some of his actions: He has all but admitted taking drugs
when he was “young and irresponsible.” And yet he sees nothing wrong
with putting young and irresponsible people in prison for many years for
doing what he did. This is called hypocrisy.

He proposes ways to use the current budget surpluses. But if he’s
ever looked at the federal budget, he must know there are no surpluses.
The politicians are stealing money from Social Security to paper over
the deficits in the budget — and the federal debt continues to rise
year by year. It is the easiest thing in the world for any politician to
be aware of this. Perpetuating the lie that there’s a surplus is known
as deception.

He thinks it’s his right to take your money and distribute it to
“faith-based” charities of his choice — calling this
“compassion.” But it should be recognized as condescension
thinking he knows better than you what should be done with your
money.

In the first debate he said he believes firmly in local control of
education. In the very next breath, he said he’ll impose mandatory
testing on local school districts. In business this is known as bait
and switch
. Otherwise, we think of it as duplicity.

In the second debate, when Al Gore accused Texas of having poor
health care and an absence of politically correct laws, Mr. Bush’s
defense was that he’s a good person who wishes only the best for all
people. Has he never seen the harm done by people with good intentions
holding the reins of power? Does he not care to know how people are hurt
by all the money he’s taken from them as governor of Texas — and by all
the plans he promises to implement as president of the United States?
Such willful ignorance is known as insensibility.

He talked about using military might to promote “our national
interests” in foreign countries. Surely he knows that this involves the
killing of innocent people. And for what? To further the “interests” of
politically connected Americans. This might best be called murder,
arrogance, or abuse of power
.

Character issue is a red herring

George Bush is an imperfect human being, just like the rest of us. I
didn’t write this article to cast the first stone at him — but to point
out that his character no more distinguishes him from Al Gore than the
spurious claim that he’s for small, limited government, or the fantasy
that he’ll appoint Supreme Court judges who will strike down
unconstitutional federal programs and let us live as free Americans.

Does character matter? Unfortunately, it does now. If the government
were still limited by “the chains of the Constitution” (as Thomas
Jefferson put it), we wouldn’t worry much about a politician’s character
– because he wouldn’t have the power to make us suffer for his
weaknesses. Apparently, Warren Harding’s character left a lot to be
desired, but he was an excellent post-war president who reduced
governmental power dramatically.

Today there are no constitutional chains left to restrain politicians
like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or George Bush. And so we fear having a
president whose character flaws may put us in chains, or make
your children fight and die in a foreign war, or continue to destroy our
health-care system.

Power and character

In short, as Michael Cloud has put it, the problem isn’t the abuse
of power, it is the power to abuse. With so much power in political
hands, abuse is inevitable — and so you’re reduced to trying to decide
who will abuse that power in the way that will do you the least harm.

The problem is aggravated by the national press, whose members fawn
over the powerful — and who encourage politicians to use every bit of
their power over us to try (futilely) to solve every social problem that
arises.

Given this atmosphere, we have to hope to elect a president who is a
saint. But since there are none of those around, our only choice is to
elect a Libertarian with the will and determination to reduce
governmental power no matter what.


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