The Case Against George W. Bush The son of the fortieth president of the United States takes a hard look at the son of the forty-first and does not like what he sees By Ron Reagan for Esquire September 2004, Volume 142, Issue 3 ...GEORGE W. BUSH PROMISED to "change the tone in Washington" and ran for office as a moderate, a "compassionate conservative," in the focus-group-tested sloganeering of his campaign. Yet he has governed from the right wing of his already conservative party, assiduously tending a "base" that includes, along with the expected Fortune 500 fat cats, fiscal evangelicals who talk openly of doing away with Social Security and Medicare, of shrinking government to the size where they can, in tax radical Grover Norquist's phrase, "drown it in the bathtub." That base also encompasses a healthy share of anti-choice zealots, homophobic bigots, and assorted purveyors of junk science. Bush has tossed bones to all of them"partial birth" abortion legislation, the promise of a constitutional amendment banning marriage between homosexuals, federal roadblocks to embryonic-stem-cell research, even comments suggesting presidential doubts about Darwinian evolution. It's not that Mr. Bush necessarily shares their worldview; indeed, it's unclear whether he embraces any coherent philosophy. But this president, who vowed to eschew politics in favor of sound policy, panders nonetheless in the interest of political gain. As John DiIulio, Bush's former head of the Office of Community and Faith-Based Initiatives, once told this magazine, "What you've got is everythingand I mean everythingbeing run by the political arm." This was not what the American electorate opted for when, in 2000, by a slim but decisive margin of more than half a million votes, they chose . . . the other guy. Bush has never had a mandate. Surveys indicate broad public dissatisfaction with his domestic priorities. How many people would have voted for Mr. Bush in the first place had they understood his eagerness to pass on crushing debt to our children or seen his true colors regarding global warming and the environment? Even after 9/11, were people really looking to be dragged into an optional war under false pretenses? If ever there was a time for uniting and not dividing, this is it. Instead, Mr. Bush governs as if by divine right, seeming to actually believe that a wise God wants him in the White House and that by constantly evoking the horrible memory of September 11, 2001, he can keep public anxiety stirred up enough to carry him to another term. UNDERSTANDABLY, SOME SUPPORTERS of Mr. Bush's will believe I harbor a personal vendetta against the man, some seething resentment. One conservative commentator, based on earlier remarks I've made, has already discerned "jealousy" on my part; after all, Bush, the son of a former president, now occupies that office himself, while I, most assuredly, will not. Truth be told, I have no personal feelings for Bush at all. I hardly know him, having met him only twice, briefly and uneventfullyonce during my father's presidency and once during my father's funeral. I'll acknowledge occasional annoyance at the pretense that he's somehow a clone of my father, but far from threatening, I see this more as silly and pathetic. My father, acting roles excepted, never pretended to be anyone but himself. His Republican party, furthermore, seems a far cry from the current model, with its cringing obeisance to the religious Right and its kill-anything-that-moves attack instincts. Believe it or not, I don't look in the mirror every morning and see my father looming over my shoulder. I write and speak as nothing more or less than an American citizen, one who is plenty angry about the direction our country is being dragged by the current administration. We have reached a critical juncture in our nation's history, one ripe with both danger and possibility. We need leadership with the wisdom to prudently confront those dangers and the imagination to boldly grasp the possibilities. Beyond issues of fiscal irresponsibility and ill-advised militarism, there is a question of trust. George W. Bush and his allies don't trust you and me. Why on earth, then, should we trust them? Fortunately, we still live in a democratic republic. The Bush team cannot expect a cabal of right-wing justices to once again deliver the White House. Come November 2, we will have a choice: We can embrace a lie, or we can restore a measure of integrity to our government. We can choose, as a bumper sticker I spotted in Seattle put it, SOMEONE ELSE FOR PRESIDENT.