This is an opinion piece of mine in response to a question posed by my father.
So the question posed today is why do people of my age group dislike George W. Bush so much? Well, I'm not really sure how accurate that question is. I have my own opinions of him and on a grander scale the Republican party, but to say that my age group unilaterally dislikes him is a very vague and not necessarily true notion. I'm sure there are a number of people who do like him and are waiting for history to prove that while he may have been a polarizing president, he made some very tough decisions that will end up making the world a better place...for Americans. Since I don't have any extensive information as regards to my fellow mid-30s peers, I'll just pontificate on the litany of issues that have made him a target of my ire, dismay, and disgust over these past 7 and a half years.
Issue #1- Let's be honest here, he was already in a hole from the end of election night 2000. A hotly contested race that saw Al Gore get more of the popular vote while W was able to eek out the victory by garnering the required number of electoral college votes. All with less than the majority of the vote from roughly a sixth of the country's actual population. Thus, one out of every six people was happy with the eventual results of the votes, thanks in part to an overactive court system in a state that his brother was the governor and with quite an assist from the U.S. Supreme Court. I'm sure you could find many people who would say if there weren't so many people angry with Clinton and the Democrats at the time, then Gore should have won handily. But instead he lost a bitterly contested race, acquiescing almost a full month after the end of the general election. So naturally that put a bitter taste in many people's mouths before W even got to the inauguration. Bad start.
Issue #2 – Before 9/11 changed the entire focus of the country and arguably his entire administration, there was all the talk about the tax cuts. Tax cut this and tax cut that. In an unprecedented gesture from our own government, we were all going to get $300 in a refund. Yippee! Wow, think of all the things I could do with that! I probably paid off a bill and perhaps got drunk on the leftover money. Odds are good that many a taxpayer also did, especially those in my age bracket. But I couldn't get past the notion that perhaps if they had taken that $300 from everyone they gave it to, and did something actually worthwhile with it, there could have been more long term benefits for everybody. By being very conservative and saying one hundred million people got that $300, there was $30 billion to be spent on something more productive. If you believe the stories that have surfaced since then, maybe they could have spent it on the military since they were apparently already trying to figure out ways to engage Iraq in a war that came off as W acting out vengefully for his poor daddy who didn't finish the job the first time around. But we wouldn't know about any of those thoughts until much later, long after the $300 had bought most Americans roughly one day of joyful consumerism.
Issue #3 – Then 9/11 happened and we got to see the tough W emerge and relish his role of national protector. That tragedy was so massive and unexpected that for weeks following, W pretty much had carte blanche to retaliate in any way deemed fit. I mean, he had all these intelligent and well thought people surrounding him to make these tough decisions, right? Rove, Hughes, Libby, Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and good old Powell to throw ideas off of and get the right direction for the country. And initially I thought it made sense. Osama was in Afghanistan, the Taliban was harboring him, well then we just need to get him and clean that country up. The world was quite supportive at the time, encouraging our foray into the country to protect ourselves from the growing terrorist movement, something that apparently had been festering for years even under the Clinton watch, or at least we are to believe old Bill was to blame for not doing something sooner. Luckily, W was willing to take charge. I'm going to give him this one, though, because I think at the time it was the right thing to do and while we've done a shitty job of securing Afghanistan since, at least the reasons and the hopeful results made sense as an answer to the horror that was inflicted on our country. And despite the chatter of conspiracy theorists, I still haven't seen anything credible enough to convince me that the story of that day is something other than what we say, extremists who had mustered up an elaborate and difficult attack on our soil. Of course, Bush and all told us this was going to be just the tip of the iceberg.
Issue #4 – Which led us to the subsequent years of terror alerts, color coding, racial profiling and later politically correct profiling, and the ongoing campaign of fear and negativity that we still enjoy to this day. For the first couple of years, it seemed like a bridge or power plant or other strategic target was possibly going to be in trouble but they could never divulge more information and when nothing happened it was left to us to wonder if the government had really stopped something or whether there really was no threat in the first place. As the act grew tiresome, people started to return to their apathetic lives and the daily terror color code became a joke. I don't doubt that they may have foiled a few plots here and there, but I became very skeptical of their assessment that Al Qaeda was a constant threat and would stage attacks larger than 9/11 on us. Haven't seen any, have you?
Issue #5 – Now we get to Iraq, which always had a weird urgency despite the seemingly lack of danger they truly provided. Saddam was behind 9/11 (seen no proof of that yet). He was building nuclear weapons (again, lack of proof). He was harboring terrorists (well if Iraq wasn't before, it definitely is now). It just seems like the rush to attack, the way too soon declarations of victory, and the horrible mistakes that have been made since were more than we needed to do. Again, history may prove him right and me horribly wrong. But for now, I'd say my bigger issue isn't really the war itself but the initial decisions that took years to correct. The war was probably coming whether on his watch or later, he just took advantage and because of his familial connection to the first war and his dad, that made all the action seem a little more disturbing than if a completely uninvolved president were making said decisions.
Issue #6 – As the years passed, Bush just seemed like an arrogant guy who hated to be questioned and many an ex-staffer seemed to extol the same virtues through self-serving tell all books. I'm not exactly going to take all their words to heart, but there seemed to be a lot of consistency to what they were saying. And as his second term comes to a close, it's interesting who is left amongst his crew, most seeming to abandon ship rather than wait out the final demise of his term this next January. Maybe they all know something we don't.
Okay, it's getting late and I'll admit I don't have all my arguments carefully laid out. So I'll close with some general ideas and summaries as to why I, as a representative of my age group, does not like Bush. There seems to be a cloud of uncertainty hovering over all of his actions, his minions, his vetoes, his war promoting and tax cutting. He doesn't come off as a trustworthy guy. He never seemed like a people's president because he never really seemed to be one of the people, regardless of his trying to present himself as such. His family lineage doesn't do him any favors nor has he done much to change the public opinion that he's just a rich elitist who got most of his opportunity from good old fashioned nepotism (a common factor in both Hollywood and Washington I realize, but a lot easier to stomach in Hollywood where no one is making decisions on wars, economies, domestic issues, etc.). I don't think he has shown enough respect to the actual responsibilities of the office, to realize that he is an elected representative of the people of the United States. To see that his behavior, attitude, actions, and beliefs will be viewed by people all over the world as a glimpse of the American people. It would have been nice to see a little humility from time to time, to be told that he made some of his major decisions after much consideration, sometimes even reluctantly. But instead we get the go with my gut, shoot from the hip actions and have paid some consequences for this. I don't know for sure but I'll bet much of the world is watching this election with the same desire as many in this country are, to just get someone else in the White House. Whether you believe that the world wants Obama so that he can start appeasement and the world will collapse into chaos, or that they fear McCain coming in and staying the course doesn't really matter. What does mean something to me is that we get a clean slate regardless of who wins. And I'll be ready to thaw out the frozen crow years from now if W is vindicated for many of his decisions.