|LA Times - 10/19
Underachiever Bush Just Won't Do
By ROBERT SCHEER
ROBERT SCHEER IS A TIMES CONTRIBUTING EDITOR.
It was when George W. Bush winked at us that we should have finally
figured out that daddy's boy is not fit to be president. Bush played the
class fool in the last debate because he knew he was in trouble, and he
figured to worm out of it with that smirk and shoulder-shrug bit that has
carried him through a pampered life.
Deep down, and that's not very far, this is a not-very-serious person,
and he knows he's in over his head. That he's shallow and lazy to boot was
made obvious by the fact that it was Al Gore and not he who had studied up on
what is labeled as the Bush program for America. A program written for George
W. by advisors who worked for his father but who failed to properly tutor
their current charge on what exactly it is he is now advocating.
It may be difficult for one born into such enormous wealth to understand
that those trillion-dollar gifts he's tossing to his super-rich peers does
represent serious money. Give it to the rich and inevitably, as Gore drove
home, it comes out of programs designed to help ordinary folks--such as those
paying more to their children's teachers.
Tuesday's debate was about as good as Gore gets. It was a mighty solid
performance compared to Bush, who lapsed into the practiced boredom of a
student who is all too willing to settle for a C on the exam. That's the real
Bush, an underachiever who knows, as he did when his daddy's connections got
him into Andover, Yale and the oil business, that his family will step in to
avert any disasters.
What arrogance to be demanding that kids and teachers be tested at every
turn and be "held responsible" for the consequences of their grades when he
never was. In even the sympathetic biographical accounts of the Bush family,
George W. is remembered as the "immature, rich-kid brat and the bombastic
Bushkin" who managed to squirm out of uncomfortable situations with an impish
arrogance that all would be forgiven.
Bush did poorly in the debate because Gore has been doing his homework,
boning up on the details of his and his opponent's programs while George W.
has been coasting on the assumption that this election is in the bag. Bush's
overconfidence stems from the depressing presumption that when it comes to
the details of policy, the public is as uninterested as he is.
But it should be no small detail to the electorate that the Republicans
are boldly the party of the rich that wants to give an outrageously huge tax
cut to the super-rich who have made out like bandits from the runup of the
stock market but is willing to invest only peanuts in programs that might
help rebuild the fast-disappearing middle class.
It is no small detail that Bush is committed to saddling us with
additional debt by rushing to give away a revenue surplus that may never
materialize. The "surplus" is cited by Bush as the source of everything
except paying down the onerous national debt, which the last two Republican
presidents burdened us with--an amount greater than had been accumulated by
all previous U.S. presidents combined. What an odd switch to have the
Republicans treating the deep red ink of the national debt as a minor
problem, while the Democrats under Clinton and Gore have succeeded in making
a balanced budget and debt reduction their highest priority.
It's no small detail that Bush wants to take yet another $1 trillion
from the imagined surplus and use it to experiment with a private Social
Security system. What kind of "conservative" would tamper with the safety net
for seniors that has worked better than any other government program? Before
Social Security and Medicare, seniors were the most impoverished group in the
country, and they are now the most secure, thanks to programs started and
nurtured by the Democratic Party.
It's no small detail that Bush claims to be for reducing government
expenditures but is committed to a $100-billion "Star Wars" program that will
never fly. He claims to be for a smaller federal budget, but he knows Texas
is one of those states most highly subsidized by federal defense dollars,
including the loot going to running mate Dick Cheney's former company.
If people who watched the debate came away still favoring Bush, it's
probably because they have never visited Texas. Otherwise, how could they
accept the Texas model for America when the state is just about dead last in
every category of social performance? Texas, of all states, needs federal
funding to help the poor because the state will not pay the freight. They
have more important priorities, as was demonstrated when Bush, just prior to
being elected governor, got the taxpayers to pony up more than $100 million
to build a new stadium for the baseball team he owned.
Baseball and "Star Wars"--how much closer can you come to bread and
circuses as a diversion for the masses?
Copyright 2000 Los Angeles Times