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Thursday, September 30, 2004

 Howard Dean remembers a different Bush

In Howard Dean's new book You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America, he recalls dealing with then Governor Bush:
I hadn't started out a Bush-basher. In fact, I'd been predisposed to like George Bush. I knew him personally and had dealt with him professionally when we were both governors. He'd always been charming and hospitable to me and my family, both in the Governor's Mansion in Texas and at the White House. He'd always been more than upright in the business dealings between our states, keeping his word when he had no legal obligation to do so. What I knew of his record in Texas bespoke a moderate man who was willing to put pragmatism before ideology, to raise taxes when necessary to equalize state education spending, and to take some heat from the right wing of his party for doing so. ("I hate those people," he'd once snarled at me when I ribbed him at a White House governors' gathering about some trouble he was having in Texas with the Christian Coalition.)

I'd approached his presidency with an open mind. I hadn't voted for Bush, but I didn't expect the worst of him, either. After all, I'd always been in the moderate middle of my own party -- a staunch advocate of fiscal discipline, a devotee of balanced budgets, pro-choice but also pro-gun owners' rights, and in favor of the death penalty in some instances. In my races for governor, I'd always enjoyed the support of a certain number of moderate Republicans who shared my commitment to balanced budgets and responsible social spending. "Compassionate conservatism" sounded like something I could live with until the next Democrat ran. And from what I knew of George W. Bush's personality and temperament, I figured I could live with him, too.

I was astounded, then, when Bush cast moderation and conservatism aside and took up the mantle of right-wing extremism....

I remember feeling the same way during 2000. Although I was Gore supporter, Bush at least seemed like a reasonable guy. I had a number of concerns about what he would do to the environment, education and some other issues. It didn't take long for all of those concerns to be replaced by a fear that we were losing democracy itself.

The Bush regime is corrupt to the core: it pains me that I cannot find anything kind to say about them. The needless war, cover-ups, weekely scandals, Abu Ghraib, increasing level of terrorism. Is there anything this bunch can do that doesn't make me ashamed to be an American?

Since the selection of 2000, it has been apparent to many people more learned than me that the Bush cartel does not buy into the legitimacy of the democratic system. If that is true, what is to stop them from attempting to remain in power regardless of the outcome of the November election? Sound far-fetched? Perhaps, but the administration is making plans for it.

However, the recent awakening of pockets of the American people (even conservatives) to the drunk-with-bloodlust erosion of the Bill of Rights under Bush-43 gives me hope that one day I can teach my kids about the resilience of American democracy rather than its passage.


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