Friday, May 06, 2005

Is Bush an Idiot?

I was invited to attend a class at the University of Grenoble here in France a few weeks ago to hear a fellow American speak to the on the subject of the religious right in the United States. Her audience was a group of French university students who were taking advanced English. The speaker was an ex-Mormon missionary who had became disillusioned with Mormonism and conservative religious thought in general. She now lives and works in France. In her presentation, she painted a large segment of the population of the United States as foaming-at-the-mouth right-wingers who are far out of touch with reasonable people in the rest of the world.

I object to this stereotyping. I admit that the religious right in the U.S. has a disproportionate influence on the current administration, and I deplore that fact. However, the American religious right probably makes up between 10 and 15 percent of the population. I considered it unfair to paint a large segment of U.S. with the same rightwing brush.

Her strongest barbs were reserved for George Bush, whom she called a man “with no education” who “lied to the American people.” She said she recognized in his speech pattern the signs of brain damage done by his history of alcohol abuse.

I have no love for George Bush. I consider him to be a bad president who has gotten the U.S. into great economic difficulty. I believe he has engineered a transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the most wealthy among us. It pains me to have to defend him, but I think that when criticizing someone we should stick to facts. The facts are not on the speaker’s side.

Let us begin with George Bush’s alleged lack of education. He graduated from Yale and later earned a master’s degree from Harvard Business School. If education is defined as schooling, George Bush has more of it than most people, including many of his critics.

On the subject of “lying to the American people,” I assume that refers to Bush’s statements before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. When it turned out that those weapons did not exist, some people made the charge that Bush had lied to us. I believe that a liar is someone who makes a statement knowing that the statement is false. Making a false statement that one believes to be true is called a mistake.

Investigations have shown that, before the Iraq invasion, the CIA was convinced that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. The CIA was in good company. The intelligence agencies of Great Britain, France, Germany, and Israel also believed that Iraq had those weapons. They were all wrong. They should be criticized for their ineptness, but there is a difference between being incompetent and being a liar. There is no evidence that Bush lied about his belief that Iraq was hiding some very dangerous weapons.

I find the charge that George Bush suffered brain damage as a consequence of his drinking to be the most outrageous part of the speaker’s presentation. A reputable doctor would hesitate to diagnose a person whom he had not examined. Others, with no medical training, have no qualms about diagnosing the supposed mental ills of people whom they only know through news reports and televised speeches.

Is George Bush a bad president? Anyone who understands how to balance a checkbook must conclude that he is. However, let us criticize him for the defects that he has, which are many. There is no need to trump up false ones.

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