Our Current President Once Again Shows His Complete Incompetence

As with many of my fellow Democratic supporters, I have had to come to terms with the outcome of our recent presidential election. Finding an uncomfortable reassurance in the fabric of American political principles, I am resolved to ride out the Bush presidency without excessive bitterness. This will not, however, prevent me from gently venting my concerns over the current state of the Bush administration, and in particular, the competency of our commander in chief.

Last week, many Americans turned on the evening news, or perhaps even opened up a newspaper, to discover the shocking announcement that the United States and Great Britain had conducted an air strike against the lowly nation of Iraq. For those viewers who managed to remain attentive after hearing the words “”air strike”” and “”Iraq”” in the same sentence, the startling headlines were followed by a vague outline of events and last, but not least, a statement by Bush himself.

The president, speaking on behalf of his country and in the presence of foreign officials, offered only four sentences on the developing situation in Iraq:

“”Since 1991, our country has been enforcing what’s called a no-fly zone. A routine mission was conducted to enforce the no-fly zone. And it is a mission about which I was informed, and I authorized. But I repeat: It’s a routine mission, and we will continue to enforce the no-fly zone until the world is told otherwise.””

I certainly cannot speak for the majority of Americans, but a statement about U.S. military actions that uses “”routine mission”” twice in the course of four brief sentences strikes me as either deceptive or uninformed.

Though our dear commander in chief has been known to blunder a syllable on occasion, I believe that his statement demonstrates more a lack of information than a lack of oratory skills. Looking behind the game face that Bush has perfected for the public arena, the eyes of the man more often than not express a wondering panic — as if trying to formulate the correct combination of buzzwords to quell the inquiries of the press.

The president’s brief, jumbled statements should not be seen as anything new. Throughout the campaign, even the mainstream media was attracted to Bush’s brief moments of oratory ineptitude (A complete record is kept at http://slate.msn.com/Features/bushisms/bushisms.asp), but these are merely the curtains that line the stage of what ought to concern us. What the public — and the media in particular — should have been concerned with were the moments when it became painfully obvious that Bush lacked substance.

During the debates, for instance, the issue of affirmative action was raised. Former Vice President Al Gore repeatedly asked for former Gov. Bush’s position on the issue, refusing to accept Bush’s initial endorsement of a vague “”affirmative access”” program. The vice president pressed Bush on the issue, asking if he agreed with a nonquota-based affirmative action, as the Supreme Court had interpreted it.

The silence on the stage was deafening as Bush looked at Gore without answering, and then to moderator Jim Lehrer. Lehrer never made Bush answer the question.

The demeanor Bush carried when pressed for an answer by Gore revealed something to everyone paying attention at that moment. Bush’s silence and blank expression were not, as some deliberate, a matter of political prudence or strategy; they were candid proof that Bush simply did not understand what he was being asked. Continually referring to quota-based affirmative action, Bush clearly demonstrated that he was not aware that the Supreme Court has invalidated such practices after the Bakke case in 1978 — something that should be common knowledge for any presidential candidate.

Following the debate, I eagerly waited for the media, our trumpeted fourth branch of government, to evaluate each candidate’s performance. Surely, I thought, such an obvious nonresponse on a salient issue would garner the criticism of news anchors and newspaper editors everywhere. Of course, it did not.

Herein lies the reason that Bush was able to succeed in “”winning”” the election. The media saw the serious, substantive flaws that Bush presented in becoming the Republican candidate; instead of critically evaluating his qualifications, the debate and his substance, they balked when faced with their duty to report the truth. Lehrer, in acting as moderator for the debates, neglected his duty to make Bush answer a hard question, irrespective of whether it would have made Bush look bad.

I believe that the media saw these unsettling occasions that demonstrated a shallow and wholly unqualified knowledge of the issues, but nonetheless chose not to point them out.

Was it because it would look like the media were low-blowing a candidate? Did it think the public would criticize it for pointing out such personal flaws? I doubt it was that, either.

In reality, I think that the media was hesitant to boldly challenge a major party candidate’s qualifications. In doing so, perhaps it thought it would excessively criticize the system as a whole.

Whatever may be true of the media’s action, or lack thereof, the fact remains that Bush has been elected president and our concerns ought to focus on the present. As I gather from his fragmented explanation of the recent intervention in Iraq, the president’s knowledge of such issues appears to be scant.

Some have suggested that such vague comments are for the purpose of being politically succinct, but I would lend more credence to the hypothesis that Bush is increasingly becoming the mouthpiece for political players behind the scenes. Experienced politicians and insiders in the Bush camp, such as Vice President Dick Cheney and adviser Karl Rove, have always retained a central position in making key decisions.

I believe that given Bush’s actions and statements in his brief number of days in office, these advisors have assumed a tremendous amount of authority within the White House. Bush’s lack of substantive depth over the actions being carried out by his administration would support this idea. All presidents rely on their advisors to guide policy, but it seems quite plausible to suggest that Bush has taken a back seat to his.

Most of the public will laugh with amusement in the years to come as Bush’s follies are reported by late-night comedy shows, but few will come to realize that such anecdotes reveal a more troubling picture. Through his charisma, charm and folksy qualities, the public has come to accept Bush’s facade, not caring to examine his ability or, more importantly, those he chooses to entrust with his authority. If we are citizens who value the integrity of representative government, then we must ask the question: Whom does Bush represent?