Friday, October 29, 2004

Bad faith


By MICHAEL AMES

Every once in a rare while, it becomes necessary to quote Pat Buchanan. Of President Bush?s decision to invade Iraq, Buchanan wrote:

?Invade and we inherit our own West Bank of 23 million Iraqis, unite Islam against us, and incite imams from Mo-rocco to Malaysia to preach jihad against America ? Iraq is the worst strategic blunder in our lifetime.?

When such clear concern is voiced from such a renowned conservative, it cannot be easily dismissed as partisan gerrymandering.

Buchanan, like other Republicans such as Paul O?Neil, Bush?s former treasury secretary, and Bruce Bartlett, a Reagan advisor and treasury official under Bush the elder, are speaking their minds about the transformative effects of George W. Bush?s insular, cabalistic presidency.

They are aware that Bush is a man of overpowering confidence who will never reconsider, never second guess and most distressingly, never listen to dissenting thought. Some call this unwavering certainty his greatest asset. More know that it is his most dangerous vice.

In his recent New York Times magazine article, ?Without a Doubt,? Ron Suskind, the former senior national affairs editor for The Wall Street Journal, explores Bush?s mode of rule and specifically, how the faith he often invokes uniquely guides him as a leader.

As anyone who has questioned the rationale for war and been promptly labeled ?anti-American? can attest, there is a growing tendency to have faith in everything the president does, mostly because the president has faith in everything the president does.

The problem with such inscrutability, as John Kerry put it with rare conciseness, is that ?you can be certain and you can be wrong.?

?The whole thing about faith is to believe things for which there is no empirical evidence,? says Bartlett.

Bush wasn?t always so certain. It came recently, long after he was famously saved from alcohol, a struggling mar-riage, and a fledgling business career when the Rev. Billy Graham?an old Bush family friend?was enlisted to save him. The intervention was successful. Bush found his inner light. He was saved.

The nation, he believes, hit its own rock bottom on Sept. 11, 2001. The path out of that valley of darkness and to the top of the glorious mountain, he also believes, is through faith and the Calvinist ?hard work? he so frequently intoned during the first debate.

While faith can be a wonderful cure for a man?s ills, while faith can be the cornerstone on which a once troubled life is rebuilt, unwavering religious faith has never been a successful guiding light for a democracy.

Absolute faith leads to decisions based on ?gut? or ?instincts,? determining factors often cited by the president as rationales for hasty decisions and policy changes.

?Without a Doubt? recalls a recent private meeting between Bush and Amish farmers in Lancaster, Pa., where the president ?was reported to have said, ?I trust God speaks through me.??

When one trusts that he is enacting the will of the Lord, there is no room for debate.

Christie Todd Whitman, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under Bush and former Republi-can governor of New Jersey, resigned from her post for these exact reasons.

On the day of her resignation in May 2003, she told Suskind, ?In meetings, I?d ask if there were any facts to support our case. And for that, I was accused of disloyalty!? (However, Whitman has since become a born-again Bushian, preaching his re-election message in her home state.)

With no room for dissent, discussions become formalities. With no allowance for contrarian facts, evidence falls in line with the dictated ideology. Intelligence reports, designed to inform, are instead hand-picked to deliver the antici-pated ?slam dunk.?

When meaningful debate is removed from the highest seat of democratic power, ?freedom? and ?liberty? become empty slogans. With George W. Bush in office, we step toward a dangerous future controlled by one man?s faith in himself.

It?s time for a national gut-check.




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