Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Presidents named ?W?

Express Staff Writer

In discussing how Vice President Cheney seems to operate as the de facto U.S. president running a rogue operation in the White House, a knowledgeable Washington reporter said on TV, as I recall his words, that Cheney "allows President Bush to wake up in the morning thinking he's president."

For a moment on Presidents' Day, however, George W. Bush was filled with even grander images of himself while speaking at Mount Vernon. In a gawky half-humorous attempt to associate himself with George Washington's luster, President Bush said, "I feel right at home here. After all, this is the home of the first George W." Get it? George W. Bush and George W(ashington)? (Chuckle.)

He should've left it at that. The next line implying he was an heir to Washington's lofty legacy and embraced it as an ethical standard taxed the credulity of even the faithful.

"America has succeeded," Bush said, " because we have always tried to maintain the decency and honor of our first president."

"Decency and honor?" Do any thinking Americans consider "decency and honor" synonymous with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney?

How implausible.

Bush lacked the decency to finish his term as a U.S. Air Force officer in a squadron of privileged sons of wealth and influence: He just skipped out. Cheney didn't have the decency to honor Vietnam-era draft notices: He talked his way out of five (!) calls to service to become the nation's best-known draft evader.

As for "honor," I've sifted through policies and actions of the Bush-Cheney years without finding a nugget that passes for "honor."

Chicanery and trickery are methods of their governance to launch a war igniting violence in the Middle East, plundering the treasury to enrich cronies, poisoning America's fine reputation abroad, approving torture of suspected terrorists, shrinking civil liberties, slandering war critics as unpatriotic, crippling the U.S. military.

Most Americans would agree with Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen's perspective—that "since all politicians, like lovers and mattress salesmen, lie a bit, we do not expect purity."

But, really. Claiming to embody George Washington's "decency and honor" bequest to his successors is going too far even for these men who've mastered the art of the con.

Washington's oft-quoted "I cannot tell a lie" probably is apocryphal, but this one is not, and eliminates any doubt about whether the Bush-Cheney years have the color of George Washington's character.

"I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man."

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