The man who wasn’t there

 

 

Jonas Kane

Perhaps lost in the dullness of the past two weeks of conventions (save the zaniness of Dennis Kucinich and Mitt Romney managing to somehow jump the shark twice) was the cameo appearance of George W. Bush. Giving his feeble endorsement from afar, Bush asserted that he knows what it takes to be president and that John McCain is the man most equipped for the job. He is, according to Bush, a maverick, a rebel and someone with the experience to carry on Bush’s vision.

Listening to Bush’s speech, it’s almost impossible not to gather that though the words were there, the man just was not.

Bush claimed political capital after victory in 2004, but the unpopular war and the sluggish economy have contributed to the fact that his poll numbers have stagnantly remained around 30 percent.

And now, on top of that, he’s forced to hedge his bets on a man he clearly dislikes, but who is also the only one left willing to carry on his basic approach to foreign and domestic policy.

As president, Bush has been an unfortunate commingling of the worst parts of Prince Hal: an arrogant and lazy youth desperate to prove himself to his father and a leader too willing to overextend his military for unnecessary costs.

Bush doesn’t come across as a bad person – but as a man necessary for the times, he just hasn’t met the bill. And the result is a series of issues that, whether McCain or Barack Obama wins the presidency, still need to be solved. This past week, the U.S. unemployment rate rose to 6.1 percent, the highest level in five years. According to The New York Times, 84,000 jobs were lost in the past month alone, and 605,000 jobs have vanished since January of this year.

Close to 46 million people in this country still have no health insurance, leaving the United States woefully behind its European counterparts in providing care for its sick. Energy prices remain high, and Bush has been predictably slow in promoting sources of alternative energy and facing the threat of climate change. It should be no surprise that he’s chided Congress for not lifting the offshore drilling ban, even though a 2007 Department of Energy report estimates production would not begin for seven years and would produce only minimal impact starting in 2030, as oil prices are set on the international market.

Rather than lead and tell the people what they need to hear, he’s offered the false comfort of a quick fix. (McCain’s “drill here, drill now” slogan has also not inspired confidence.) Bush has consistently approached foreign policy with a black-and-white mentality that has proved time and again to be divisive with allies and counterproductive in dealing with complex situations.

In his defense, Bush does seem to have softened a bit as his presidency slowly rolls to its conclusion. He’s taken a reluctant embrace of the prospect of a time horizon in Iraq, and his and the local government’s response to the thankfully tame Hurricane Gustav was light years ahead of the response to the Katrina tragedy, when the only thing Bush did successfully was deliver a birthday cake to McCain.

What’s really been missing from this presidency, though, is the type of forward, creative thinking necessary to keep our country from sliding downward.

Al Gore, the man who might have been president, has at least chosen to step up where Bush has not. In July, he announced a plan to fuel the country through completely renewable sources within 10 years. Gore’s plan addresses the false idea that shifting toward a green economy and having a vibrant economy are mutually exclusive realities. Gore believes the technology is there – it’s whether we choose to actively pursue it that will make the difference.

Bush’s final chapter is nearing its end, and the next president needs to follow Gore’s lead – to be able to inspire, to lead and to promote those ideas that this administration has ignored.

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Jonas Kane is a junior English major from Harrisburg, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]a.edu.