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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Bush’s character should be questioned

By David Servatius

It’s almost become a comedy routine. Every few weeks, in a moment of frustration, a Democrat bravely blurts out the raw truth about some issue, the usual Republican hypocrites and cowardly fellow Democrats start clucking with phony indignation, and within a couple of days, the offender slinks up to a microphone, apologizes and, more often than not, bursts into tears.

Most recently, we were presented with the sorry spectacle of California congressman Pete Stark. During debate on the House floor over the freshly-vetoed SCHIP legislation, an exasperated Stark blasted our national spending priorities and declared, in effect, that President Bush got some sort of “amusement” out of all of the death caused by the Iraq War.

The public flogging began almost immediately, and sure enough, just days later, Stark was standing at a podium and apologizing. To his credit, at least he didn’t cry. But, I swear, if you squinted hard enough, you could almost see a red-faced Nancy Pelosi marching him out by the ear and standing him up straight.

It was a pretty strong statement, admittedly, and a shocking accusation, but we’ve entered an era like nothing this country has seen before. We shouldn’t just dismiss what Stark said as the ravings of a lunatic. We should pause and ask ourselves two questions, because he may have inadvertently hit on something very important.

First, was he mistaken in what he implied? Second, was he wrong to imply it?

Was he mistaken? Stark was, after all, talking about someone who, according to a New York Times interview with a childhood friend, enjoyed sticking firecrackers into frogs (and not in their ears), tossing them into the air and watching them explode.

One of Bush’s earliest public statements was a defense of his fraternity’s practice of branding pledges with hot wire hangers. In it, he described the resulting wounds as “insignificant” and “only a cigarette burn that leaves no scarring mark, physically or mentally.”

In a 1999 interview with Talk magazine, then-Gov. Bush spoke mockingly about a female death row inmate who had just made an appearance on Larry King Live and pleaded with Bush for her life. Karla Faye Tucker had become a born-again Christian in a Texas prison and rededicated her life to helping other people. She didn’t want out of prison, mind you, she just wanted to live. Bush’s response to her plea was to parody it, smirking and whimpering, “Please don’t kill me?”

Watch his second debate with Al Gore in 2000. There are two very telling moments. At one point, the moderator of the debate discussed a Texas death penalty case in which the defendant’s court-appointed lawyer slept through the trial, which caused candidate Bush to, oddly, start giggling. Later in the debate, as he talked about three death row inmates, Bush started grinning creepily from ear to ear as he said, “Guess what’s going to happen to them! They’re going to be put to death!”

Watch him pump his fist in the air and declare, “Feels good!” as he is about to announce the invasion of Iraq to the nation. As you watch, bear in mind that this is when the first bombs are starting to destroy hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

In The Bush Dyslexicon, author Mark Crispin Miller makes a very astute observation. He theorizes that Bush only stumbles with language, saying things like, “I know how hard it is to put food on your family,” when he’s trying to empathize with people or appear caring. When he’s talking about punishing and hurting people, his statements are clear and concise.

It’s pretty hard, once you think about these things, to say that Congressman Stark was mistaken in what he was implying.

So then the question remains: Was it wrong to imply it? Is it wrong to denigrate the character of the president, even if his actions would seem to substantiate it?

On the contrary, it is vital to point these things out and talk about them freely. A president’s character and what his actions demonstrate about his character are highly relevant things for a national discussion. This president has consistently demonstrated by his actions how little appreciation he has for the value of life, and we need to understand what effect that has had.

The character of the president, in our cult-of-personality society, rapidly becomes the character of the country. It is, indeed, the character of this current president that most adequately explains why we have, in less than a decade, turned into a nation that starts unprovoked wars of aggression, murders innocent civilians and tortures people.

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