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How would Consumer Reports rate the Bush Administration?

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June 2007
How would Consumer Reports rate the Bush Administration?

And more importantly, how this reflects on us as Americans.

Americans are a funny lot. When buying an automobile or even something as relatively insignificant as a toaster, we pore diligently over the research and comparison of various brands and models. The nonprofit Consumer Reports magazine is a uniquely American phenomenon that helps us do exactly that—compare products and services in as objective a manner as possible.

A prudent evaluation of anything requires a neutral approach without any preconceived notions, personal agenda or sentimental brand loyalty. While this may be easy to do when shopping for toasters, it is not so when it comes to something that has a far larger significance and impact on our lives—the Presidency of the U.S. When it comes to that, we seem too eager to abandon our consumer mindset and take on a loaded personal and partisan approach. Which ideology or Party our fathers and forefathers belonged to, or which church or professional affiliation or ethnic group we belong to, suddenly overrules a consumer mindset towards the Presidency.

In this respect, we, the newer immigrants into the country, may have an advantage. When I came to the country as a young twenty-year-old, I had vague, if any, ideas of what it meant to be a Republican or a Democrat, a liberal or a conservative, at least in the American context. I was a clean slate with no axe to grind when it came to the political discourse of the country. I have been publicly critical of President Clinton for having debased the Oval office; I have been and am critical of the current administration.

Along with being the critic—which comes naturally with the job—I am usually as optimistic as one can be. Yet, for the last few years, I have lived with a gnawing and ominous feeling that has me, like many Americans, concerned about the national conscience, character, and future of this great country. In the sidebar appearing on the next page, I am wondering how might the Consumer Reports rate the Bush administration on the large and growing list of criticisms against it. As for myself, I can't help but see the writing on the wall, loud and clear.

Yet, as alarming as it is that we have an abysmal President on our hands, what bothers me more, and is the source of that gnawing and ominous feeling, is how very little it disturbs most of us—how our national attention and airwaves are hogged more by Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Sanjaya; rather than the daily bombings and deaths in Iraq, or the fact that, if not checked and reversed, the environment is headed towards doomsday, or that American financial solvency has been compromised thanks to over $500 billion already spent in Iraq (with no end in sight). I can't imagine a darker scenario for any country than the fact that its most urgent and pressing issues have also become the most tiresome and tedious for the masses.

Sure, the media is reporting on these, if only perfunctorily. And yes, most of us are letting out the obligatory sighs about these grave matters. But that seems to be the extent of what we will do about it, even as more than twenty-five percent of us still believe President Bush to be a strong leader who will "not change course" in the face of daunting odds!

As a nation, we would surely be diagnosed as delusional. That, and only that, can explain the fact that close to half of the country still believes that Saddam Hussain was responsible for (or even linked to) September 11—or that Iraq had any ties with al Qaeda—or that invading Iraq would make us safer from terrorism. These are as stark and definitive a set of symptoms as any to suggest a national delusion.

Only that can explain the fact that no less than a governor of a State of this great nation can, even today, with the benefit of hindsight, claim that, "This president did not choose war. He chose to protect the United States of America"—as did Sonny Perdue recently on national radio. Perdue went on to lament the fact that critics [of the war and the Bush administration] are not providing any solutions: "Until you've got a better idea, keep your mouth shut." Besides the fact that this displays a patently un-American mentality, one can say that recognizing and speaking out against what got us into this mess is the first and most urgent solution. We can't positively impact the future until we are first willing to engage in honest postmortem, painful introspection and accountability. And that requires a Consumer Reports approach, not a personal or partisan one.

Sidebar:

How might the Consumer Reports rate the Bush Administration on the following partial list of common criticisms and charges against it?

?Misled the Congress and the country about the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) threat in Iraq.

?Had no plans for the post invasion occupation of Iraq.

?Consistently ignored repeated caution from various experts, military as well as others, who had warned—prior to the invasion—about sectarian violence and civil war, which has now come to pass and continues to bog down the greatest superpower in history.

?Unstatesmanlike conduct and speech: "Axis of evil," "Bring them on," etc.—which the President, in hindsight, acknowledged was counterproductive.

?A schoolyard bully type worldview and vision which, instead of building friendships, solidarity, partnerships, and cooperation, resulted in antagonism, distrust, fear, and even hatred of America.

?Dramatized and fabricated the events surrounding the Jessica Lynch ordeal to use it as a PR story to support the war.

?Dramatized and fabricated the events surrounding Pat Tillman and lied to his family and the nation about those events to use it as a PR story to support the war.

?Abu Ghraib!!!

?Guantanamo Bay!

?Approved torture in warfare, bringing down the credibility of the vaunted USA to the level of a banana republic—in spite of expert advice and evidence that torture does not yield effective results.

?No-bid Haliburton contracts.

?Consistently ignored expert advice from generals of the U.S. army regarding the number of troops needed to secure peace and stability in Iraq.

?Appointed high level officials based on cronyism rather than competence and experience.

?Michael Brown and Katrina!!

?Federal entities such as the Executive branch, the CIA, the FBI, and the Secretary of the State are on the same team: team U.S.A. They should be working cohesively as one whole in the best interest of the country; instead there is a never-before-seen level of distrust and finger-pointing amongst them regarding blame for poor intelligence, poor planning etc., etc.

?Donald Rumsfeld, Michael Brown, Paul Wolfowitz, Alberto Gonzales, John Ashcroft, Colin Powell, White House aide David H. Safavian (of the infamous Jack Abramoff scandal), Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Philip Cooney, the former chief of staff for Bush's Council on Environmental Quality: an alarming number of high level officials and Bush loyalists were forced to resign, were disgraced or disgruntled, or quit amongst questionable circumstances.

?Alarming disregard for worldwide scientific consensus regarding global warming which can have grave and far reaching consequences.

?Similar myopic and dogmatic denial and federal stonewalling of stem cell research.

?Abuse of Presidential powers in the Terri Schiavo case.

?Valeri Plame! The office of the Commander-in-Chief is suspected to have ratted out on the confidential identity of one of its own foot solders in what seems like an act of juvenile vengeance.

?Ignored and acted in direct opposition of the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan commission headed by former Secretary of State (in the term of Bush senior), James A. Baker III.

?Politically motivated firings of Attorney Generals.

--Parthiv N Parekh


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