Clinton Better

How many Americans died at the hands of terrorists during two Clinton administrations? Not many. How many have died during the first three years of the George W. Bush administration? Well in excess of 3,000, and more to come.

Facts are facts, so don’t waste your time debating which of the two men did the better job. It’s Bill Clinton. He is a man full of faults, but he at least engaged in efforts to solve the Middle East conflicts. Bush, on the other hand, has done nothing and, like his hero, Ariel Sharon, has no answer to anything except to bomb and kill.

Clinton lied to us about his affair with an intern. If we were married to Hillary Clinton, we might have been tempted to lie also. She reportedly has a ferocious temper. But however disgraceful his personal behavior was, no one but himself was harmed by it.

Bush, on the other hand, clearly misled the American people into war. Nearly 600 Americans are dead, and more will follow; nearly 3,000 are wounded; and nearly 10,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Our forces are stuck in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and no exit is in sight.

Whatever the true motive for the war was, it was not the mythical weapons of mass destruction or an urgent desire to save the Iraqi people from a dictator. If you believe the published writings of the neocons, the war against Iraq was designed to make the Middle East safer for Israel; if you believe the oil-conspiracy folks, it was designed to station American troops permanently on top of the world’s second-largest known oil reserves.

In either event, it was not in America’s interest. Saddam Hussein was an old man nearing his dotage. He had one son who was a murderous lunatic and another who aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps. When dictators grow old and weak, there is always a power struggle, and there is no guarantee that either of Saddam’s sons would have survived it.

Moreover, Saddam Hussein had no ties to international terrorism. His only tie was his support for the Palestinians. His was a secular government, and he despised religious fanatics — and they despised him. Furthermore, Iraq was in a terribly weakened condition and no threat to anyone. That was shown by the fact that the only things that slowed us down on the way to Baghdad were our own supply problems and the weather.

The Bush administration has shown a consistent pattern of secrecy and deception. It has shown a consistent pattern of favoring big business and the rich. It has recklessly increased spending at a much higher rate than the Clinton administration did. It has alienated most of America’s traditional allies. It has shown no interest at all in stopping the inflow of illegal immigrants or the outflow of American jobs. It has greeted all of its critics with a barrage of character assassination.

Furthermore, it did a lousy job of planning for postwar Iraq and Afghanistan, a failure which might yet undo the success wrought by the military. And it is doing a lousy job of occupation. When Paul Bremer, our Roman consul in Baghdad, has to brag that after a year, Iraq’s infrastructure is back to where it was before the war, that is an admission of little progress. In other words, despite billions of dollars, Iraq is now back to where it was when Saddam was in power.

Clearly, Bush is a failed president, despite his cocky attitude and campaign war chest filled mainly by Wall Street financiers. The best thing he has going for him is that the American people seem to have lost all sense of standards. Most don’t know the difference between a good book and a bad one, a good movie and a bad one and a good leader and a bad one.

Looking at the prospects of four more years of the Bush administration, I’m reminded of what a commander of the Strategic Air Command said when I asked him what he thought about the future. He said, "I wouldn’t give you 2 cents for it."

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.