Now that shopping period is just about over, more and more Yalies are starting to cast off the freedom of the summer and start paying attention to the world again. However, those of you who are reading the Yale Daily News to catch up on all that you’ve missed might be in danger of neglecting some of the most important news of the summer. In a poll in Newsweek in late August, 49 percent of Americans polled said they would not want President Bush re-elected. While this poll is not by any means definitive proof that Bush will lose in 2004, the rapid decline of approval for Bush from its unprecedented levels of the last two years is surely an ill omen for the White House. Finally, Bush’s gamble — preying on the insecurities of the American people to serve his own agenda while hoping no one catches on — is starting to cost him.
Perhaps one of the reasons why the Newsweek poll is so shocking is that the Bush administration constantly conveys the image of political infallibility by excluding legitimate dissent under the pretense that only it has the right answers to America’s problems. Anyone who questioned John Ashcroft’s arbitrary detainments of Muslim-Americans was fighting against the United States. Those who opposed the tax cut were obstacles to economic prosperity. As for Iraq? Let’s not even get into how the Bushies have denigrated their critics on that subject.
Having politicized the discussion in such a way, Bush has managed to portray his vision for America as the sole legitimate path for America. The American people, on the whole, have been willing to go along. After all, Bush defeated al-Qaida in Afghanistan, projected himself as a strong leader after Sept. 11, and managed to gain the benefit of the doubt from a scared American populace. Rather than using this political capital to boost funding for homeland security, push through strong economic packages, or take the war against al-Qaida to the next level, Bush embarked on a short-sighted program of egregiously regressive tax cuts that will lead us into deficits for decades to come and a war that puts the nation’s long-term stability at stake. This blatant exploitation of Bush’s post-Sept. 11 popularity could only succeed so long as the wool stayed over the American people’s eyes, and the war in Iraq has illuminated to many Americans the short-sighted nature of Bush’s policies.
In the war on Iraq, the megalomaniacal Bush team has so believed in its own perfection that the possibility of its plans going awry never entered into the administration’s decision making. Perfectly reasonable concerns, such as the difficulties in unilaterally rebuilding the nation, the possibility of increased terrorism, the lack of an immediate threat from Saddam, as well as the financial burdens entailed in this war were derided as pointless, anti-patriotic, and even tacit statements of support for Saddam Hussein.
Yet now, power and electricity are still not running through Iraq efficiently and there appears to be no progress made towards Iraqi self-governance besides an Iraqi Governing Council that has no real authority. American soldiers are in constant danger in Iraq, mainly because they are attempting to nation-build when Rumsfeld has already shut down America’s only nation-building institute; the soldiers have no idea what they’re doing besides playing sitting ducks. Bush apparently so bought into his own sense of moral rectitude in dealing with Iraq that he either managed to convince himself of the merits of totally discredited information in his State of the Union address, or he just outright lied to the American people. And the monthly bill for this war is already reaching $20 billion to $30 billion a month, notwithstanding the recent $87 billion request Bush made to Congress.
So now, for the first time in this presidency, the American people are asking questions. They fell for the trillions of dollars in tax cuts because they were eager to believe that President Bush had figured the numbers out and could avoid deficits. They were willing to believe in the need for war in Iraq, because Bush told them it was the right thing to do. But the chaos in Iraq is not as intangible a harm as the record deficits we will surely encounter in the years to come. Rather, it is an immediate and constant reminder of the danger inherent in placing too much faith in the Bush administration. Most importantly, it is a rebuttal of the Bush line that has been in place for too long that only George W. Bush can define what’s good for America, and everyone in his way is an obstacle to be dealt with. Obviously the American people are catching on to the desirability of a second voice in politics. In fact, 49 percent wish there were one in the White House right now. It seems as if the line, “Don’t worry, Bush has got it all under control,” has finally been exposed as little more than fool’s hope.
Ariel Schneller is a sophomore in Trumbull College.