Friday, February 13, 2004

I guess George really is the CEO of American, Inc.

As Paul Krugman points out, he has now turned the published federal budget into a glossy annual report.

Krugman goes on to point out the obvious with regard to Bush's character: it has become nothing more than a prop used to blunt criticism of his policies:

But when administration officials are challenged about the blatant deceptions in their budgets — or, for that matter, about the use of prewar intelligence — their response, almost always, is to fall back on the president's character. How dare you question Mr. Bush's honesty, they ask, when he is a man of such unimpeachable integrity? And that leaves critics with no choice: they must point out that the man inside the flight suit bears little resemblance to the official image.

There is, as far as I can tell, no positive evidence that Mr. Bush is a man of exceptional uprightness. When has he even accepted responsibility for something that went wrong? On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that he is willing to cut corners when it's to his personal advantage. His business career was full of questionable deals, and whatever the full truth about his National Guard service, it was certainly not glorious.

I have never been one to engage in personal attacks on Bush's character. Not because I think he doesn't deserve them but more because I know that a lot of people who are on the fence about his performance in office still like the guy personally. Attacking his character risks pushing them back over the fence. Whether Bush is a "nice guy" or not is really not the question. The question is whether he is a "good president." The two are not inextricably linked.

Still, having said that, Krugman is right that the Bushies make Bush's personal character the issue that it has become simply because it is the only defense they have against attacks on his policies. They really might want to think twice about this though, since Bush is no more safe from character attacks than he is policy attacks.

Put more simply: if the Bushies are going to use Bush's personal character as a defense against criticism of his policies then they have no standing to protest when people start to question that character.

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