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February 2, 2004, 8:00 P.M.

Double or Nothing: I have been trying to understand how George Bush got elected, why he remains in office and why he is even considered a threat for re-election. When you look at his record, consider the outright lies that he has told while in office,e and throw into the mix his irresponsible fiscal policies, his re-election bid should be seen as a fantasy.

Molly Ivins has made quite a career out of pointing out the deception and incompetence of this president in her articles, and her book, “Bushwacked.” It’s one thing to have an opinion that the president and his advisors are pandering to their rich cronies or are rewarding campaign contributors, it is quite another when it is so blatant as to be an established fact. The facts regarding these close ties in the form of rewards between the Bush White House and the money that put 43 in office are indisputable.

What really infuriates me is the support that this President continues to enjoy even among fiscal conservatives who ought to be hopping mad about a $550 billion deficit and an out of control spending plan. Last week it was announced that original estimates for the cost of the Medicare reform bill were about $200 billion short. The bill was sold to conservatives in the President’s own party based on the original estimates. One way of looking at this is to say that the President lied. The White House prefers to say that, and I’m paraphrasing here, when you put a plan like this together you make certain assumptions and when you are wrong on the basic assumptions, the numbers change. Well, okay, but that’s not quite what they said when they sold the Medicare package to their conservative pals on the Hill.

The same is true of the Mars mission. The number we hear today is artificially low. When the real numbers come out in a few years, there will be a big inquiry, “How could we be so wrong,” etc., but after all is said and done, the program will be funded, and the cost will be added to the mounting deficit. In the case of the Medicare and Mars examples, it’s much easier to beg forgiveness after the fact than to be truthful up front.

I really think that the answer to my question, “How did Bush get elected” is that some very powerful people want him there. It’s almost like Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and some of their friends were sitting around their gentlemen’s club, sipping bourbon and smoking cigars, when the conversation turned to political power. Rove says to Cheney, in a matter of fact sort of way, “You know, Dick, with the right connections, we could make anybody president.”

Cheney says, “Come on, Karl, not anybody. Take George’s kid over there, for example.”

Rove says, “Hell, Dick, I think I could even make him president.” As Cheney thinks this over, another one of the group leans close and says, “Karl, I got a hundred grand says you can’t.”

Rove replies, “You’re on. . .and I’ll even make Dick here the Veep!” Hey, it’s as good an explanation as any I’ve heard so far.

But seriously, what will it take to unseat this President? In all of my life of studying and being involved in politics, I have never seen a politician so hated by so many. I have to admit, I can’t stand the way he can’t stand up straight at a podium. I hate that cowboy drawl and those inane colloquialisms – “round ‘em up, smoke ‘em out, bring ‘em to justice.” Please. And it’s not just Democrats who can’t stand him, even members of his own party feel that way, and not all of them are the fiscal conservatives that he has angered with his irresponsible spending. There is some hope of unseating him, and had a real Republican emerged to challenge the party machine (like that’s going to happen) this election could be more about electing a good president than finding anybody who could possibly beat him.

Yet that is where we are. People are willing to vote for anyone who can run against this guy. Bush has a chance at re-election because I think the guy who offered the bet in the scenario I described earlier called Rove a few months later and said, “Double or nothin’, Karl.”

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Copyright 2003 Edward Philpot

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