The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Sunday, April 09, 2006

If I were President...

Taking up the gauntlet

All right, several readers have accused me of “Bush Bashing” in the sense of criticizing his decisions without offering alternatives of my own.  Fair enough, I suppose.  Not fair—I didn’t ask for the job, and anyone who does is totally open to criticism.  Note the hack job Right-Wing radio did on Clinton (and they haven’t stopped yet—according to them, everything wrong in the world is the responsibility of a guy out of office for seven years.  Pretty funny, actually)—but fair enough.  Let’s get to it.
There are really two questions here: what would I have done differently, and what would I do now.  Fair enough.  We also need to define the arenas of question.  The biggest one has to do with 9-11 and the aftermath.  Simply put:

I think Bin Laden pulled off a genius-level coup on 9-11, and I think he could have pulled it off anywhere except Israel.  Honestly, I think only sheer luck could have stopped it.  I wonder about the “Bin Laden determined to attack in the United States” memo left Bush by the Clinton Administration, and reports that there wasn’t a single meeting on that subject…but I’m willing to give that a pass. 
Afterward, the attack on Afghanistan—well done, and totally justified in my mind.
That was where it went wrong.  Instead of staying in Afghanistan, rebuilding, and concentrating on capturing Bin Laden, Bush went utterly off the rails with the attack on Iraq.  I happen to believe Richard Clark and others who say that Bush was dead-set on attacking Iraq.  Why?  No doubt a combination of motivations, some of them perfectly justified and understandable.  Others…I suspect less so.  Whatever the justifications, now we understand why Bush I, a smarter, better president,  didn’t push the Gulf War on to Bagdhad.  He understood perfectly well the disaster awaiting a power vacuum.  I would have stayed in Afghanistan and tried to turn THAT Islamic country into a democracy, built up ITS infrastructure.
Those are the only things that seem crystal clear to me.  There are other issues: Katrina, the national debt, security leaks, etc.  But here, I would like readers to define for me what areas need to be addressed.  Because this is what I would do if someone were stupid enough to put me in to the White House today:

I would first clearly define the arenas that need addressing.  Now, there are so many of them, in so many arenas, that I am PERFECTLY aware of my incompetence to handle them.  But, as Dirty Harry said, “A Good man always knows his limitations.”  Ahem.  But if I WAS there, just for this thought exercise, I would start by defining the 10 most important areas of concern for the American public.  I ask readers to help me define the top 10.
I would start by formulating my best opinion on the approach for each of them.  Then I would post them on a public forum of some kind, and solicit opinions.  My first act would be to find the smartest and best people in each arena, from both sides of the political aisle, and have them tell me why my ideas suck, and react to the public reactions to my ideas.  Look at the short and long-term effects.  And this is where I would learn, and begin to get a sense of what might actually work, and from these interactions I would create a team to propose answers, and from those answers get an overall sense of what is politically feasible within my term.
With total admission of my ignorance, I submit the following arenas of concern (in no particular order of importance), and ask readers to tell me what I’ve omitted, or if one of them shouldn’t be in the top 10:

Terrorism and National Security
The National Debt
Health Care
Energy Consumption and the environment
Civil Rights (addressing the principles in the  Covenant)
Drug Enforcement

I will then make a fool of myself by posting my thoughts on each of the areas.  I would then like people to tear me a new one, showing me why my thoughts would not work, and hopefully pointing toward actual solutions, or experts who have them.

Let’s get a conversation started.  None of us have the answers, but all of us damned well do.



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