SEEING THE REAL BUSH….Add Tom Friedman to the list of people who have finally figured out what George Bush is all about. He kept hoping that Bush really wanted to do what was right for the country, but:

I was wrong. There is something even more important to the Bush crowd than getting Iraq right, and that’s getting re-elected and staying loyal to the conservative base to do so.

….Why didn’t the administration ever use 9/11 as a spur to launch a Manhattan project for energy independence and conservation, so we could break out of our addiction to crude oil, slowly disengage from this region and speak truth to fundamentalist regimes, such as Saudi Arabia? (Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.) Because that might have required a gas tax or a confrontation with the administration’s oil moneymen. Why did the administration always ? rightly ? bash Yasir Arafat, but never lift a finger or utter a word to stop Ariel Sharon’s massive building of illegal settlements in the West Bank? Because while that might have earned America credibility in the Middle East, it might have cost the Bush campaign Jewish votes in Florida.

And, of course, why did the president praise Mr. Rumsfeld rather than fire him? Because Karl Rove says to hold the conservative base, you must always appear to be strong, decisive and loyal. It is more important that the president appear to be true to his team than that America appear to be true to its principles.

For all I that I occasionally make fun of Friedman for his yo-yo mood swings and bizarre metaphor-challenged prose, I have to say that I sympathize with him here. As much as I’ve always despised Bush for his party-?ber-alles approach to the presidency, I too spent most of 2002 figuring that even he would put politics on hold and put the country first when it came to war.

But he didn’t. It was basically just an election gimmick to him, a club to whack Democrats with, and it’s so hard to conceive of an American president treating a war this cynically that I can understand why Friedman took so long to admit it to himself. Hell, even I still have moments where I just shake my head and think that I must be wrong. No one could be that callow, that vindictive, that shortsighted.

But George Bush is. After 9/11 he had a chance to make the war on terror into a bipartisan cause but he didn’t take it. What’s worse, it’s not that he tried and did a bad job of it, but that he deliberately decided to make terrorism as divisive an wedge issue as he possibly could. By doing that he has set the anti-terrorist cause back by years.

He truly is a disgrace to the Republican party.

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