Each was elected president of the United States, but George the 43rd possesses none of the courage, intelligence, or wisdom of the first.
George Washington was born into a respectable planting family in Virginia. His father died when he was 11, leaving a widow and seven children. The young Washington received a grade-school education; however, he was unable to attend college. He had to go to work at age 16 as a surveyor and ultimately conducted more than 190 surveys on the Virginia frontier. When Washington was 20 years old, he petitioned the governor for a military appointment, and began to lead a series of military expeditions into the Ohio Country, where he engaged in battles with the French and their Indian allies. He was ultimately appointed a colonel, and in 1755 he became an aide-de-camp to the British General Braddock, who was leading an invasion into the French-held Ohio region. Braddock was killed and his army defeated during an Indian ambush; however, Washington was able to rally the troops and saved the lives of many soldiers. Two horses were shot out from under him, and four bullets pierced his coat as he maneuvered in the thick of the battle.
Only 23 years of age, Washington was appointed as Commander in Chief of the Virginia Regiment. He learned lessons from Braddock’s defeat and trained his troops in both the rigorous discipline of British troops and the “bushfighting” tactics of Indian warriors. For the next three and a half years, he led his thousand “Blues” in constant combat operations on the Virginia frontier in the war against France. He knew most of his soldiers personally and was viewed as a father figure, even though most of the soldiers were older than him. He resigned his commission in 1758 to get married and to attend to his family’s estate.
George W. Bush was born to high privilege; his great-grandfathers helped establish and earned enormous profits from the military industrial complex and, his grandfather helped finance Hitler’s war machine. His parents were both raised in wealthy households attended by servants, and they spoiled George Jr., their first born. He was allowed to abuse his siblings, to torment and kill animals and to sustain mediocrity in his education. He required his father’s “legacy” to get into Yale, where he organized physical hazing described in newspaper reports as “degrading, sadistic and obscene.” He was arrested for theft, disorderly conduct, drunk driving and possession of cocaine.
In 1968, 296,406 American boys were drafted into military service, and 6,332 came home from Vietnam in body bags. Although he was 22 years old, a college graduate, and physically fit, Bush’s father pulled strings to jump him over 500 waiting applicants and into the Texas Air National Guard, even though he could only answer 25 of the 100 questions on the pilot aptitude test. Bush declined to volunteer for Vietnam service, choosing instead to patrol the skies over Houston, Texas on weekends, until he grew bored and went AWOL.
In the management of his family’s estate, George Washington brought to bear the same skills and energy he had used in creating the Virginia Regiment. Over the next 17 years, he more than doubled the size of Mount Vernon and, in 1766, to overcome the planters’ dependence on English merchants, he abandoned tobacco as a cash crop. He began to grow wheat; he built his own mill to process it into flour; and he began to spin and weave locally produced linen and wool to clothe his workers. Washington built a schooner to harvest fish from the Potomac, and purchased a larger ship to transport his own products to European markets. He organized the Mississippi Land Company to obtain control over 2.5 million acres along the Ohio River, and he fought for the rights of Virginia veterans to receive land along the western rivers on the same basis as British regulars.
In 1978, having never worked at a real job, George W. Bush decided to venture into the oil business. He was 32 years old and had an uncle who was a wealthy Wall Street banker to give him a start. Spending more time in West Texas barrooms and on the golf course than the oil patch over the next 12 years, Bush was repeatedly on the verge of bankruptcy and was bailed out by Salem bin Laden, the brother of Osama bin Laden, and by other individuals and corporations seeking favors from his father, the Vice President. In 1990, Bush used insider information of impending losses to dump his corporate stock and illegally failed to report the sale to the SEC for eight months, during which time the value of the stock plummeted. Bush used the proceeds to pay off a half-million-dollar loan he had obtained the previous year to purchase a two-percent interest in the Texas Rangers, Dallas’s baseball franchise. Although Bush had been restricted from having anything to do with managing the franchise, he ultimately ended up with almost $15 million when it was sold. Bush bragged that his success was due to hard work, and he denied he had ever profited from his family connections.
George Washington served in the House of Burgesses, and in 1769 he called for Virginia to boycott English goods and for an end to the slave trade. In 1774, he was elected as one of seven delegates from Virginia to the Continental Congress. The following year he was returned to the Second Continental Congress, receiving 106 of the 108 votes cast, and he was chosen to command the Virginia militia. In the Second Congress, after chairing four committees on military readiness, Washington was appointed as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. He agreed to serve without pay, and for the next six years he was constantly with his soldiers in the field. During battles, he would appear on his horse among the front lines as bullets flew past and others fell dead and wounded by his side.
The war did not immediately go well for the Americans, and during the battle of Long Island, the siege of Fort Washington, and the Forage War, the British and Hessian troops often provided no “quarter” in putting to death all rebels who fell into their hands. The wounded had their brains dashed out, were run through with bayonets and their bodies were mutilated. American prisoners were imprisoned under conditions of great misery, including the holds of prison ships in New York harbor, where large numbers died after great suffering. In spite of these war crimes, Washington never denied quarter to the enemy and ordered that all prisoners be treated as human beings with the same rights that the rebels were fighting for. He wrote, “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army in their Treatment of our unfortunate brethren.” Washington particularly ordered that Hessian soldiers were “innocent people in this war, and were not volunteers, but forced into this war.” The Hessians were treated with such respect and humanity that they were allowed to march to the rear without escort, and 23 percent of all Hessian soldiers who survived the war chose to remain in America.
Following the American victory in Yorktown, Washington retired to Mount Vernon until he was called upon to attend and chair the Constitutional Convention. With ratification of the Constitution and establishment of the United States in 1789, Washington was twice unanimously selected by all electors and served two terms as the Nation’s first president. Regarding the government, he said, “As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.”
George W. Bush jogged for Congress in 1978 and was decisively defeated. In 1990, he hired consultant Karl Rove to make him over from a failed featherweight businessman into a heavyweight political contender. Relying on policy teams to formulate positions, Rove reduced them to simple terms and phrases for Bush to memorize. The plan worked and Bush was elected in 1994 as Governor of Texas, a largely ceremonial job. The same formula almost succeeded in the presidential election of 2000 when Bush came within a half million votes of Al Gore in the popular vote; however, family connections again bailed him out. His father’s former Secretary of State, James Baker flew into Florida where Bush’s brother Jeb was governor, the chief vote counter chaired his reelection committee, and only a few hundred disputed votes separated the candidates. After the Florida Supreme Court found for Gore, Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a majority appointed by President Reagan and his father ruled that the intent of the Florida voters was irrelevant and Bush was anointed as president.
Bush presided over a failed presidency and his public approval ratings were barely above 50 percent when al Qaeda attacked on September 11, 2001, much like lighting striking the well-insured building of a bankrupt company. As a “war president,” Bush established an outdoor prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where POW’s were confined in chain-link cages open to the elements and denied the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention; he illegally held hundreds of undocumented immigrants in prison without access to counsel; he denied all due process to American citizens imprisoned as an “enemy combatants;” he established secret prisons in other countries; he ordered the kidnaping and “extraordinary rendition” of individual into other countries where they were brutally tortured; and he authorized the illegal use of torture in the questioning of prisoners in places such as Abu Ghraib, as long as it didn’t produce organ failure or death, or was done in accordance with “military necessity.” Even when Congress passed legislation, which he resisted, forbidding the torture of prisoners, Bush appended a “signing statement” in which he said he would follow the law only if and as he decided.
Although there is no evidence that George Washington ever declined as a child to lie about chopping down a cherry tree, his personal probity is a matter of history. He said, “There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." He hoped to possess “firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.”
George W. Bush says, "I am the president, see? And I do not have to explain myself to anyone." However, when he does try to explain, it’s like something from Through the Looking Glass: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said [to Alice], in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'” Bush recently said, “when the President speaks, he better mean what he says.” However, the record is increasingly clear -” his words have no true meaning for the rest of us, except to signal that great danger lies ahead.
In his State of the Union speech on January 28, 2003, Bush stated that the International Atomic Energy Agency had confirmed that Iraq had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, when in fact the IAEA maintained it had destroyed the program; he stated that Iraq had purchased high-quality aluminum tubes “suitable for nuclear weapons production,” when the IAEA and his own Energy Department had already concluded that they were not suitable for the refining of uranium; and he said, “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa,” when in truth the CIA had informed Bush that the allegations were “highly dubious.”
On March 17, 2003, Bush told the American people that Iraq possessed some of the “most lethal weapons ever devised and that it had “aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.” These were all lies, as was his statement that “every measure has been taken to avoid war.” Actually, every step was taken to ensure war. It came, and no weapons of mass destruction were ever found, or any evidence that al Qaeda had ever been active in Iraq.
In June and July 2003, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson informed the media and the public that Bush had “twisted” intelligence on Iraq’s nuclear program and had not dealt honestly with Wilson’s findings during his investigation in Niger that there was no evidence that Iraq was seeking uranium. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney conspired to punish Wilson and to destroy his credibility by selectively leaking portions of a classified CIA National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Acting on their direct orders, Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby secretly informed two reporters about those portions which supported the Administration’s conclusion, while concealing evidence to the contrary. In a further effort to discredit Wilson, Libby went on to disclose that Wilson’s wife, whom he identified by name as an undercover CIA operative, had arranged the trip. Undoubtedly acting at Bush’s direction, his Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and National Security Adviser Steven Hadley also secretly leaked the same information to other reporters.
CIA officers were furious when the leaks were published and demanded a criminal investigation. There was a public outcry, and a special prosecutor was appointed to identify and prosecute the leakers. Here’s what Bush had to say: “I want to know the truth. … I have no idea whether we’ll find out who the leaker is.” “I don’t know of anybody in my administration who leaked classified information. If somebody did leak classified information, I’d like to know it, and we’ll take the appropriate action.” And finally, “If someone in my administration committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.” When he was interviewed by the special prosecutor’s investigators, Bush, accompanied by a criminal defense attorney, denied any prior knowledge that anyone on his staff had been involved in a campaign to discredit Wilson or that he had authorized the leaks. Did these words have any meaning other than a callow attempt to avoid responsibility?
As Commander in Chief, George Washington’s letters to Congress always took the form of requests rather than demands, and he always acknowledged that his authority was granted by Congress. Once the war was won, there were those who wanted Washington to declare himself king. He told one such advocate to “banish these thoughts from your Mind” and said that the idea was “big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my Country.” King George III commented that if Washington was able to resist becoming king he would be “the greatest man in the world.”
Washington sought to expand the powers of Congress, writing “if the powers of Congress are not enlarged, and made competent to all general purposes, that the Blood which has been spilt, and the expence that has been incurred, and the distresses which have been felt, will avail in nothing.” He said, “The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”
George W. Bush has sometimes quipped that it would be so much easier to govern in a dictatorship; however, it is increasingly clear that the real joke is on the American people. Since taking office, Bush has virtually eliminated the public’s access to government records; he has issued more than 100 “signing statements,” upon signing bills of legislation essentially nullifying any part he does not intend to obey; he has refused to disclose the membership and deliberations of a secret energy panel which formulated government policy; he has suppressed any dissent within government agencies that contradicted his narrow-minded policies; he has punished “whistle-blowers” for revealing government corruption and illegal activities; he deployed the military to spy on non-violent protest groups; he authorized the secret and illegal wiretapping of the telephone conversations and e-mails of thousands of American citizens; and he has lied about it -” repeatedly.
In establishing an imperial presidency, Bush seeks to avoid all accountability and oversight. He has used his “global war on terror” to expand presidential powers far beyond any grant by Congress, even denying that Congress has the power to limit him, if it interferes with his role as Commander in Chief of the military. More importantly, Bush has sought to deceive the American people about his crimes over and over and over, and the risk of harm posed by his criminality continues to increase.
The Reagan administration organized “readiness exercises” which called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to round up and detain up to 400,000 “refugees” in the event of “uncontrolled population movements” over the Mexican border into the United States. In January 2006, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $385 million contract to a Halliburton subsidiary to construct detention centers in the United States to cope with “an emergency influx of immigrants into the US, or to support the rapid development of new programs.” Each detention center is designed to hold up to 5,000 detainees, should Bush decide to declare martial law in the event of another terrorist attack or a natural disaster, such as another Katrina or an Asian Flu epidemic.
Bush has authorized the military to become engaged in “counter-terrorism” operations inside the United States and to conduct “special access” surveillance programs. The Pentagon’s national Counterterrorism Center now holds the names of 325,000 “terrorism” suspects. It is unknown how many of these “suspects” are American citizens defined as terrorist “affiliates.” The Pentagon’s “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support” pledges to “transform US military forces to execute homeland defense mission in the … US homeland.” The military considers antiwar protests to be a “threat” and protestors as “those who would harm us.” The Pentagon’s Civilian Inmate Labor Program (which provides for the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations) was recently revised. Are these the “new programs?” Should we fear our president?
In the fall of 1789, George Washington undertook a tour of the North, and the new citizens of the United States turned out in great numbers to greet their national hero. In the spring of 1791, Washington toured the South continuing to honor his pledge to visit all the states. One newspaper editorial criticized his being treated as a canonized American saint at every stop. Any fears that he would become king were put to rest when, after eight years in office, Washington quietly retired to Mount Vernon where he continued an active life, but took little part in politics. On December 12, 1799, Washington rode all day in a freezing storm attending to his plantation, but refused to change his wet clothes to avoid keeping his dinner guests waiting. He caught a severe throat infection and pneumonia and died on December 14, 1799. Washington was truly a great man.
George W. Bush’s public approval ratings are now down to 36 percent and falling fast. Americans are increasingly concerned about the rationality of any decision he makes, particularly as he is aggressively and obsessively seeking to extend his war on global terror into an atomic attack on Iran and to further curtail the freedoms of American citizens. At 30 percent, the Republican-controlled Congress’s ratings are even lower than Bush’s, and it is likely that the Democrats will increase their representation in Congress in the fall elections, perhaps even achieving a majority. Impeachment and criminal indictment may be on the horizon. Bush is an ignorant and vindictive little man.
This George is no Washington. George Washington was the Father of His Country. George W. Bush could be the Destroyer of His Country. To preserve our freedoms, America must return to the ideology upon which the United States was founded, and Americans must demand that our elected leaders adhere to those ideals.
Joseph J. Ellis’ His Excellency George Washington and David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing.