The Truth, Mainly - 11/08/2004

Questions for the second term
by Leon Satterfield

I was so discombobulated by the election results that I started this column three different times.

Start #1: What election? I haven't heard nothin' about no stinkin' election. And even if there had been an election, I wouldn't have known anything about it because things like that don't interest me.

Start #2: The election outcome makes me think that Pap Finn—Huck's father—may have been on to something in his anti-government rant: "Call this a govment!…A man can't get his rights in a govment like this. Sometimes I've a mighty notion to just leave the country for good and all. Yes, and I told 'em so…Lots of 'em heard me and can tell what I said. Says I, for two cents I'd leave the blamed country and never come a-near it agin. Them's the very words…."

And then I read the NY Times post-election editorial scolding me for not being "ready to accept whoever wins by the rules of the game as the next chief-executive. …it is important for the entire country to accept him as the rightful president."

It made me hang my head in shame when I re-read my first two starts, which by contrast to the Times' exceedingly grownup words sounded shamefully immature. Ever since I turned 70 this year I've been trying hard to be a grownup. So I discarded those two beginnings and settled on this one:

Start #3: Congratulations to President Bush on the occasion of his re-election last week. The only cloud on the horizon of his second term is Constitutional Amendment XXII which says that "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice."

And that reminds me of something my father, twice elected mayor of the booming metropolis of Plains, Kansas, once told me: "Don't believe politicians until they're in their last term. They're less likely to lie when they're not running for re-election."

That's when I had a little epiphany: the reason President Bush has been less than candid about so many things is that he's spent much of his first term running for his second term. But now that his second term is secured, we can expect him to be much more forthcoming.

That expectation leads me to ask the following questions:

•Mr. President, did you really believe that Saddam had nuclear weapons? Did you really believe that the first warning he had them would be a mushroom cloud? Remember, you're not running for re-election anymore.

•It's been reported, Mr. President, that 80 percent of your followers believe you're in favor of the international treaty banning landmines, that 76 percent believe you favor U.S. participation in the International Criminal Court, that 61 percent believe you'd like to have the U.S. be a part of the Kyoto Treaty. Have those folks been misled? If so, who's responsible for the misleading?

•Did you really believe, Mr. President, that Iraq was responsible for the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon? Did you really believe that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were allies rather than antagonists? If so, why? If not, why do so many of your supporters continue to make those connections?

•Your former ghost writer, Mickey Herskowitz, was quoted in an Oct. 28th article by Russ Baker as saying that even before you became president you were talking about attacking Iraq. Can that be true?

•Baker also quotes Herskowitz saying that your father was opposed to your invasion of Iraq. Is that true? If it is, how did you respond?

•When and how, Mr. President, is the Abu Ghraib atrocity going to be resolved? Where does the buck stop?

•Do you still see yourself—as you did four years ago—as "a uniter, not a divider"? If you do, when, Mr. President, do you intend to tell the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that it's time to publically apologize to Senator Kerry?

•The generally accepted estimate is that maybe as many as 15,000 Iraqi civilians have died since we invaded. But Scott Ritter writes that the Oct. 30 online issue of the Lancet medical journal estimates that more than 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the beginning of the invasion. What are your numbers, Mr. President?

•What's your view, Mr. President, of that portion of the First Amendment that says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"?

•What's your view of theocracy, sir? What does the word "theocracy" mean to you?

And again, Mr. President, congratulations on your re-election. The nation looks forward to a humane and peaceful and candid final term.


Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail address is:

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