Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bush Will Forever Carry Stain Of Illegitimacy

My seven-year-old son asked me something interesting recently: He said "Dad, even though we don't like George Bush, shouldn't we be nice to him because he's our president?" An entirely reasonable question from a little guy who was only three when Bush stole the 2000 presidential election and, with the help of a right-wing faction of the Supreme Court, disenfranchised all Gore-Lieberman voters in conducting a bloodless coup to gain the White House.

Many things are uncertain in George W. Bush's second term including the Iraq war, investigations of fraudulent pre-war intelligence, questions on Karl Rove outing a CIA agent, the shaky economy and horribly diminished U.S. reputation and credibility in the world.

But there's one thing that should not be doubted: George W. Bush will always carry a stain of illegitimacy and, as much as I dislike feeling so alienated from our national leadership, he most assuredly will never be my president.

Conservatives like to chalk this up to sour grapes and consider us people who cannot be graceful in defeat. But that's a childish and oversimplified way of dismissing the actions by which Bush became president. I was not a happy young Democrat when Ronald Reagan won the 1980 and 1984 elections. I worked like crazy to get Michael Dukakis elected in 1988 and was in a funk for weeks after he was defeated by Bush's father.

But I could live with those losses because, no matter how unpalatable, they were indeed losses. While we can debate the true rise of gutter-level campaigning with Bush Senior's boy Lee Atwater in 1988, I've never met a Democrat who believes that Reagan and W's father didn't actually win those elections.

On the other hand, it's needle-in-a-haystack work finding a Democrat who believes George W. Bush truly won the 2000 election and a good number of people believe that he lost in 2004 as well. The closeness of Bush's 537-vote "victory" in Florida is now part of history, but too many people forget that Team Bush successfully fought tooth and nail to keep almost 6,000 elderly Jewish folks from re-voting when they accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan in the infamous butterfly-ballot incident.

Thousands of African-Americans were intentionally banned from voting via Katherine Harris's illegal records purge that wrongly removed them from the registration rolls as felons. In a 2001 front-page story called "How Bush Took Florida: Mining the Overseas Absentee Vote," the New York Times meticulously documented hundreds of cases of flawed ballots being counted for Bush while Gore votes with the same imperfections were tossed.

And on and on and on...

Ultimately, I told the few Republicans I could actually speak to after the 2000 election that, in the quiet of night, when they can't sleep, they know one truth: If the Florida presidential election had been declared null and void and every voter who cast a ballot on election day could vote again -- and valid voters who were disenfranchised were allowed to vote – George W. Bush would never have become president. If the true intent of every Florida voter could have been magically divined, we would live in a much better America today.

We know it and they know it.

And, no matter how you view Ohio's disputed 2004 results, Dubya received the gift of a lifetime on September 11, has milked that tragic day ad nauseam and rode the fake patriotism further engendered by his war with Iraq to a wartime-president win in the last election.

Couple that, with the 2000 election theft, and he is arguably the least legitimate president to ever hold office. Even more galling is the imperial air he assumed upon accepting his ill-gotten gains and the arrogant way his administration has conducted itself, despite having taken the executive branch of government with a nonexistent mandate.

So, here's what I gently told my wise little son: I told him that I hope to live to 100 and get to see him when he's my age and enjoying his own children. But that no matter how long I get to stay on this earth, George W. Bush will never be my president.

I explained that there's a reason we've taught him that it's wrong to lie and to steal. Those are bad characteristics in any of us, I said. And even worse qualities in a president.