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January 19, 2009 - Ray Hall (Archive)

At noon on Tuesday the man who announced that Jesus Christ was his favorite philosopher, the man who insisted he was a compassionate conservative, the man who said he was a uniter not a divider, the man who said he was the decider, the man who now wistfully opines that he will be vindicated by history, George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States is set to occupy a conspicuous place in history, but not in the manner he supposed.     


The country cannot rightly divine his spiritual relationships, but there is little evidence that he was ever compassionate or conservative, or that he was a uniter or a decider.  Governor George W. Bush signed 152 death warrants in Texas, a national record.   There is evidence that he acted on death decisions with a casual indifference relying instead upon the incomplete and often inaccurate summaries of Roberto Gonzales.  George W. Bush was never a uniter.   Instead of reaching out to the opposition, and at the urging of Vice President Cheney, George W. Bush announced at the beginning of his second term his was a mandate to ram partisan appointments and programs through Congress.


George W. Bush was never the decider.  The decision to go to war in Iraq was made by a handful of zealots led by the Vice President.   It seems that all decisions in the Bush Administration were made by cronies and political ideologues and George W. Bush simply accepted the ideas of others without the bother of original thought or study.


This incurious President was surrounded by enablers and sycophants that defended his multi-tiered limitations.  Those closest to George W. Bush tried to counter criticisms of his obvious inability to effectively communicate by pointing out that President Kennedy and President Bush attended the same school—Harvard. 


That observation completely disregards the fact that although both were awarded advanced degrees at the same university--Bush in Business and Kennecy in Law-- one was classically educated while the other was a “legacy” graduate that bragged about getting Cees.  Students have dropped out of Harvard, but Harvard has never failed a student.  Harvard is not unlike other universities in that regard, but if a student wants a world class education, that education is available at Harvard.   However, the difference between the two men is more sharply drawn than the schools they attended.


Both men served in the military.  Kennedy went to war in the Pacific as a PT Boat Commander and distinguished himself by leading his men to safety through perilous waters even though he was severely wounded.   George W. Bush served in the Texas National Guard and disappeared somewhere in Alabama to work on a political campaign.  George W. Bush is not a man of letters or words.  He has boasted that he hasn’t bothered to read much of anything, but while convalescing from back surgery in 1955 John Kennedy wrote a Pulitzer Prize winning book titled Profiles in Courage. 


President Bush agreed to a war with Iraq on contrived intelligence while President Kennedy most likely averted World War III because of his intellect.  President Kennedy at least had a reasoned understanding of World History and knew something about the Thousand Year History of Russia.   President Kennedy withdrew American air support for the ill-advised Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and rejected the advice of General Curtis LeMay, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who advocated attacking Soviet ships during the Cuban Missile Crisis.   The newly elected President ramped up the diplomatic process.


President Kennedy dispatched Adlai Stevenson to a special session of the United Nations armed with surveillance photographs of Soviet missile sites in Cuba, photos so obvious that even the most casual observer could accept the evidence for what it was.    Ambassador Stevenson methodically made his case before the world in clear and precise language.  As a result Nikita Khrushchev withdrew Soviet missiles from Cuba and a humbled President withdrew some missiles from Turkey and went on national television to admit the original plan for invading Cuba had been a mistake.


President Bush has the United States bogged down in a war that has lasted longer than World War II with no end in sight and only regrets that we did not find weapons of mass Destruction in Iraq.  George Bush, the Texas “good ole boy,” used brash and impulsive language in his public utterances and boorish behavior in the presence of World Leaders.   In contrast President Kennedy was careful with his words and cautious in his contacts in the global community.   During the Cuban Missile Crisis JFK deliberately chose the term “quarantine” over “naval blockade”, a term internationally understood as an act of war, when our navy refused Soviet Ships admittance to Cuban ports. 


We will never know whether the Kennedy Administration would have been diminished by personal peccadilloes or Vietnam or some other political failure, because an assassins’ bullet has forever frozen the youthful, charming appearance of JFK safely inside the walls of Camelot.   However, there is one thing of which I am certain; the nation, the world is better off for having had John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office for that brief time than if circumstances were reversed and George W. Bush had been President.   


George W. Bush occupied a place in the world and a place in the nation in an elected office that he never understood.



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Presidents Bush and Kennedy