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Lacking in reality.

Byline: The Register-Guard

There was a strange aura of unreality hovering over Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, as President George W. Bush accepted the Republican nomination to run for a second term as president.

There stood the smiling, nodding president at the podium outlining his rosy second-term visions of the United States sowing the seeds of freedom in the Middle East and of his administration forging an entrepreneurial "ownership society."

The speech was well-crafted and Bush's delivery crisp, engaging and effective. Unlike the convention speakers who preceded him, including the frothing Zell Miller and dour Dick Cheney, Bush appeared moderate and statesmanlike, even when talking about his Democratic rival.

But anyone listening to the 62-minute speech who expected to hear anything resembling a realistic assessment of the state of this nation, including its struggling economy and the disastrous war in Iraq, was sorely disappointed.

So, too, was anyone expecting to see the same combative, stubborn, hard-core conservative president who has occupied the Oval Office for the past four years.

In many ways, Bush's speech was similar to the one he gave at the Republican convention four years ago when he also sounded a centrist theme, promising to be a "uniter not a divider" and to pursue a "humble" foreign policy. The difference then was that most Americans thought, or at least hoped, that was the real George W. Bush.

It wasn't, of course. Over the next nearly four years, Bush revealed his true political nature by pushing the biggest tax cuts in history through Congress, a move that helped turn projected federal budget surpluses into record deficits. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and a successful, globally supported war against Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan, Bush waged a largely unilateral war on Iraq based on skewed intelligence that said Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction and was linked to the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the hopes of winning a second term, Bush portrayed himself Thursday as a visionary moderate seeking to unite a divided America. But there was no acknowledgement of the huge problems and challenges that his administration is largely responsible for creating - or for the divisions his polarizing administration helped create both at home and abroad.

In discussing terrorism and national security, Bush promised to build "a safer world." Yet he failed to recognize that the world is not a safer place than it was four years ago, either at home or abroad. He made no mention of Osama bin Laden, who remains free and still at the helm of al-Qaeda. Nor did he say how his administration intends to deal with the swiftly emerging nuclear threats posed by Iran and North Korea.

Bush also said his administration would promote freedom around the world. But he made no references to the massive difficulties establishing a full-fledged Iraqi democracy, or of the near certainty that Iraq would quickly plunge into full-scale civil war and chaos without a long-term and costly, both in terms of dollars and lives, U.S. military presence.

The president also outlined an ambitious domestic agenda, including major reforms to Social Security, the tax code, health coverage and worker training. Most of these changes come with hefty price tags - Bush's proposal to allow younger workers to invest part of their Social Security in stocks and bonds would cost more than a trillion dollars over the next decade.

But the president made no mention of how he would pay for that or any of his other new initiatives in light of his promises to cut the deficit in half and to make his tax cuts permanent.

It's not realistic to expect Bush to devote his convention speech to a lengthy recitation of his administration's failings.

Yet it's important for Bush, if he wants those coveted undecided voters to support him, to let Americans know he understands the daunting problems facing this nation and the role his administration had in creating them.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editorials; Bush fails to acknowledge mistakes, challenges
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 4, 2004
Previous Article:Full-day kindergarten.

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