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A vacuum of trust

Fri, Jun 17th, 2005
Posted in Commentary

The Vietnam era, from the war’s questionable beginnings in the late 1950’s and early 60’s to the climatic fall of Nixon with Watergate in 1974, helped to create skepticism about government for many of my generation.

No longer did we implicitly trust that our government would do the right thing, because we knew that there were times when America’s good intentions often led to terribly bad, and often fatal, results.

It was like learning that your parents, who you knew to be loving and caring, had a darker side, an inexplicable past that, once revealed, clouded how you felt about them.

The cynicism that many of us have developed, in reaction to the actions of our government in the 60’s and 70’s, are reflexive today as we question the domestic and international policies of the Bush administration.

Today, nearly 6 out of 10 Americans feel that the Iraq war “is not worth it” and fifty percent feel that President Bush “deliberately misled” them on the issue of weapons of mass destruction; 60 percent of Americans believe it is time to start withdrawing troops, now that more than 1700 have already been killed in action. Perhaps it is no surprise that Bush’s approval ratings now hover at a meager 41 percent (coincidentally, the approval rating for Congress is 33%).

The Downing Street Memo, which President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair two-stepped around last week in Washington, adds new ammo to the argument that the Bush administration had made a decision to go to war in Iraq as early as the summer of 2002. It supports the notion that the administration cooked the books to make the intelligence justify invading Iraq.

The cast of characters today are eerily reminiscent of those disgraced officials of the Watergate era. Transpose Donald Rumsfield, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of the neo-cons with the arrogance of John Mitchell, Charles Colson, Spiro Agnew and the rest of the loyalists surrounding Nixon. Remember the maxim that power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely?

There is a vacuum of trust today, just like there was under Nixon in the 70’s. That is why we don’t trust Bush to do the right thing for us on Social Security, the Patriot Act, or the war on terrorism. We don’t believe that he and his oil men know how to deal with global warming while creating an energy policy that leads our country into the future. We don’t believe that he is the right man to fix health care, education or unite this vast and often divided country. And we don’t believe he is the right man to fix the economy after he traded tax cuts to the wealthy and funding for a pre-emptive war into the largest deficit in our lifetimes.

Like Nixon, Bush has amassed power in the executive branch, where transparency in government is often the first casualty to expediency. There is a dark side to this administration that many people find troublesome. Quite frankly, we just don’t trust them.

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