It took me a long time to figure out the kind of statesmanship George W. Bush practices. Oh, sure, it's easy to deride George W as less than the brightest bulb in the presidential marquee -- or as arrogant as Shaq -- or even as diplomatically prudent as a Klingon warrior.
But, that's all too general. Then, when he took us to war with Iraq I figured it out. George W practices statesmanship the way a used car salesman practices salesmanship. George W is the first president in the history of the United States to practice Used Car Statesmanship.
Think about it. Used car salesmen will lie, cheat and steal to make a sale, right? So does George W.
Used car salesmen are consumed with the right now, getting the "sale," and have no concern at all with building long term relationships, right? So does George W.
And, used car salesman will, when push comes to shove, use every emotional trick in the book to make that sale. They will bully, intimidate, and play on your emotions to get what they want, right? So does George W.
Sadly, I realized we have a used car salesman running our country.
Lying and the cheating? Where do I begin? How many times have you heard George W tell us that Iraq is linked to al Qaeda ... or that Hussein has weapons of mass destruction that posed an "immediate threat" to our safety? This is just like the used car salesman who tells you the car has such low mileage because it was driven by a little old lady from Pasadena who only drove it to from church on Sundays. He'll say it. He'll say it again with conviction. But, where's the proof? In fact, when you look a little closer, you'll see that the driver's seat needs replacement and the odometer cable was disconnected.
George W's used car statesmanship doesn't end there. See, a used car salesman doesn't care if he ever sees you again -- he just wants what he wants -- the sale. Long-term relationships are not important. Remember the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gases? He tore it up. The Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia? Into the trash bin of history. Did George W care that he was shredding relationships with the rest of the world that had taken decades to nurture and build? Nah.
George W's all about the here and now. The patient art of diplomatic statecraft? Pshahh! Who needs that when you are world's sole remaining superpower -- or the only used car dealer in town. In rushing our nation to war, George W managed to piss off the French, Germans and the Russians. Can you remember the last time THOSE three countries were on the same side? Unfortunately for us, we have a president who is as failed a statesman as the used car salesman who can't make a sale to the guy who has his car towed onto the dealer's lot.
Finally, we turn to the bullying, intimidation, and crass emotional appeals of George W's used car statesmanship. We've seen how George W has tried to bully and intimidate the rest of the world. His mantra is very simple -- its my way or the highway. George W tried to bully the United Nations -- but nothing doing there. I just wish George W had learned like the rest of us back in grade school that no one likes a bully.
And, just like the used car salesman who watches the recently widowed grandma walk onto his lot nervously fidgeting with her purse and starts to salivate, George W has salivated over taking advantage of our country's fragile emotional state after 9/11. And, he has. He has used it to justify everything from stealing our civil liberties, to giving tax cuts to the rich, to denying thousands of federal workers their right to have a union, and, of course, to wage war on Iraq. After 9/11 we were a nation afraid. And, George W doesn't want us to feel safe after 9/11. He wants us to live in fear. How else do you explain the constant "terror alerts" that are vague and unsubstantiated? How else do you explain the administration telling us to duct tape ourselves into our homes? George W appeals to our fear the way a used car salesman appeals to your fear that the car you want may soon be sold to someone else if you don't agree to buy it now. He makes the appeal, you get the knot in your stomach, your emotions run high and cloud out reason, and you pay too much for the car. In our case, we just end up paying far too much for an ever elusive "security."
Yes, when you add it all up, we have a president who practices used car statesmanship running our country. Depressing, huh?
Well, one bright spot is that most used car salesman don't stick around too long. They tend to move along pretty quickly. Haven't you noticed how they always seem to have a business card with their name handwritten on it?
Oh yeah, as George W would tell you, the name's only handwritten because they're ordering more pre-printed cards for him ...
Here's to handwritten business cards for former presidents in '04.
Ron Ruggiero of Elk Grove, Calif., is an organizer with Service Employees International Union Local 790.