Column: Why 2004?

By Shouger Merchant

Around midnight of Nov. 2, 2004, a bunch of us journalism folks in the I-Elect project were still broadcasting the election results live on channel UI-7 from Gregory Hall. As the results came through, we realized that John Kerry wasn’t going to make it.

The next day, we awoke to Kerry’s concession and then it was for real. Bush had won the 2004 election with 51 percent of the popular vote and 286 electoral votes. Although 51 percent hardly constitutes a solid majority, and is more an indication of the deep divide in America, Bush laid claim to a political mandate and began his second term much to my bitter dismay.

A week ago, Bush celebrated the first year anniversary of his second term. It wasn’t a proud day for liberals everywhere; definitely a day that I would rather have erased out of my memory but I am unable to because the aftermath haunts me daily. I received a commemorative drawing in my e-mail box: a man holding up a rough sketch of the globe with the United States of America highlighted. The bold large words on the top of the page read, “Sorry World, we tried.” Signed by “Half of America.” Sigh.

So what has Bush done in the past year? On examining Bush’s first year, it seems like the administration has been through too many failures.

For starters, Bush’s first bipartisan test was Hurricane Katrina. But the administration did a dreadful job of handling the situation. Soon to follow was the indictment of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, for obstructing justice, perjury and lying after a two-year investigation into the leak of a covert operative Valerie Plame’s identity. Joseph Wilson, Plame’s husband, correctly noted, “When an indictment is delivered at the front door of the White House, the Office of the President is defiled.”

In light of Libby’s indictment, pre-war intelligence that led the administration to believe there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq continues to remain a subject of much controversy. Even after a closed session in senate called by Harry Reid, D-Nev., over the matter, this topic is likely to remain on the forefront of political debate.

But that wasn’t enough. More lies and more corruption followed.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was indicted on a count of criminal conspiracy, accusing him of improperly funneling corporate donations to Republican candidates for the Texas legislature.

Then there was the withdrawal of Harriet Miers’ nomination for the Supreme Court, which reflected badly on the administration’s ability to choose a winning candidate. Not only that, Bush successfully angered and alienated a number of his party members who were disgruntled with his choice.

And we are still embroiled in a war in Iraq for no legitimate reason. Instead of withdrawing, we are sending more troops. The death toll on both sides is only rising. A BBC news report said that more than 100,000 people were killed unnecessarily because of poor planning, air strikes by coalition forces and a “climate of violence.”

Of course we have forgotten the terrorists who brought the World Trade Center crashing to the ground. We still haven’t found Osama, and don’t look any closer to catching him than we were before.

Americans have seen through all the deception. Bush’s approval ratings are down to 35 percent now, the lowest approval rating for a President in thirteen years. If there were an election this year on Nov. 2, Bush wouldn’t be reelected. According to respondents to the latest Gallup poll, 55 percent said they would vote for the Democratic candidate in a hypothetical election, while 39 percent of those interviewed said they would vote for Bush.

The Bush administration has been one big debacle. His policies have been ineffective, and his top officials are speaking out against him or being exposed. His office is crumbling. Maybe if we had exercised some sort of vision a year ago, we would have elected someone who would have done a better job. Oh, well. I can’t say it’s all Bush’s fault. I still blame the state of Ohio for giving those votes to the wrong man.

Shouger Merchant is a senior in Communications. Her columns appear every Wednesday. She can be reached at [email protected] dailyillini.com.