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W. Exercises Hypocrisy

28 June 2002

How nice, President Bush has found his nickey at last (nickey is the East Texas pronunciation of niche), The Presidential Pepster, the First Gym Rat, the P.E. Teacher in Chief has turned his talents to getting us to shape up. Getting the nation perfectly fit is a perfect fit for a man of his talents.

The guy is buff. He works out every day, bench presses 185 and can run three miles in 20 minutes. With his experience as a high school cheerleader, he knows how to raise pep, and spirit, and determination to overcome. This is the very man to get us off our duffs and onto the tracks, if not into the streets. This is a role for Bush we can all be enthusiastic about. Just think of him as your personal trainer.

You may think it's not in his job description, but Teddy Roosevelt was big on getting Americans fit and those macho Kennedy people used to hike 50 miles to prove their fitness. I think this is an excellent development and am profoundly grateful to him for finally doing something I unreservedly approve of.

But then there was his latest lurch on Middle Eastern policy. During Bush's years as governor of Texas, it was frequently noted that being Bush means never having to say you're sorry. Or maybe it's something Karl Rove taught him never admit you've made a mistake. The crude Texas expression is, "Thinks his own stuff don't stink." But here we see how that can lead one into difficulties.

In Bush World, the one in which he is never wrong, he won the election in 2000. His first few months in office, he said so with eerie frequency: "Since I was elected," "That's why the people voted for me," "After I won the election," etc. I thought it was a Rove-ian ploy to gradually brainwash us into forgetting that Al Gore got 540,000 more votes than Bush.

But as often happens in such cases, Bush most likely convinced himself, too. That's why he didn't see how odd it looks for him to demand that the Palestinians get rid of Yasser Arafat. Arafat got 88 percent of the vote in an election in which 80 percent of the voters turned out. The election was monitored by international observers, among them Jimmy Carter, who found fewer irregularities than later turned up in Florida. New elections were supposed to have been held in January 1999 but have been delayed by repeated crises and are now scheduled for next January.

This is the second time Bush has displayed indifference to the minor matter of democracy. After the administration tried to abet the abortive coup against President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, a "high administration official" was quoted as saying: "(Chavez) was democratically elected. Legitimacy is something that is conferred not just by a majority of the voters, however." Chavez won his election by 60 percent. It's kind of hard to convince people we're working for democracy and freedom when we do things like this.

The Israelis now claim Arafat funneled $20,000 to a terrorist group. It can hardly be a surprise to anyone we've known he played footsie with terrorists for years. That is just one of many complications in a situation fraught with them. Many Palestinians are sick of the corruption under Arafat, but they will obviously resist any attempt to replace him from the outside.

Bush just won the election for him. Here we are demanding that the Palestinians get rid of their elected leader, end violence and clean up corruption before they can have their own country back. At the same time, we strongly support other regimes in the Middle East that are violent, corrupt and autocratic.

Bush's speech is so vague on time, it seems designed to put off any tough decisions until after the '04 election. As Robert Novak said, "The Israeli government couldn't be any happier with the speech if it had been written by Ariel Sharon's people."

So the bloodbath will continue.

If you find Bush's latest foreign policy zag disappointing and depressing, here's what to do: Start with some stretching and warm-up exercises, then take a three-mile run. Next, some weight work and don't forget the abs. Then do a nice 10-minute yoga relaxation routine. You'll feel much better.

Molly Ivins
Published in the Boulder Daily Camera © 2002 The Daily Camera and the E.W. Scripps Company

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