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San Francisco, San Mateo County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

The Role of Government

By Kevin James Hearle, Ph.D.

Candidate for United States Representative; District 12; Democratic Party

This information is provided by the candidate
Corruption, arrogance and incompetence at the highest levels of the federal government are a disgrace. It is time for change in our government. In order for that change to be positive, we need to elect leaders who believe in the power and responsibility of government to help all the people.
The form of our government is set down in the U.S. Constitution, and each president in his turn has, as part of his inauguration, accepted the responsibility to protect and defend both this nation and that sacred document. When Harry S Truman was president he went so far as to place on his desk in the Oval Office a sign which read, "The Buck Stops Here."

For the last five years all three branches of the federal government have been lead by Republicans, so it should be easy to ascertain responsibility for the federal government's numerous, recent, catastrophic failures. Instead, what we have heard repeatedly is the claim, "No one could have foreseen...." That claim has been false in every instance. It was widely known that the French had foiled a hijacked plane attack on the Eiffel Tower in December of 1994, and the federal government's own disaster preparedness predictions had shown for years that the three most devastating disasters likely to hit our nation were a terrorist attack on New York or Washington, a hurricane hitting New Orleans, and a major earthquake in urban California.

Instead of accepting responsibility for their continuing failures to respond adequately to the national calamities which have taken place on their watch, the Bush Administration has repeatedly denied responsibility and stonewalled every attempt to ascertain what went wrong. Rather than acknowledge that with his office comes the responsibility for what is done or not done by his administration, this president has repeatedly invoked executive privilege and national security to thwart investigations by Congress, by private citizens, by news organizations, by the courts, and by the bi-partisan 9/11 Commission.

The war in Iraq is a perfect example of the Bush Administration's ability to create a disaster and then pretend it isn't responsible for what is happening. The U.N., and the French and German governments all strongly advised Bush against invading Iraq. Generals who gave Congress what proved to be accurate assessments of troop requirements in Iraq were forced into retirement by Cheney and Rumsfeld. Then, when this administration's disastrously ill-conceived war in Iraq started filling our nation's military cemeteries, and when--in response to the rising body count--reporters and members of Congress started examining the Bush Administration's catastrophic failures of planning and execution, the president and his staff had the gall to claim that any criticism of the war was an unpatriotic attack on our military. That is a lie which cannot be left unchallenged.

The failure of this administration's Iraq War and the failure of its Iraq policies have been failures of civilian leadership. It was Bush and Cheney and Colin Powell and Condeleeza Rice who wrongly claimed that U.N. sanctions weren't working and that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. It was the Bush Administration who, ignoring the CIA's prior evaluation of Ahmad Chalabi as an unreliable source, relied heavily on Chalabi's so-called intelligence to plan their invasion. It was Cheney's and Rumsfeld's special intelligence operation which handsomely paid Chalabi, a man now widely believed to have been an Iranian double agent, to tell them that American troops would be greeted on the streets of Baghdad with flowers. It was Bush who, in direct contradiction of what he knew to be the best available intelligence, claimed in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had tried to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger. It was Cheney who, despite the specific refutation by the 9/11 Commission of all connection between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the Iraqis bore responsibility for the 9/11 attacks. The secularist Saddam Hussein and the radical Islamic terrorist Osama Bin Laden were each others' enemies, but to this day George W. Bush continues to claim that the invasion of Iraq was a part of the war on terror.

Iraq became a battlefield in the war against terror, but only because this administration's hideously wasteful invasion destabilized Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator, but it was the Bush Administration's ill-advised invasion of Iraq that not only provided Al Qaeda with an Iraqi base of operations but also won it a much wider following across the Islamic world. That wider following for Al Qaeda not only weakens Israel and the relatively moderate Islamic nations of Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt, it also greatly expands the pool of possible future anti-American terrorists in the Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia and even the United States.

Well over 2,000 U.S. soldiers, and uncounted hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, U.S. contract workers, international reporters and aid workers have been killed, and far more than that have been maimed, to create what Mr. Bush calls democracy in Iraq. Perhaps Mr. Bush doesn't care that the majority in the new Iraqi government being created seems determined to create an Islamic state. And perhaps Mr. Bush doesn't care that half the population of Iraq--the feminine half--will almost certainly have far fewer rights in this new Iraq than they had under Saddam Hussein. And, of course, Mr. Bush isn't willing to acknowledge that the next most likely result is both far worse and becoming more likely by the day: a long civil war that would end with either a failed state ruled by warlords or with a greatly enlarged Iran. What we do know that Mr. Bush cares about is that no one publicly examine the responsibility he and his administration bear for their multiple disasters in Iraq.

The Bush Administration is not, however, alone in bearing responsibility for its numerous and calamitous errors. As long as our government is elected by us, we share in the responsibility for its failures. The Bush Administration has lied repeatedly and with impunity, and every lie has been a measure of its contempt for both The Constitution and for the intelligence and attention span of the American public. That they have gotten away with it for as long as they have is a national disgrace.

For far too long now, we as American citizens have been electing to high public office men and women who are opposed to government. Grover Norquist, the ideological sergeant at arms for the right wing of the Republican Party has stated in interviews that the goal of his brand of Republican conservatives is to shrink the federal government down to the point at which it can be drowned in a bathtub. We've seen how well that works. It isn't the federal government or the Grover Norquists of the world who end up drowning, it's the poor people--especially the black ones--who end up floating dead through the fetid, flooded streets of New Orleans and coastal Mississippi.

Perhaps it would be closer to the truth to say that Grover Norquist and his fellow right wing Republicans claim to be opposed to government. I haven't heard yet of a conservative Republican refusing to drive on the interstate highways or refusing to fly into or out of our airports because they were built with federal transportation dollars. Nor do I remember hearing tell of any reactionaries refusing to eat because the food in their grocery stores and restaurants was irrigated with water from federal water projects, or grown on farms receiving federal farm subsidies, or transported to market on railroads built only because of federal land grants, or shipped to this country through ports where goods were inspected by federal officers. The same conservatives who write screeds calling for government to get off the peoples' backs are happy to ignore that most Americans who read their pernicious prose learned that skill in public schools and honed it by checking out books from public libraries. And when those self-serving pundits of me-first get home from a hard day of calling for government to cut taxes on the rich and cut services to the poor, their disdain for federal social service expenditures doesn't keep them from using electricity drawn from federally built hydro-electric plants. Nor do their complaints about government wastefulness keep them from flushing their personal, biological equivalent of their contempt for the public good down their toilets. Why should they care that their local sewage treatment plant was constructed during the Depression by workers in the WPA or built later on with grant money from the federal government? What could it possibly matter to them that the economic strength of the 1950s and early 1960s, which conservatives so revere, was built on a solid base of government investment in education, social services and infrastructure?

An earlier Republican, Abraham Lincoln, in his brief address, dedicating the cemetery at Gettysburg, reminded his listeners not only of the fifty thousand soldiers who had sacrificed their young lives on that field, but also of the principle of government so many of them had died to defend. Lincoln did not need to remind his listeners that even as he spoke, young Americans were still dying in order "that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth."

If we as a nation truly want a government that serves all the people, then it is time to elect to government people who believe in the power of government to improve the lives of all its citizens. No government is perfect, but cynicism about the ability of government to serve the people has served only to enrich and embolden the cynical. I believe that what we need now is a renewed deal between the people of the United States and their government. I believe that we need to renew our belief in government as a force for good. That renewal must begin with electing people who believe in government and with defending our Constitution from those who do not.

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