by Mina Hamilton
May 29, 2003
George is a born-again Christian. He frequently stresses his piety, starts Cabinet meetings with a prayer and reads the Bible every day.
Ever since the 6th century when Pope Gregory the Great catalogued the Seven Deadly Sins, Christians have said the Sins are fatal to spiritual development. Does Bush want to avoid these moral pitfalls? What's our pious President's score card here?
Sloth: Bush is an odd combination of both sloth and frenetic activity. Before 9/11 Bush frequently boasted how he hated being in Washington. Translation: He preferred being out on the golf links, jogging, or posing with a chain saw down on the ranch in Crawford, to which he retreated once every six or seven weeks. He readily admitted that he never worked on Saturday or Sunday and jokingly referred to his afternoon naps. Furthermore, he frequently cut out of Washington at 1 or 2 PM on Fridays. He wanted to get down to Camp David on a timely basis. By August 2001 he had racked up more vacation days than any other sitting US President.
After 9/11 this all changed. Bush, shocked and enraged by the WTC tragedy, became a more hands-on President. The goofy jokester was out, the firm, meting-out-justice leader was in. An interesting detail recounted by journalist Bob Woodward shows how even Dick Cheney was surprised by Dubya's new role. On the day after the attack, September 12, Cheney suggests to Bush that "someone" should chair the National Security Council meetings, do up summaries and pass them along to Bush for decisions. (One wonders was Cheney thinking the "someone" would be himself?) Bush says no thanks; I'll chair the meetings myself. And he did. (1)
Despite his new commander-in-chief-father-protector role, clearly Bush still wasn't up for the intellectually demanding policy work of a Wolfowitz or Perle. And it's hard to imagine Bush working an eight-hour day, much less the 11 or 12-hour days many Americans put in on boring and unimportant jobs.
There's one situation where Bush has boundless energy. He loves to hustle up his friends, loves to raise money, loves to campaign. Bush surprised his staff by launching his 1994 campaign for the governorship of Texas with a swing through 27 cities in 5 days. (2) Dubya's similar campaign blitz in 2002 helped to deliver the US Congress to the Republicans.
Warning: Freed up of normal Presidential duties by his shadow government of Rove, Cheney et al, Bush has time on his hands. He'll campaign incessantly from now til November 2004. Already in May 2003 he pulled in $22 million for the Republican Party and he has an ambitious fundraising agenda scheduled for the next couple of months.
Pride: The Smirk says it all. Case closed. (I bet Bush's handlers do some work on this one. After much coaching, the Prez comes out onto the 2004 Campaign Trail with a less condescending grin.)
Greed: Ann Richards, the Democratic Governor of Texas whom George unseated in 1994, once said George Sr. was "born with a silver foot in his mouth." (3) George Jr. continues the family tradition. But that didn't stop him from wanting his very own millions.
Back in 1989, Bush hauled in the moolah on the stadium built in Arlington, Texas for the Texas Rangers. What's interesting about this one is that the Texas legislature passed a bill allowing the private corporation that owned the Rangers to exercise eminent domain, normally a power reserved for public entities.
We're all pretty familiar with condemnation for public projects. It's what the Army Corps of Engineers does to build flood-control dams or Municipalities do to construct water mains or Highway Authorities do to obtain rights-of-way. In the Texas Rangers case the condemnation was on behalf of a handful of private individuals, one of whom was George W.
This surprising form of socialism with baseball teams condemning private property for new stadiums is now quite common in the US. It had a particularly sordid ring in the Texas deal.
This private corporation condemned not only enough land for a spanking new baseball stadium, but also took an additional 300 acres - yes 300 acres - of surrounding land for commercial development. Arlington residents floated most of the package with jacked-up taxes. These paid for the bonds needed to buy the land. It seems that our no-tax President wasn't ideologically opposed to increasing taxes if it padded his own bank account.
The padding was generous: Bush made out like a bandit with his initial investment of $640,000 zooming to a cool $15.4 million in 1998 when he sold out. (4)
A similar type of socialism for the rich is planned for Iraq. US taxpayers fund the war, George's cronies and benefactors mop up on juicy reconstruction contracts and then the CEO's of Halliburton, Bechtel, and other post-Saddam beneficiaries direct vast sums back into the Bush/GOP campaign war chest.
A similar scheme is shaping up in the plan for Iraq's national resource, oil, with private US companies taking over this extraordinarily valuable Iraqi asset - and funneling money back into Bush's and the Republican Party's deep pockets. In the last Federal election, Bush got more money from the oil and gas industry - $1.8 million - than any other federal candidate over the last decade. (5)
Envy: Ram Dass, the meditation guru, once described standing in an airport hanger with a Rockefeller. The Rockefeller was standing along side his spanking new private Lear Jet, but he wasn't proud or happy. He was gnashing his teeth. Adjacent to his plane was a much bigger (and presumably better) jet, owned by his uncle.
It's hard for us lowly five-figure-salary folk to get it. The wealthy never have enough; they're always envious. (Otherwise they wouldn't be lusting after those additional millions.) Who knows what Bush's particular envy is? It might be a bigger jet, a larger ranch, or a taller skyscraper. The Prez certainly adds the twist of desiring more bombs, more wars, more subject states, more empire.
It's not just money and goods that the Prez covets. The way he rants on about the Eastern Establishment, you've got to wonder if he isn't envious of the intellectual snobs he so chronically condemns. Those were the people who were actually studying at Andover and Yale while he was assing off, boozing, cheerleading and hazing.
A little known detail of his stint as head of his Yale fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, supports this view. What happened? The press got wind of a sadistic hazing technique where frat candidates were branded on the butt with a red-hot coat hanger. Does that sound like a resentful, Texas-cowboy caper or what? Bush leapt to the branding's defense saying it was no worse than a cigarette burn. (Funny, where I come from cigarette burns on naked flesh are a form of torture, but I must have been reading some Amnesty International rag.)
Bush is extremely competitive. It would be surprising if Bush weren't envious of other people's brains, particularly Karl Rove's. Bush is known for his habit of giving everybody around him nicknames, often nasty ones. He dubbed Rove "Turd Blossom." (6) Doubtless this says something about the underhand, "dirty tricks" campaign tactics Rove is known for, but Turd Blossom?
Dubya just can't keep his possessions in their proper location. His oil pops up underneath Iraq's sand, his brain appears in the unprepossessing corpus of Rove.
Lust: The jury's still out on this one. Given Dubya's hard-drinking, frat days it's hard to imagine that he hasn't come in for his share of womanizing. Bush, however, has a clever defense against any scrutiny of his past: he's born again. Since he has a fresh, new character anything he did in his wayward youth is irrelevant and unimportant.
Gluttony: The pretzel caper says it all: How many US Presidents have gobbled food so fast that they choked and passed out?
Then there's the matter of booze. Dubya once said he liked the four B's: beer, bourbon and B&B. One friend said he was "close to the line" of being "clinically" an alcoholic. (7) Supposedly that all ended in 1986 when he turned 40 and pledged to stop drinking.
Problem: In 1987, one year after he had given up drinking he ran into Al Hunt, a Wall Street Journal editor who was minding his own business sitting at a restaurant with his wife and 4-year-old daughter.
Bush lit into him, saying, among other things, "You no-good fucking son of a bitch, I will never fucking forget what you wrote." (8) (Hunt had predicted that the 1988 Republican ticket would be Jack Kemp and Richard Lugar, instead of George Bush Sr and Dan Quayle.) What's interesting is that the Wall St Journal editor later commented that Bush was well "lubricated." (9)
Second problem: In 1992, six years after he made his pledge to stop drinking, Bush was caught on a video of wedding where he also appeared to be drunk. (10)
Whether these two slips were isolated incidents of drunkenness or are indicative that the pledge to give up drinking isn't ironclad must be one of the most fiercely guarded secrets in the White House.
Another form of gluttony: Excessive consumption of the globe's resources. All that boosting of more and more oil consumption is gluttony par excellence, particularly when your oil stocks are zooming higher and higher. Bush practices gluttony on behalf of his corporate friends too. He pushes for tax credits for SUV's, opens up wilderness areas for more mining, welcomes the timber barons into the Tongass National Forest, and aims his sites on the Artic National Wildlife Refuge. He promotes bigger and bigger military budgets. All of these activities produce tidy millions for businessmen that will turn around and reward Dubya with big campaign donations.
Wrath: Any biography of Bush makes it clear; insiders know the temper tantrum Bush aimed at the Wall St. Journal writer, Al Hunt, was not atypical. The 100-plus people executed in Texas during Bush's governorship shared this knowledge on a deep, visceral level. As do the unknown numbers of Muslims, Arabs, Pakistanis and others of wrong skin color or suspect nationality that are still disappeared almost two years after 9/11.
A nasty, revengeful side emerges whenever Bush talks about the death penalty. Here his acts and words line up (often not the case with the Prez). In Texas, he nixed a bill prohibiting the use of the death penalty against mentally retarded criminals. During one of the Presidential debates his face lit up with a pleasant glow, a "look of pleasure" when he discussed the execution of the murderers of James Byrd. (11)
The Bush/Ashcroft plan for military tribunals replete with no public record, no jury (except for military brass) and sessions behind closed doors - possibly in undisclosed, offshore locations - is totally consistent with Bush's vindictive nature.
Bush's revengeful nature is also repeated on the larger scale of foreign policy. What could be more wrathful than raining cluster bombs, depleted uranium and bunker busters down on innocent civilians in Iraq? What could be more furious than incinerating Iraqis in their automobiles, market places and apartments? What could be more rageful than pulverizing Afghanistan and then abandoning the country to warlords and the rapidly returning Taliban?
What could be more full of ire than Bush smacking his desk and gloating, "It feels good" as the bombs fall on one of the poorest, weakest countries on the planet? (12)
Miller argues that Bush is a deeply angry man. He describes how at college Bush blew-off all the major altruistic movements of the Sixties. Bush had no interest in the civil rights movement, no interest in women's rights, no interest in the Vietnam War. He was a "careless Bourbon among Jacobins." (13)
The way Bush cavalierly dismissed the extraordinary global outpouring of anti-war sentiment on February 15, 2003 is cut from the same cloth. Comparing this seminal day with a "focus group" is extraordinarily hostile. Equally wrathful is Bush's willingness to trivialize the world's yearning for peace, for social justice, for democracy, and for international cooperation.
Sloth, gluttony, pride, wrath, envy, greed, the Prez has them all. As far as the Seven Deadly Sins go, Dubya doesn't even get a gentleman's C.
If this is the morality of a born-again Christian, I shudder. Few Christians would now believe the Medieval Church's luridly imagined punishments for the Seven Deadly Sins, such as being boiled in oil, broken over wheels or skewered with pitchforks.
My preferred punishment: Install a punch clock in the Oval Office. Require Bush to read Howard Zinn's, A People's History, and I mean actually read (not just pretend to read as he does with the various books his handlers get him to conspicuously tuck under his elbow). Top the punishment off with two years of community service in a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in the South Bronx.
And let's kick him out of the White House.
Mina Hamilton is a writer based in New York City. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(1) Woodward, Bob, Bush at War, p. 38
(2) Minutaglio, Bill, First Son: George W. Bush and the Bush Family, p.34
(3) Evins, Molly and Dubose, Lou, Shrub: The Short But Happy Life of George W. Bush, p. 47
(4) Ibid, page 36.
(6) Miller, Mark Crispin, The Bush Dyslexion: Observations on a National Disorder, p. 44.
(7) www.washingtonpost.com, "1986: A Life-Changing Year," July 25, 1999.
(8) Miller, Op Cit., p.50
(9) Ibid, p. 50
(10)Ibid, p. 53
(11) Ibid, p. 244
(12) Merzer M., Hutchinson R., Brown D., "War begins in Iraq with strikes at 'leadership targets,' " Knight Ridder Newspapers, March 20, 2003.
(13) Miller, Op Cit, p. 48