About five minutes into MSNBC”s “Days of Crisis: The Commander in Chief,” I started thinking, “Wow, Brian Williams is a really good actor.” After all, here was a serious journalist putting on a straight face and earnestly trying to lend an air of gravity to this nauseating, Fox News-esque fluff piece, seemingly designed for no other purpose than to make George W. Bush look good. At least I hoped he was acting.

Paul Wong
One for the road<br><br>Peter Cunniffe

I”ll assume that he was talking, yet again, about Bush”s new sense of mission, seriousness, and how on Sep. 11, he was extra careful not to upset the children he was reading to, because some producer or news executive was interested in journalistically fellating Bush for his own reasons and Williams was merely caught up in the larger plan.

Flipping to another news channel, I was treated to Barbara Bush telling a crowd how proud she was to have such a wise man as her son leading us. It”s always comforting to be assured by someone”s mom that they”re really smart, especially as defensively as Barbara Bush always sounds.

While criticism of the administration is heating up, it tends to be directed more towards the White House”s hapless henchmen, most notably Tom Ridge and Tommy Thompson, than our newly fearless leader, George W. Bush himself. Instead, we get treated to specials and stories about how he”s “grown” so much because of the recent events and are constantly reassured by news anchors, talking heads and his mom that he”s become more serious, focused and is in fact, not an idiot. I guess going to Yale and Harvard still counts for something.

Maybe all this fawning coverage as we face mounting difficulties in our efforts in Afghanistan, dealing with anthrax outbreaks and the deteriorating economy is driven by his sky high poll numbers, which lead the ratings seekers to figure this is what we want to see.

If a pollster called me up and asked how I thought Bush was doing, I”d probably say I was still with the vast majority supporting him for the attacks on Afghanistan and the stepped up security at home. But he and the media shouldn”t get the idea that I and hopefully others in my position, trust or like him or have as high regard for his capabilities as his mother. In fact, while approving generally of Bush”s anti-terror moves, I think he”s a terrible president in most respects.

For example, the House of Representatives narrowly passed an aviation security bill that leaves airport security in the hands of private companies thanks to heavy lobbying by Bush, who reportedly wanted to prevent those low wage jobs from being unionized. I”m impressed that his interest in attracting better qualified security personal with the higher pay, benefits and job security of union jobs (as most law enforcement jobs are) couldn”t overcome his instinctive Republican hatred of organized labor, but not in a good way.

Bush has also taken this opportunity to push for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, saying that this will benefit national security by reducing our dependence on foreign sources. Forget the relatively small amount of oil most estimate is in ANWR and the decade it may take to get any of it. I”d take this oil executive filled administration”s line about cutting dependence on foreign oil a little more seriously if they”d say anything about raising car and SUV fuel efficiency standards and other means of reducing consumption. But I”m not holding my breath.

Also on the environmental degradation front, Bush recently repealed Clinton-era mining rules that let the Department of the Interior block new mines on federally owned land if they would hurt the environment or local communities. Protecting local communities oh the horrors of big government.

Then there was Bush”s decision to reinterpret the Presidential Records Act and unilaterally decide whether or not to release a former president”s sensitive papers after the statutory twelve-year period. I guess keeping daddy”s presidential and vice presidential dirt under wraps is more important than holding a democratic government accountable more than a decade after the fact.

George W. Bush”s adequate leadership on our most pressing problems has kept up his poll numbers, but no one should mistake this for a surge of great personal admiration. I, like the majority of people, support the various efforts of our many faceted “war,” but in dealing with other issues, Bush keeps reminding me why I, like the majority of people, did not vote for him. Crisis-level support shouldn”t lead anyone to believe all we want to hear about Bush from the media (especially television news) is the sound of them patting him on the back. I”d much prefer, as I”m sure he would, that Brian Williams remove his lips from George”s left nut and use them to tell us about the serious issues still facing us, rather than thanking the president one more time for not being as dumb as we thought. Besides, that”s Tony Snow”s job.

Peter Cunniffe can be reached via e-mail at pcunniff@umich.edu.

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