By Robert Scheer
Stop him before he kills again. That is the judgment of the American people, and indeed of the entire world, as to the performance of our president, and no State of the Union address can erase that dismal verdict.
President Bush has accomplished what Osama bin Laden only dreamed of by disgracing the model of American democracy in the eyes of the world. According to an exhaustive BBC poll, nearly three-quarters of those polled in 25 countries oppose the Bush policy on Iraq, and more than two-thirds believe the U.S. presence in the Middle East destabilizes the region.
In other words, the almost universal support the United States enjoyed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks has been completely squandered, as a majority of the world’s people now believe that our role in the entire world is negative.
“The thing that comes up repeatedly is not just anger about Iraq,” said Steven Kull, the director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, which helped conduct the global poll. “The common theme is hypocrisy. The reaction tends to be: ‘You were a champion of a certain set of rules. Now you are breaking your own rules, so you are being hypocritical.’ ”
More depressing, that judgment is shared by those who know us best: our allies in Britain, the only country still willing to share our sacrifices in Bush’s once ballyhooed “Coalition of the Willing.” Despite British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s dogged support of his American chum, fully 81 percent of Britons told the BBC they are opposed to U.S. actions in Iraq, while a scant 14 percent still believe the United States is a stabilizing force in the Mideast.
But it is not just our failure in that all-important region that disgraces us. Those around the world who still believe we play a positive global role has dropped to a miserable 29 percent, strikingly similar to Bush’s overall performance numbers at home, according to the most recent CBS poll. So it’s true: Bush is “a uniter, not a divider”—uniting people across the world in their opposition to his policies.
With a whopping 71 percent saying in an ABC-Washington Post poll that the country is seriously off track, the Post called it “the highest such expression of national pessimism in more than a decade.” And that’s at a time when the economy, presumed to be the all-important bellwether, is in halfway decent shape.
It’s the war, stupid, and ending it is the major concern of most Americans, while all other issues are in single digits of importance to them.
In a shocking twist, Americans are now turning to the Democrats in Congress for leadership on foreign policy. “Three in 5 Americans trust congressional Democrats more than Bush to deal with Iraq, and the same proportion want Congress to try to block his troop-increase plan,” reported the Post. That is a mandate the Democrats ignore at their own peril.
Even an increasing number of congressional Republicans, most recently Sen. John Warner of Virginia, have made it clear that ending this disastrous adventure is vital to their electoral future. Warner, along with several moderates in both parties, proposed legislation on Tuesday opposing Bush’s sending of 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.
In fact, it seems as if everyone gets it except the president and those still hunkered down with him in the White House. “They’ve backed themselves into a tough corner,” GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio told the Post, “and the problem is his continued insistence for the troop increase, which flies in the face of what 70 percent of Americans want.”
He added that it makes Bush seem to say, “I’ll listen to you, but I’ll do what I want anyway.” Hardly the message that the leader of the world’s greatest experiment in representative democracy should be sending to the world. It is a message voters in the midterm election soundly rejected, along with the association of this great country with torture and chicanery, and it is the basis of what the Post calls a mainstream America “honeymoon” with the Democrats.
Americans understand in their gut that the long-term consequences of disillusionment with democracy, here and abroad, would be disastrous. In the same way Congress repudiated an out-of-control president three decades ago, the House and Senate must show the world today that our celebrated system of checks and balances is not just a fanciful mirage.
Spreading the ideal of democracy throughout the world remains a compelling obligation of those who enjoy freedom, making this an excellent occasion to demonstrate that we still possess a system capable of holding a deceitful and egomaniacal leader accountable.
AP Photo / Charles Dharapak
President Bush delivering the State of the Union address Tuesday evening.