I like President George W. Bush. Frankly, the mainstream cheap shots on his intellect have been beyond duplicitous and sleazy. I mean, come on; Gore's academic achievements pale in comparison to Bush and despite the liberal fiction of Gore smart/Bush dumb, I don't know any jet fighter pilots who are living who don't have both courage and smarts.
However, in the big political game sometimes too much emphasis is placed on perception, and, frankly, the Bush goal of "compassionate conservatism" may prove an Achilles heel. If there is one lesson the new administration needs to make clear to everyone watching (both foreign and domestic) it should be that there are consequences to what we do. After eight years of Clinton-Gore and the Reno Injustice Department, someone needs to dispatch the memo that "there's a new sheriff in town" and that the rule of law will apply.
Last week The Drudge Report had a series of items about the sophomoric, petty and criminal actions of departing Clinton-Gore staffers and how they trashed their vacated offices. The first reports were actually funny. Initially it was reported that the "W" keys on some computer keyboards were removed or damaged. Sure it was destruction of government property, but, come on -- it was funny. Eventually, however, the scope of the vandalism grew, and we learned the goof went "way beyond pranks to vandalism" according to insiders.
In an act of misplaced courtesy the Bush administration was trying (and failing) to keep a lid on the story. However, Drudge reported:
When eventually asked to describe what was done, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer moved into spin cycle: "I choose not to describe what acts were done that we found upon arrival because I think that's part of changing the tone in Washington. I think it would be easy for us to reflect and to discuss these things and to be critical. President Bush chooses to set a different tone. The president understands that transitions can be times of difficulty and strong emotion. And he's going to approach it in that vein."
President Bush reportedly told senior advisers that he would not be inclined to order any prosecution for acts of vandalism and destruction of federal property caused by previous tenants at the White House. That is a big mistake.
In an apparent effort to appear "compassionate" and not mean spirited, he is doing himself, his administration and the nation more harm than good.
The damage to White House facilities is already estimated at over $200 grand and senior staffers are now expressing concern that computer viruses may have been planted by bitter Clinton-Gore workers.
People are watching -- not just those who voted for someone else in the Oval office, but Saddam Hussein, Yasser Arafat, Ariel Sharon, China, Korea, Libya, and would-be political challengers in and out of Congress. There are consequences to what you do and don't do.
Leaders lead. They establish standards and boundaries and require compliance with those boundaries. President Bush needs to do what is right and appropriate -- and the hell with coddling adversaries who will only exploit any and all weakness. And make no mistake about it: Failure to hold those accountable for destruction of government property is weakness.
Thomas Jefferson, in an 1812 letter to James Maury wrote, "The first foundations of the social compact would be broken up were we definitely to refuse to its members the protection of their persons and property while in their lawful pursuits."
There is an old joke being recycled on the Internet which seems oddly appropriate:
As the story goes, while Saddam Hussein sat in his office pondering whom to next invade, his telephone rang.
"Hallo! Mr. Hussein," a heavily accented voice said. "This is Paddy down in County Cavan, Ireland. I am ringing to inform you that we are officially declaring war on you!"
"Well, Paddy," Saddam replied, "This is indeed important news! Tell me, how big is your army?"
"At this moment in time," said Paddy after a moment's calculation, "there is myself, my cousin Sean, my next door neighbor Gerry, and the entire dominoes team from the pub -- that makes 8!"
Saddam sighed. "I must tell you Paddy that I have 1 million men in my army waiting to move on my command."
"Begorra!" said Paddy. "I'll have to ring you back!"
Sure enough, the next day Paddy rang back. "Right, Mr. Hussein, the war is still on! We have managed to acquire some equipment!"
"And what equipment would that be, Paddy?" Saddam asked.
"Well, we have two combine harvesters, a bulldozer and Murphy's tractor from the farm."
Once more Saddam sighed. "I must tell you, Paddy, that I have 16 thousand tanks, 14 thousand armored personnel carriers, and my army has increased to 1 and a half million since we last spoke."
"Really?" said Paddy. "I'll have to ring you back!"
Sure enough, Paddy rang again the next day. "Right, Mr. Hussein, the war is still on! We have managed to get ourselves airborne! We've modified Ted's ultra-light with a couple of rifles in the cockpit and the bridge team has joined us as well!"
Saddam was silent for a minute, then sighed. "I must tell you Paddy that I have 10 thousand bombers, 20 thousand MiG 19 attack planes, my military complex is surrounded by laser-guided surface-to-air missile sites and since we last spoke, my army has increased to 2 million."
"Faith and begorra!" said Paddy. "I'll have to ring you back."
Good to his word, Paddy called again the next day. "Right, Mr. Hussein, I am sorry to tell you that we have had to call off the war."
"I'm sorry to hear that," said Saddam. "Why the sudden change of heart?"
"Well," said Paddy, "We've all had a chat, and there's no way we can feed 2 million prisoners."
Bush needs to find Paddy, hire him and assign him to John Ashcroft's Department
of Justice and prosecute the Clinton-Gore vandals.