People believed Bush but he doesn#039;t believe himself

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 19, 2005

President Bush won the November election rather handily, but unfortunately for the country, early indications are that his second term may be less successful than his first.

The president was re-elected largely because he made clear statements about what he believed.

However, he does not seem, either after or before the election, to have really believed much of what he said during the campaign.

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The biggest long-term dangers are the huge and growing budget deficits and the deteriorating security situation in Iraq.

Memos coming from the Pentagon show that it's likely that not only did the president's legal counsel, and perhaps soon-to-be Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, condoned American torture both in Iraq and in Guantanamo, but so did Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld.

This behavior is partially because the president decided to attack Iraq before thinking through what would happen after our extraordinarily effective military did their job.

We also now know that he put our troops unnecessarily in harm’s way by ignoring the pre-war advice of the generals and others, including Secretary of State Colin Powell, who told him he needed more troops.

America was attacked by al Qaida, and successfully counterattacked, destroying their base in Afghanistan.

But the president thought that we would be stronger if we could extract information from those we captured by stooping to torture, the same philosophy Saddam Hussein used.

The history of the world's winners show that keeping the moral high ground in addition to having a strong military is what is necessary for victory.

This was a lesson I thought we had learned in Vietnam.

The fatal flaw in the Bush presidency is that the president seems to think that we will not notice whether he is consistent or not, as long as he says he is resolute.

A bigger problem is that there seems not to be any real long term plan for anything.

In the president's second term, America will have to live with the pain, which most sensible economists predicted, when the president led the way on the enormous tax cuts.

These tax cuts principally benefited the world’s largest corporations instead of ordinary Americans.

So the president looks silly by simultaneously promising to cut the deficit in half by the end of his second term, while at the same time proposing to borrow $2 trillion.

Only Enron-type accounting can cover this one up.

America needs a leader who will think about the long-term consequences of his actions. Who will balance budgets as a priority that is higher than tax cuts.

A leader who will be truthful with us about the dangers and methods we use to fight our enemies.

And above all, a leader who understands the moral behavior of a nation is something to be lived, not just talked about at election time. We can do better than this.

Americans are great people, and we deserve to have thoughtful leadership that includes morality and truthfulness, as well as strength and resolve.

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America. E-mail Howard Dean at