George Bush and His Veto Pen-May 2, 2007


George Bush and His Veto Pen


Richard J. Garfunkel

May 2, 2007


The big news inside the “Beltway” is that Georgie boy, the self-proclaimed “Uniter” and “Decider,” laid down the gauntlet at the feet of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and vetoed his second bill from Congress. That’s big news in the “Blue” states, where we, the so-called “bleeding heart” pinkos of the left, moan and groan over the fate of the world. But it is what it is. The Congress did not override the veto because the deciding votes were not in the hands of the Democrats. It was up to the Republicans to abandon the Bush catastrophic policy and basically end the war. For whatever it is worth, historically it was a Democrat Congress that finally pulled the plug on the losing hand that was being played in Vietnam. What was the result of that action? The war ended! Americans and Vietnamese weren’t dying any more as a result of our military actions. Our Vietnamese friends and allies, who could flee the country, did, and the ones who remained were killed, jailed or re-educated. Would that have happened after another one or two years more of fighting? Yes! The Democrats escalated the war, and Nixon, who lied about his “secret plan” to end the war, was responsible for more deaths, with less results than Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson. The real political casualty of the “plug-pulling was not the Democrats. Carter replaced the disgraced Nixon-Ford administrations and his failures were responsible for the so-called Reagan Revolution. In the 1980 and 1982 elections the Democrats maintained their large leads in the House and did lose the Senate to the GOP. By 1984 the Senate was back in the Democrat’s hands and they held the house solidly until 1994. Therefore de-funding Vietnam did not cause a seismic shift in voter sentiment. The shift came with unhappiness with Carter’s term and Clinton’s first two years! Today, Vietnam is flourishing, as capitalism and market forces take root. Are they a threat to Cambodia, Laos, or Thailand? No!


Meanwhile back to the subject of vetoes. Our country has not had a great deal of experience digesting Bush vetoes. Unlike other presidents, George has had very little use for his veto pen in the past six years. Basically it has been collecting dust in the SMU vaults with the rest of his papers and personal history. Where Bush has had built up his writing skills, has been with his vaunted use of the “signing statement.” Congress passes a law, and Bush uses his new type of veto. He takes his pen out of his “pocket” (remember the “pocket veto”) and writes his own interpretation of the law, thus the “signing statement.” Most presidents have speechwriters, but George has a staff of grammarians, experts on elocution and spelling bee winners. None of us can forget the trouble former Senator Dan Qualye, who the GOP nominated for the Vice-Presidency, got in when he was challenged by the word “potato.” Qualye, who in his high school years was famous for singing the old Ira Gershwin lyrics, “You say potato and I say potahto, you say tomato and I say tomahto, oh, let’s call the whole thing off…” should have known better. But back to George the 43rd, the latest George in a line of kings of America that previously should have ended with the Hanoverian, George the 3rd. But all the king’s horses and all the king’s men and women can’t help avoid or ameliorate the Bush grammar, syntax, and vocabulary gaffes when he is not guided by his “handlers.”


Of course the “signing statement” is George the 43rd’s “veto” policy elevated to an art form. He will sign the law and not enforce all, or only some parts, of it! Over the past six years, George has seen fit to veto only the “Stem Cell” bill. Medical research must be on the backburner for the flat-earth thinkers that make up his core support. Even the late President Warren Harding, whom Gaston Means, in his best selling book, The Strange Death of President Harding, asserted that his loving wife Florence Mabel Kling de Wolfe Harding had poisoned him, had six vetoes in his shortened presidency. The medical records say that the handsome and silver-haired Harding died from ptomaine poisoning contracted from “a mess of King crabs smothered in butter” on his way back from a voyage to Alaska in 1923. But Means asserted in his best-selling 1930 tome that old Florence was the culprit. A number of other excuses were often bandied about. One claimed that that she feared the shame associated with the looming “Teapot Dome Scandal,” and another was over her insane jealousy regarding Harding’s extra curricular dalliances with the young Nan Britton in a White House closet. Of course, many historians doubt that Florence would have “lost her cool” over Nan or even Nan’s illegitimate child. Warren Harding had at least four affairs before his dalliance with young Nan. Two included ones with Carrie Philips for fifteen years, and another with Grace Cross, a secretary, from his years in the Senate. He also had fathered an illegitimate child with one of Florence’s best friends. Morality has never been the long suit of the GOP!


So returning to the issue of vetoes, even the gin-swilling, poker-playing roué President Warren Harding, had time for reading legislation and had the “guts” to use his pen. Therefore one has to go back to President James Garfield, who, I am sure would have liked to have had the opportunity to veto a bill or two, but was deprived of that pleasure by the assassin Charles Guiteau. Garfield was shot while he was walking in the old Sixth Street Railroad Station in Washington, DC, along with his entourage that included his Secretary of State, James G. Blaine (The continental liar from the State of Maine). He was on his way to his 35th Williams College reunion and had been president for less than four months.


The records for vetoes are held by three Democratic presidents; the late and beloved Franklin D. Roosevelt, with the all-time record, 635, Grover Cleveland, the runner-up, with 414 and plucky Harry S Truman with only 250. Interestingly, during FDR’s time, as with George the 43rd, the Congress was controlled by his own party. But FDR, unlike Bush, had the intestinal fortitude to stand up to his own party! Both Truman and Cleveland had to spar with more recalcitrant Congresses that were either in opposition or narrowly divided.


Of course, over the past six years, Curious George wasn’t that curious or concerned about the level of GOP pork that bloated the deficits to astronomical levels. His buddy from Alaska, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest serving GOP Senator, with 35 years under his belt, arrogantly included his $300 million Gravina and Knik Arm “bridges to nowhere” in a piece of legislation. He already has an airport named after him, so why not a few more bridges. Of course he threatened to resign if his  “earmark” did not go through, but thankfully the money was eventually directed towards Katrina relief. Though the bridges were stopped for now and his threat never materialized, he’s still in his comfy Senate seat. Talk is that there will be other opportunities for these bridges to be built (with other misdirected funds) and they will eventually serve (service the taxpayers) about fifty people.


The Bush deficits were certainly helped by his tax-cutting buddies in the Senate. They made sure that their super-rich constituencies would have their estates preserved intact, the capital gains taxes lowered and other “perks” enhanced. The “spinmeisters” of this current class of Laffer-Stockman-Friedman supply-siders, believe that their policies have caused revenues to climb. But cooler, and more analytical heads cite the Clinton era corporate tax increases as having made the difference. It seems that the giveaways to the super-rich haven’t made a real and overly positive impact with the IRS. Of course, in this vein, the late Franklin D. Roosevelt said, in his 2nd Inaugural address, in 1937, “…the test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”  In concurrence with that reasoning, my conservative friends accuse me, and whom I support, of the policy of “re-distribution of income.” No, I answer, “I believe in high taxes on the rich!” Of course we are certainly the world leader in newly minted billionaires and our major supplier of cheap goods, China, seems to be catching up quite quickly. Unfortunately hedge fund managers that make hundreds of millions per year can’t spend enough to prop our economy, which still depends on the “real” increase in middle-class earnings.


Therefore our schools and the surrounding infrastructure are declining rapidly and cost of repair is soaring. As the billionaires retreat to their gated communities the middle-class savings rate continues to shrink to negative numbers, and the services people really depend on, education, transportation, healthcare and housing soar out of sight and reach. But, of course, the age-old answer about America is, “love it or leave it” or “where is it better?”


It seems, in the cold, cool, light of dawn, and it has been in the news lately, we have an expensive country to run here. Our military alone has a budget that is equal to the military budgets of the rest of the world! Despite that fact, we still cannot root out Al Quieda and Iraq’s warring factions continually have the skill and numbers to harass and maim our troops. Of course the famous military philosopher, Donald Rumsfeld used to say, “You go to war with what you’ve got.” Well it seems, on the ground at least, we have what Dubose Hayward and the Gershwin’s wrote in Porgy and Bess, “I’ve got plenty o’nuttin.” With all of our missiles, super-carrier groups, nuclear submarines, and stealth fighters and bombers, we can’t raise enough men and women without gutting our National Guard and Reserves to carry on an effective occupation and counter-insurgency. On the local front, it’s quite costly to run our police, fire, sanitation and local educational institutions. But what else is new?


Therefore our 140,000 soldiers in Iraq, of whom many are not combat troops, must deal with an unfriendly and highly dangerous country of over 26,000,000. In the City of New York, the home to 8 million or so peaceful souls, it takes 40,000 police personnel to keep order. Are we missing something here? Has anyone in the White House looked at the size of the armies of occupation in Germany in 1945? Of course Germany, a country of fifty plus million, was beaten down and its infrastructure pulverized after 6 years of total war. The Germans were basically starving and dependent on our largess and we needed millions of men and women.


So of course, on May Day, the bill for funding future operations was delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the “Decider” on this 4th anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” rose up in indignation and told the public that the Democrats were not going to “starve” the troops under his “watch.” Their mission was sacred and without these extra $100 billions it would be lost! The bill was vetoed, the veto was not over written, and we are back to square one!



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