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FROM MY SEAT

FROM MY SEAT

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PARENTING LESSONS FOR A PRESIDENT The American president needs to refine his parenting skills. As troubling as I find our current constitutional crisis -- and that’s precisely what we have, as the history books wait to be written -- my most severe criticism of George W. Bush and his inner circle involves a pair of skills I consider critical in the raising of my own two daughters. (The President and I have this much in common. I have to believe these very qualities might be valuable in leading the free world.) Let’s start with honest dissemination of information (telling the truth, in parent-speak, and in a timely manner). When my four-year-old is near a swimming pool, I tell her absolutely not to go near the pool unless a grown-up is already in. I could easily tell her there’s a fang-toothed, swimmer-eating water dragon at the bottom of the pool . . . she’d certainly stay away. But I don’t. I tell her to stay away from the pool because water is dangerous when you can’t swim yet. You need help. When President Bush “looked into our eyes” -- his most valued foreign-relations talent -- via national broadcast on March 17, we were told that the plethora of weapons at Saddam Hussein’s disposal could not go ignored any longer; that enough bio and chemical “bullets” were in Hussein’s arsenal to warrant a pre-emptive invasion . . . the first such attack in the history of this republic. More than three months later, we have managed to locate the fourth card in our deck of Iraqi enemies -- in a country, the president’s cronies remind us, “the size of California” -- but somehow can’t uncover ton upon ton of lethal gas or liquid. Someone lied to us. Knowingly or unknowingly, someone lied. Lying cost Richard Nixon his presidency, more than any hotel break-in. It almost cost Bill Clinton’s his, more than any extra-marital fling might have. But somehow, some way, the deception -- again, knowingly or otherwise -- that spawned Gulf War II has been struck from President George W. Bush’s record. The second parenting lesson President Bush needs is in the concept of accountability. At this point, I’d almost welcome some good, old-fashioned political spin. Instead of limiting his public appearances to photo-ops on aircraft carriers and contrived sit-downs with Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas, the President needs to re-establish a connection to “the American people” (the overused, generalizing expression he so often leans on as the trigger for his decision-making, however ill-conceived). President Bush needs -- must -- explain (1) how “intelligence” on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was gathered, (2) how this “intelligence” was corroborated and detailed to the point an act of war was warranted, and (3) in light of the complete absence of WMDs in Iraq to date, how the “intelligence” may have been marginalized. If anything, you’d think President Bush would want to provide an explanation of sorts, an out, so to speak. Despite his unequivocal claims in March that these horrid threats were merely a Saddam Hussein whim away, now is the chance -- prior to the kickoff of campaign season -- for the President to deflect blame, to shift the ever-shifting media glare in a different direction. Give me something, Dubya, anything. But I -- no, we, the American people -- demand and expect accountability. As angry as I get at the continued media-dance performed by President Bush -- and Mr. Rumsfeld, Ms. Rice, Mr. Cheney, etc. -- it’s a fear of sorts that I find squeezing my heart when I look at my little girls. I’m afraid at the thought of not being able to explain to these precious “American people” why the executive branch of our government wasn’t held to the same rules that shaped their upbringing. “You mean, Dad, the president told us there were deadly weapons, but they were never found?” Yes, sweetheart. “So, the president then explained where he went wrong, and why?” No, I’m afraid not. “But Daddy, people died, even kids. Someone made a mistake. Someone needed to be punished, someone needed a timeout.” Yes, my love. Someone needed a timeout, to say the least.

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