Now's the Time to Ask Bush
by Joel Connelly, P-I Columnist
At a 1987 Keokuk, Iowa, presidential fund-raiser for George Bush the Elder -- held fittingly in a banker's bluff-top home -- the patriarch of America's reigning political dynasty felt comfortable among friends and fielded a few questions.
The gutsy lawyer wife of one young establishment lion took advantage of the situation and drilled Bush Sr. with a probing query about the Iran-Contra scandal and his role as vice president.
The questioning stopped then and there.
During these lazy days of August, as George Bush the Younger makes his first foray here as president, I'm wondering whether any guests going to the $2,000-a-head Friday reception at Craig and Susan McCaw's might show similar gumption.
Here are some pointed questions the Bush dauphin needs to be asked on his trip to Hunt's Point:
Mr. President: After last week's massive blackout, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a former Energy secretary, observed that America is a superpower with a Third World electrical grid.
You called the blackout "a wake-up call." What has been done, on your watch, to correct this situation?
In this era of energy deregulation, driven by profits, what incentive is there for electrical utilities to make the long-term investments needed to upgrade the grid?
Mr. President: Under the first Bush administration, this state's unemployment rate soared above 7 percent. It has gone back up to 7.7 percent since you took office. Most of our losses have been in well-paying manufacturing jobs.
Many of us here today have you as the man to thank for our 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. Still, layoffs are continuing in this region, the latest coming in the aluminum industry.
Can you point to any initiatives you've taken to restore America's eroding base of family wage jobs?
Mr. President: At last count, 148,000 American soldiers were engaged in an occupation of Iraq that is costing the country $3.9 billion a month and, each week, the lives of five to seven young Americans.
What is this enormous commitment yielding us? Is it not taking resources away from the war on terror? We read that central authority in Afghanistan is crumbling. We've yet to apprehend Osama bin Laden, dead or alive. Shiite Muslims in Iraq are demonstrating by the thousands for our departure.
Is this any way to win friends, secure the peace or win the first war of the 21st century?
Did you guys ever think this situation through before going into Iraq?
Mr. President: Along the shores of Washington's inland waters we have a couple of the nation's busiest ports, and several of its most sensitive Navy carrier and submarine bases.
Yet, the Transport Security Administration recently tried to divert federal dollars away from improving port security. Sen. Patty Murray -- who you want to defeat next year -- had to hold up Senate confirmation of your deputy budget director in order to shake loose some of the money.
Why do we have to scrimp for security dollars? Are we going to face continued bureaucratic resistance from the TSA as we seek to upgrade cargo inspections, and to fulfill other mandates coming out of Washington, D.C.?
Mr. President: You keep telling us that it is vital to support our military, its mission, and to honor -- and give jobs to -- its people.
Why, then, is your administration promoting bills in Congress that would take away veterans' preference points in civil service hiring?
Why is Don Rumsfeld trying to saddle the civilian defense work force, made up largely of vets, with a new personnel system that allows the secretary of defense to hire and fire people at will, and determine their pay scales?
Mr. President: The House Interior Appropriations subcommittee -- the guy you've recruited to run for the Senate, Rep. Nethercutt, is a member -- has made deep cuts in the Americorps youth jobs program. It cut your request for the Land and Water Conservation Fund nearly in half.
We've seen these bipartisan programs do an awful lot of good in this neck of the woods. Will you lean on Nethercutt and other House members to get these cuts restored? Will you veto the appropriations bill if they are not?
Mr. President: Here in the Northwest, we depend on winter snows -- and mountain glaciers -- to generate electricity, make the desert bloom with irrigation, sustain our forests and provide rivers for the salmon to swim in.
University of Washington researchers warn us that global warming will make our snow packs shrink, our glaciers melt and our forests die.
Recently, the House chopped $22 million out of what little federal money is available around the country to help assess local impacts of global warming.
I know you love to work outdoors in the Texas heat, sir. But we in the Northwest have a massive stake in keeping things cool.
Two questions: Do you accept that the Earth is warming, possibly to our detriment? Will you support providing resources so that we can at least map and predict the danger?
Mr. President, this question is for you, but I'd also like to get an answer from Mr. Rove who's sitting over there:
The White House has sought to recruit Nethercutt to make the Senate race. Yet, a prominent local Republican -- Seattle Pacific University professor Reed Davis -- is running as well.
Is the White House going to tip the scales and play favorites? Or will Washington's Republican voters freely decide who their Senate nominee is going to be?
Bluntly, Karl, who are you to pick our Senate candidates?
If you are a guest at the McCaws, and ask any of the above questions, expect soon to be flanked by guys in sunglasses with wires sticking out of their ears, who look like they work out a lot.
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