What Bush can learn from Oprah tonight


There are little white lies, gray lies, and big fat ugly lies that cost people their lives. Most of President Bush's presidency has been full of the last category. You can mark the year of his presidency by the lie that defined it: A "Uniter Not a Divider" (2000); "Quick Victory" (2001); "W" is for Women (2002); No Child Left Behind (2003); Weapons of Mass Destruction (2004); and Democracy in the Middle East (2005), to name a few.

But we'll put these aside for just a moment, and talk about mistakes. You know, the kind Bush, in his 2004 debate with John Kerry, famously denied ever making. But come on, Bush, I don't expect you to admit to the lies, but even Big Bird and Oprah admit to making mistakes. Oprah is the closest thing this country has to a queen and, given your kingly aspirations, if she can admit her mistakes you can too. The pundits say tonight's speech is likely to focus on Iraq and health care. Those are fine places to start admitting what went wrong. And since you're a bit rusty at it, here's a little list to help you out:

1. It's a mistake to think that the occupation of Iraq is winnable. It's a mistake to think that your responsibilty for it ends when Iraq is no longer in the news or you're no longer President. It's a mistake to think any phyrric oily victory you pull out of the ashes will be worth the thousands of lives lost.

2. It is a mistake to think that a national health care crisis, where individuals and small businesses can't afford to cover basic health care needs, will be solved by Health Saving Accounts. Just because your cousin owns a big upstart company that pushes them doesn't mean they're the answer. A CBS poll found that more than sixty percent of Americans support universal health care coverage. It would be a mistake not to give it to them. Finally, it would be a mistake not to acknowledge that the confirmation of Sameul Alito to the Supreme Court -- a man who has publicly admitted he believes abortion should be illegal -- won't add to the health care crisis.

3. That whole spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant thing was a huge mistake. Why? Because what we talk about on the phone with our friends and loved ones is personal. Maybe you really thought it was legal. Well, legal experts have weighed in and it's not. As my little sister used to say to me, "this is an A and B conversation so why don't you C your way out?"

4. Finally, it's a mistake to think dismantaling civil liberties, torturing prisoners, encouraging "faith-based" programs in the schools, and cutting funding for contraception is going to make the world a more heavenly or pleasant place to live.

Being a strict "Constitutionalist," Bush could be like George Washington at his State of the Union address and say all this 835 words or less. I'm not saying it's going to happen. But we can, and should, ask our President to come clean. After all, as the evangelicals say, it's never too late for redemption.

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