Observing US:
A column about America,
by Marylaine Block
originally published by
Fox News Online, 1998-2000

#76, February 29, 2000


by Marylaine Block

You know, I usually give Americans credit for a native shrewdness in judging politicians, but I'm amazed at the polls indicating how many women, even Democratic women, are supporting George W. because they think he "cares about people like me." Pressed for details, they said he was a "compassionate conservative." Exit polls in South Carolina and Michigan suggested that many Republicans considered Bush a reformer, apparently on the strength of his new motto, "a reformer with results." Why? Because he said so. Often.

Excuse me, but didn't anybody here grow up with that old joke: If you have four dogs and a coyote, and you call the coyote a dog, how many dogs do you have? Four, because calling a coyote a dog doesn't make it one. Before you cast a vote, you want to see if the record matches the appealing slogans.

Don't you think a compassionate conservative, might be worried when told by the Department of Agriculture that his state led the country in percentage of residents not getting enough food? Not George W. He dismissed the study out of hand.

Wouldn't you expect a compassionate conservative, whose welfare reform program moved people off the measly public assistance of $180 a month, to make sure those families were told they were still eligible for food stamps? Does it make sense that he'd veto a bill giving poor children federally subsidized health care that didn't cost Texas a cent?

You'd think, after all the revelations about innocent people on Illinois' death row, that the compassionate conservative who executed 120 prisoners (the most in the nation) would at least wonder whether some of them might be innocent. Apparently he didn't.

Before believing "reformer with results," wouldn't it make sense to ask what, exactly, is being reformed? Well, for one thing, thanks to George W. it's a lot harder for Texans to sue corporations that cause injury or death through blatant violations of safety laws. That's a change, for sure. A reform? Maybe not so much.

George W. boasts about education reform, though he still hasn't figured out how to equalize gross funding imbalances for schools in suburbs, inner cities and rural areas. Accountability is the new in thing. Kids can't graduate without passing the new tests they've developed, and their scores on national tests have gone up.

Of course if you make the jobs of teachers and principals depend on test results, there's a wee temptation to make damn sure those scores go up. Already there's a scandal about teachers erasing and correcting students' wrong answers. Even worse than outright cheating by schools is the fact that large blocks of time are now spent teaching to the test. One math teacher grumbled that at least the tests came early this year, so he could spend the remaining two months of the school year teaching the concepts of geometry.

George W.'s reforms do nothing to stop rich guys and corporations from buying a government after their own heart. After all, Bush likes rich guys. And why wouldn't he? They funded his failing business ventures and offered him that sweetheart deal to buy into the Texas Rangers on the cheap; selling the team at a fat profit made him a rich guy himself.

And they ask so little in return, just things like making it harder for people to sue them, or turning over the Texas university system's endowment fund to them to run, or looking the other way when they violate environmental or safety laws.

This column isn't actually about George W. It's about why we should not accept political slogans without an ounce of proof. I'm demonstrating how to examine the words of not just George W. Bush but ANY of these guys. Bradley gets major money from Wall Street; how has that affected his voting record and his campaign promises? Gore says he's reinvented government; so, does it work better now?

Whether they're Republicans or Democrats or third party candidates, do not take their word for it. Do what Missourians do: say, "Show Me."

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