George W. Bush: crusader or martyr?
The difference between being a crusader and a martyr depends on whether you survive or get killed. GOP presidential hopeful, Governor George W. Bush, has started a crusade for personal privacy that could result in either a victory for common sense or his political death.
Specifically, here is the point Governor Bush is trying to make: every aspect of his life, since he entered public life, is open to public scrutiny. But every aspect of his private life before that time is nobodyís business. While one might applaud his courage, one must wonder if Governor Bush isnít taking a huge political risk?
If Governor Bush wins the Republican presidential nomination while taking this stand, he will be a hero to many who want to enter public life but have a fear of having some previous personal failing, however minor, exposed. If he fails in his quest for the GOP nomination, then our body politic may be locked forever in the grasp of tabloid sensationalism.
While standing on principle is fine, you can bet most voters still want to know if Governor Bush has anything important to hide -- such as cocaine use. Recently, this observer spoke with a former official in the Texas drug-enforcement effort and learned that George W. Bush has not, either prior to his entry into public life or thereafter, been involved with any sort of illegal drugs, to include cocaine.
Did George W. Bush live the life of a saint prior to his entry into public life? No. By his own admission, George W. was a beer-drinking hell-raiser. Today, he never touches alcohol and says he is faithful husband and devoted father.
Some people and reporters will continue to ask: Well, if George W. has nothing to hide about his private life, why doesnít he just say so? They miss the point of the principle Governor Bush is trying to establish. And, if too many voters fall to grasp the point George W. Bush is trying to make, then he may fail in his presidential quest.
On the other hand, sufficient voters may be sophisticated enough to applaud a man with nothing to hide who refuses to cave in and answer media questions about his life prior to the time he entered the public arena.
But, a reality of todayís political life is that oneís opponents are more than willing to manufacture so-called evidence. Already a convicted felon has come forward with a book in which he uses anonymous sources who allege cocaine use by George W. Bush. So far, no credible evidence has been found to support the drug-use allegations. Yet, no matter how groundless, allegations always find some traction with those who are willing to believe the worst about public figures. Moreover, the major media give false allegations a lot of ink or TV time and rarely give any ink or TV time when allegations turn out to be false.
As the presidential campaign unfolds, it will be interesting to see if George W. Bush can stand on the principle of: what is private is private and what is public is public and survive. Governor Bush is taking a big risk; however, risk-taking is not foreign to his nature.
For example, the F-102 fighter-intercepter flown for five years by George W. Bush for the Texas Air Guard was one hot airplane. The razor-thin and delta-shaped wings of the super-sonic, F-102 required pilots of considerable skill and a willingness to confront F-102s most likely foe -- the Soviet Tu-20 "Bear" bomber.
Given the low standards of personal conduct practiced in the Oval Office over the last seven years, the electorate may well decide even a former beer-drinking, hell-raising, fighter-interceptor pilot would be a welcome improvement.
William Hamilton is a nationally syndicated columnist who spent part of his military career riding in the back of F-4 fighters.