OXFORD, England – In the state of South Carolina, thousands of registered voters were making up their minds last week as to who to support in the Republican primary. Visions of George W. Bush, John McCain and perhaps even Alan Keyes were passing before their eyes in the form of nearly seven million dollars of advertising. Voter responses suggest that, for many, it has been an agonizingly difficult decision. Many had come down to the wire in deciding whether to support the supposed front-runner Bush or to turn to another option. I can’t say that I’m in the same position as these voters. It took me all of four minutes to decide that Bush would never receive my support.
When Bush first came to the forefront, there were numerous rumors about his wild past. He admitted to drinking too much, womanizing, what he called “youthful indiscretions.” There were even rumors about the possibility that Bush had at one time used cocaine. While he refused to either directly confirm or deny such allegations, the governor did finally come out and state that he would have been able to pass a background check during his father’s administration. In essence Bush was telling us that he’s been clean for the past 11 years.
That’s fine with me. I do not hold the governor’s past against him. He took care of his problem on his own and in his own way, and that’s to be commended. He’s asked for the public’s forgiveness and he deserves it. Bush is using his second chance as best he can.
Yet, while Bush is so grateful for his second chance and is using it so well, he refuses to offer that same second chance to anyone else. You see, like any good politician, the governor is tough on crime. He refuses to let the good people of his state live in fear of common criminals running the streets. So, in order to demonstrate his toughness on crime, the governor tries to make sure no one is able to get away with a crime. He makes sure to punish offenders, especially drug offenders, most importantly first-time drug offenders.
The crime of mere possession of drugs in the state of Texas carries with it a mandatory jail term. Gone is the emphasis on rehabilitation and treatment. It has been replaced by an emphasis on punishment and “tough love.” First-time offenders are not offered a second chance anymore, but instead “held responsible for their actions.” If they want a second chance they’ll have to wait until they’ve done their time.
This is George Bush’s policy. He didn’t inherit it from his predecessor Ann Richards, but instituted it on his own accord. So the question is why does Bush believe that he deserves this second chance and no one else does? Why should we forgive him if he’s not willing to forgive anyone else?
Of course we know the answer to this, and it’s simple political reality. One does not get elected in the United States by going easy on criminals. Yet, the hypocrisy is startling. Bush stands up and waves the flag of “compassionate conservatism” while displaying none of that compassion. More than any candidate, Bush should know what cocaine could do, yet he displays the least empathy. I won’t support a man who is given a chance at redemption and then denies his fellow man that same opportunity.