By Dan Guthrie
Mr President, five years ago I wrote that you "skedaddled" on 9/11. The word was coined during the Civil War to describe those who ran away from battle, which is what you did when you flew to faraway hidey-holes after the Twin Towers attack.
I'm sure you didn't see my column, given your notorious reluctance to venture beyond Washington and Texas. Others did read it, though, and many of them were furious.
They accused me of treason because I pointed out your cowardice.
I wonder how those critics feel about you now.
At the time, the details of how you dodged service in Vietnam and then went AWOL from the Air National Guard weren't widely reported by a media that coddled you.
Since 9/11, we've had many opportunities to reflect on your history and observe you in action.
You refused to meet with the public except at tightly scripted affairs where the people and their questions were screened.
You avoided New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina much as you did New York on 9/11.
You set presidential records for long vacations at your Texas ranch.
Rather than speak with Cindy Sheehan and other mothers of dead soldiers, you again took refuge in seclusion.
You usurped Constitutional rights by wiretapping citizens without a court order.
Brazenly, you put yourself above the law. As you said in 2002: "I'm commander. See, I don't need to explain. I do not need to explain why I say things."
This hubris continued to flaunt itself. In a 2004 presidential debate, when asked to name one mistake you'd made during your first term in office, you couldn't come up with anything.
Then, after the election, you said: "Let me put it to you this way. I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style." You spent most of it by trying and failing to privatise Social Security.
Last week, you admitted that the United States has been using secret overseas prisons to interrogate suspected terrorists in 'alternate' ways, thus becoming our first Torture President.
Those detainees are being transferred to Guantanamo for military trials even though the Supreme Court has ruled twice that you are depriving people there of their civil rights.
You have been consumed with sending others to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The former did not achieve its objective - to capture Osama bin Laden - and the latter, your pet war, is beginning to look like our nation's worst blunder.
You have sent the bill for this debacle to our children and grandchildren while running up the biggest national debt in US history.
Meanwhile, you are ignoring environmental threats far greater than those presented by terrorists.
Global warming, dead zones in the oceans, overpopulation - even such mundane events as deaths caused annually by automobiles and tobacco and hospital mistakes - dwarf the body counts for 9/11.
For most Americans, obesity, not Osama, is the real danger - it's projected that one-third of us will eventually suffer from type-2 diabetes. (We could win a war against obesity.)
You are soft-pedaling our increasing reliance on a dwindling resource: oil.
Where's the courage in all of this? Where's the grace under pressure? Where's the strong man struggling for the many?
Maybe I shouldn't be subjecting you and your strut to scrutiny. Maybe the puppeteers Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are behind our national mess. In that case you're just doing what you perfected at Yale where you led the yells but never played the game.
But I don't think so. I think you have a personal goal. While diverting us with weekly sound bites about the war on terror, you keep transferring wealth from the middle class to the rich. You are ushering in a new Gilded Age marked by political corruption and obscene profits for your cronies.
In retrospect, five years ago I underestimated the damage a coward with power can do.
FIRST POSTED SEPTEMBER 11, 2006