A BuzzFlash Reader Commentary
The Smell Test
By Rebecca Knight
May 23, 2002
Long ago, with the wisdom that so many parents possess, mine suggested to me that there are two topics to avoid in public discussion: politics and religion. So far, I have heeded their advice on the second, but I was unable to resist the first. With the installation of George W. Bush as our 43rd president, under the circumstances imposed upon the American voter by the U.S. Supreme Court, something strange occurred in my psychological makeup that has pushed me to my limits. I discovered that I could no longer fight the urge to speak out and I am speaking out with a vengeance that somehow feels totally foreign to my nature. My interest in political discourse has been with me throughout my life, but was re-awakened by election 2000, because some things just don't pass the smell test!
What is the smell test? The smell test is a certain innate feeling that overcomes one when politicians or elected officials take actions that betray good common sense. This is a bi-partisan gauge of politicians. When Clinton said on national television that he had not had sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky, it did not pass the smell test. When Al Gore seemed to be three different personality types in the 2000 presidential debates it did not pass the smell test. Being a Democrat, these two examples were disturbing to me, but explainable. Clinton's failures were of a personal nature and the business of his wife and daughter and no one else. Gore's apparent personality disorder was the result of accepting bad advice from campaign managers. Hopefully, both have learned their lessons.
The problem I am having with the Bush/Cheney administration is that their inability to pass my smell test has persisted throughout my awareness of them as public officials. Frankly, I don't trust them. I never have and I don't think I ever will. Having read everything I can find, delving into their backgrounds, I found them to be lacking in sincerity and capable of doing whatever it would take to forward their agendas. Yes, I read about the possibility of George W. Bush being AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard. I have even seen the documented evidence and I find it to be plausible that he received special favors that allowed him to get away with this. I read about the alleged cocaine and alcohol abuse, the arrests for DUI, the possible insider trading with Harken Oil, the scam that made him wealthy through his financial dealings with the Texas Rangers, and the Funeralgate scandal. All contributed to my initial uneasiness with George W. Bush.
Don't misunderstand me now. I tried hard to get beyond my first impressionable sniff reaction to Bush. I thought I should give him the benefit of the doubt since the Republican Party seemed hell bent on making him their presidential nominee in 2000. So, I watched his campaign with interest. I thought surely John McCain was the more qualified candidate, having served his country with honor in Vietnam and come home to lead a distinguished career in government. Much to my surprise, McCain's candidacy did not make it through the South Carolina primary. Oops, there went my sniff alert! Yes, indeed, it turned out that the Bush campaign, with the master of dirty tricks, Karl Rove, at the helm, managed to destroy McCain's candidacy. The rest is history as Bush went on to capture the Republican nomination for president.
Now, let me make this admission up front. Being a Democrat from Tennessee, naturally I strongly supported the candidacy of Al Gore. You see, Al has only briefly set off my smell sensory test on maybe two occasions. That is a strong advantage for Al in my mind because I have had the pleasure of following his long public career closely through the local media. Nothing of any significance has ever been reported about Al Gore that has given me pause about his character or his dedication to public service.
So, campaign 2000 proceeds and I continue to watch Bush with deep interest. The Bushisms were hysterically funny, but did not disqualify him as a viable candidate. The lack of experience on a national and international level was a concern, but set off no particular alarm. When Bush chose Dick Cheney as his running mate major sniff warnings sounded. I read about Cheney's involvement in the oil industry and his dealings with Middle Eastern countries. The controversy over his state of residence sealed the deal. Cheney flunked the smell test, putting another failure in the Bush column.
As the debates approached, I researched and read about Bush's record in Texas. Bingo! Another smell alert! If Bush had done so poorly in Texas, how could we possibly expect him to perform any better as a president? During the debates, I watched in amazement as Bush painted a rosy picture of his Texas record. Gee, was I mistaken about the statistics I had read regarding the standings of Texas on environmental issues, education, health, and welfare? No, he was stretching the truth or outright lying. Flunked again!
I watched in amazement as Election Day drew nearer. Then on that infamous night -- Gore won, no Bush won, no it was a tie! From that point through the Supreme Court decision I could hardly sleep for the sniff warnings pounding away at me. James Baker, Ted Olson, Katherine Harris, Mark Racicot, Judge Sanders Sauls, the buttoned-down collar riot, the chads, and the media caused innumerable restless nights. Then the Supreme Court does the unthinkable, the unimaginable, by a 5-4 vote. I thought my head would explode!
Bush became our 43rd president and I prayed with all my might that I was wrong about him. Immediately, I was convinced that I had been right just by seeing that "deer caught in the headlights" look on his face. I thought that we were in deep doo doo, as Poppy Bush would say. Bush proceeded to govern so far to the right, one would think he had been elected by a landslide, rather than selected by the Felonious Five. The aroma was not pleasant!
Since the events of Sept. 11th, my fears have been confirmed. With each passing day and with each article and book I read, it becomes clearer to me that my smell test was right on the mark. The kicker for me is the attempt by Bush and Cheney to hide behind a veil of secrecy. When asked questions they do not like or do not want to answer, they divert the questioner or the question. Or, as in the case of the investigations into the 9/11 tragedies or Enron, they hide behind executive privilege, which is never a good sign. It just doesn't pass the smell test.
I have no particularly unique olfactory sensations. Every American has the ability to make common sense judgments about politicians and elected officials. My problem is that for the first time in my life I cannot find a single decision made by the Bush administration that does not raise doubts about their true motivation. It is both scary and depressing. That is why I try to keep a sense of humor about me. That is why I get the giggles thinking about a smell test scale! Some public officials just reek!
These are the people who have failed my smell test over the years in no particular order: Nixon, Agnew, Erlichman, Haldeman, Reagan, Poppy Bush, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Newt Gingrich, Kenneth Starr, Henry Hyde, Bob Barr, Bill Bennett, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, J. C. Watts, Bill O'Reilly, Ted Olson, James Baker, Ari Fleischer, Dan Burton, Dick Armey, Ken Lay, Karl Rove, Karen Hughes, Katherine Harris, Linda Tripp, Richard Melon Scaife, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush.
I'm sure I overlooked a few, but you get the idea.
Let me close by asking the Secret Service to understand that I have no desire to cause harm to anyone. Please don't pay me a visit. I simply don't like the people who don't pass my smell test! That is my right as an American citizen!
Copyright © 2002 by Rebecca Knight
Rebecca Knight may be contacted at email@example.com
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