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A plea for national amnesia

NEW YORK
JUST WHEN you thought it was only Democrats who promised everything to everybody, President George W. Bush made his own promises and hoped Americans would have amnesia. After Zell Miller, Dick Cheney, and a host of others did the dirty work in tearing apart John Kerry in the first three nights of the Republican National Convention, Bush accepted his party's nomination for a second term by promising to bring back compassionate conservatism. He promised to resurrect education, health care, and prescriptions for senior citizens.

And once again, a party whose face is overwhelmingly white trotted out a black minister for the opening prayer, a black gospel singer, a black business classmate of Bush, and Mel Martinez, the former secretary of housing who is running for the US Senate out of Florida. "Nothing will turn us back," Bush said about those social issues.

But as in his first three and a half years as president, this was only a lead in, a tease to the heart of his speech: that only he and not John Kerry has the guts to prosecute the global war on terror and to invade Iraq, even if there were no weapons of mass destruction.

"We have fought the terrorists across the earth not for pride, not for power, but because the lives of our citizens are at stake," he said.

That may have been true for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but it was not true for Iraq.

It was only the beginning of his national plea for amnesia. He said nothing will turn us back even though he turned his back on his own pet plan for education, No Child Left Behind, leaving it so chronically underfunded many school boards are screaming for either funding or its elimination.

He said nothing will turn us back even though his thirst for invading Iraq -- while maintaining tax cuts he said again last night that he wants to make permanent -- figured prominently in the fiscal crisis that has forced severe cutbacks in schools and other services.

Bush, after nearly three years of being the grim commander in chief, tried his hand at Reagan, sunny-side-up politics. But in his speech, he offered not a cent of sunrise for his social programs.

"We are on a path to the future, and we are not turning back," Bush said. In saying that, he asked Americans to give him four more years but to turn their backs on the history of the first four.

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is jackson@globe.com.

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