The Common Man was shocked, shocked to find out that the President of the United States, the cowboy-ish, brush-clearin'-est, manly man who doubles as an enthusiastic and shameless Olympics attendee (while his economy is in shambles and his soldiers are at war), is prone to equally enthusiastic and shameless unmanliness. Indeed, for eight years now, though The Common Man has never been overly pleased with who was running the show, he at least believed that the President was a decent man.
Then, today, comes the news that, while he's out of town, his administration they will sweep away with 35 years of precedent and cut the heart out of the Endangered Species Act with the
stroke of the President's pen. According to the memo leaked to the Associated Press, "The Bush administration wants federal agencies to decide for themselves whether highways, dams, mines and other construction projects might harm endangered animals and plants." The current rules require all federal agencies to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether their projects pose a risk to already endangered animals. The President's proposal argues that it's better to bumble blindly ahead, rather than "err on the side of caution."
What is particularly troubling, however, is just how cowardly the President's proposal is. Though famously elected with a surplus of "political capital" to spend, President Bush has squandered his capital through his administration's deception and mismanagement. And because he does not have the will or ability to win a public debate on what will undoubtedly be, at least initially, an unpopular policy, the President chooses to ignore his obligation to listen to his constituents and thumb his nose at his opponents in the Congress.
His action is akin to leaving a saloon, and firing a parting shot before riding out of town. Instead of sticking around for a fight, the President is planning to radically shift federal policy four months before he runs out of town, leaving a fight for the next guy.
Don't get The Common Man wrong, there is manliness in doing what you know is right, and damning the consequences. Had the administration done this three years ago, it would have been manly, because his decision would have had real consequences for him. But a man must be willing to stand up for his convictions, rather than ducking out of the room after starting trouble. Congress is in recess and has little time to mount any kind of organized response. It's ultimately another disappointment from a disappointing presidency. But it's the one that finally makes The Common Man say, Mr. President, you are ultimately a coward. And you ain't no kind of man at all.