An Open Letter to the Bush Twins
By A.D. Freudenheim  

14 September 2004

Dear Ms. Jenna and Ms. Barbara Bush:

Now that you have graduated from college, and are working the campaign circuit for your father, it is probably safe to think of you as adults – surely that is how you think of yourselves. However, with adulthood comes responsibility, a point I am sure your parents have also made to you both many times. Those responsibilities can take many forms, but given your new involvement in politics, I thought I would point out to you a few things you may want to consider as you work for the Bush-Cheney campaign this fall.

First and foremost, you should know that you are working to re-elect an administration committed to restraining your rights as women. Sad but true! This takes a few different forms, but chief among them are a host of policies relating to reproductive rights. The Bush-Cheney administration is working to undermine access to contraceptives and information about family planning for women who need assistance, while also fighting to take away every woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion. Other attacks on women by the Bush-Cheney administration take the guise of supporting women – supporting their “traditional” role as wife and mother rather than as something else. Perhaps it is hard to see how all this affects you; no doubt you do not plan to get pregnant until you want to, and you surely have easy access to contraceptives. But if imagine if you didn’t – or if something went wrong. Taking your rights as women for granted because of your privilege risks those rights for everyone, yourselves included.

Then there is the debt you will be saddled with, as a result of Bush-Cheney economic policy. You are both fortunate (more fortunate, certainly, than most other Americans) and financial worries are unlikely to overtake you. Moreover, if you believe in your father’s vision for women, you will probably marry men whose wealth will subsidize whatever you inherit. Still, your father’s bizarre form of government-building (big government that even the Democrats can’t love) is creating debts so huge that they raise serious questions about the ability of your generation to pay for it later.

And pay you will. Even with lower tax rates, there are other kinds of costs – taxes, in effect, but known by other terms – that come from having deficits and economic instability. You and your future husbands may pay less money directly to the government, but many of the services the government provides or guarantees – like access to clean water or air, safe roads, or even basic security – may start to fail. Imagine having to pay directly from your own pocket so that even the water you shower with is properly filtered. Imagine not being able to drive quickly from your parents’ ranch to your grandparents’ house because the roads are not maintained. Imagine having to pay your Secret Service security costs out of your own pocket. The list goes on. Plus, since the American economy is increasingly tied to the global economy, the health – the non-deficit-spending health – of the American economy will affect the investments that comprise your inheritance. Even the wealthy have been known to lose money in the stock markets, but at the current rate there will not be much money available for your Social Security payments when you do retire, should you need those extra funds.

Alcohol and drug policies under the Bush-Cheney administration are a joke. (But I don’t have to tell you about that, do I?) It is difficult to hold your father too responsible for this; he inherited a crappy set of policies to begin with. Nonetheless, he has helped make them worse. Do you really care if some Oregonian dying of cancer smokes marijuana? Is that person really a threat to our national security, as Attorney General John Ashcroft would have us all believe? Does hanging out with someone who smokes pot – or maybe even smoking it yourselves[1] – really make you a terrorist? You do not look like terrorists to me.[2]

Last, but certainly not least, there is the small issue of civil liberties, and here the Bush-Cheney administration may be the worst since Woodrow Wilson and his nasty Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. Your father’s idea of privilege is a funny one: he seems to believe that as President, his privilege extends to restricting access to documents that rightfully belong to the American people. After all, we pay his salary and, for better or worse, we put him in office – and he should be responsible to us not only on election day, but on the other 364 days of the year. That means giving us access to information about why and how his administration makes certain decisions.

At the same time, however, your father believes that the rest of us are entitled to just a little bit less privilege: we should accept that our written and spoken words may be monitored without our knowledge or consent, and without cause or due process; we should be content not to have access to information about laws that affect us[3]; and we should trust the government to take care of us as long as we follow the rules as established by the government. At the root of the American system of governance is the undeniable fact that our government was created to serve us, not the other way around; despite the Bush-Cheney’s alleged commitment to less-intrusive government, this administration’s approach to governing is very paternalistic.

Paternalistic is a good word to use in this instance, since we are talking about your father, a man who likes to be fatherly, as you have noted on occasion.[4] No doubt you think your father is a good man; he is your father, after all. In the end, however, elections such as this one are supposed to be about more than just the soft factors such as who one thinks has character.[5] The issues do matter, and on this I hope you will consider the points I have made. If you cannot stop working to re-elect your father, perhaps you can work on re-electing him with some new perspectives about the world, and about how his policies affect the people living in it – yourselves included.

A.D. Freudenheim

[1] "Did the Bush twins inhale? Kutcher won’t say,” by Karen Thomas, USA Today, 7 May 2003
[2] But you do look like a pot-smoking terrorist to the Bush administration. See, for instance, "Exhibit links terror, drug traffic," by Donna Leinwand, USA Today, 12 September 2004
[3] See, for instance, “ID, I Don’t,” by Brian Doherty, Reason, 24 August 2004
[4] See for instance “Bush twins take to campaigning,” by César G. Soriano, USA Today, 13 July 2004
[5] I don’t know whether this letter from the twins is real, but it is certainly posted all over the place. In any case, the point it makes about character sounds ... in character.
  Copyright 2004, by A.D. Freudenheim. May not be used in whole or part without written permission. However, you may link to this page as desired! Contact A. D. Freudenheim for further information.
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