Last week as I listened to President George W. Bush give his condolence speech to the Terri Schiavo family, an interesting question came to mind.
Only a few seconds into his remarks, Bush changed the subject from Schiavo to terrorism. Bush reminded us -- again -- that we now live in a different, terrorist-dominated world.
But I wondered: Since 9/11, who has done more harm to America's social and economic fabric, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida or President Bush and the United States Congress?
Bush, through his ability to weave 9/11 into virtually any subject, begs the unpleasant question.
Let me play devil's advocate. I'll focus on three major areas of Bush's presidency: the War in Iraq, Homeland Security and jobs.
The bipartisan Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction, created by Bush to investigate Iraq and weapons of mass destruction rendered its verdict last week. According to its findings, the administration was "dead wrong" in "almost all of its judgments" about Saddam Hussein.
Looking ahead, the commission predicted that the country's spy agencies know "disturbingly little" about Iran and North Korea.
This report, in and of itself, would be bad enough. But it is the third such damning indictment of White House failures.
First came the Senate Committee Intelligence report faulting the CIA for its miscalculations regarding Iraq.
Then followed the Sept. 11 Commission's disclosure that spelled out the government failings that made the terrorist attacks possible.
After reading all three reports, enlightened people can only conclude that Bush and his aides overstated and misrepresented the flawed intelligence they received.
And by rushing to judgment, Bush took the country in a $200 billion (and counting) war with no exit strategy. As of April 7th, the total number of Americans killed in Iraq is 1,544. The last time I wrote about Iraq, March 4th, the fatalities totaled 1,500.
For a politician who has staked his career on homeland security, Bush has steadfastly refused to take the most obvious step: secure the northern and southern borders that separate the United States from Mexico and Canada.
The National Intelligence Reform Act of 2005, signed by Bush, contained a provision to hire 10,000 new border patrol agents over a five-year period.
But abruptly, Bush backed away. His 2006 budget funded only 210 new agents.
In the meantime, the borders are more porous than ever. Aliens from all over the world cross into the U.S. via the southern border. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study showed that illegal immigration has increased about 25 percent since Bush first took office in 2000.
And according to the September 2004 Time Magazine article, "Who Left the Door Open?" about three million illegal immigrants are expected to come to the U.S. in 2005 -- roughly four times the number of legal immigrants.
But the major concern as reported by the Christian Science Monitor is the dramatic increase in illegal immigration by what is referred to as "Other than Mexican" or O.T.M.s
Some O.T.M.s are known to have ties to al-Qaida. Yet, amazingly, current immigration policy allows O.T.M.s to be released into the United States pending a future hearing. Naturally, few show up. And their whereabouts remain unknown.
Economist Edwin S. Rubenstein, president of ESR Research, asks this question: "How come we can have 40,000 miles of interstate but not 2,000 miles of border fence?"
Until Bush shows enough resolve to secure the border, his messages about national security are farcical.
Congress, with Bush's blessing, has abandoned American workers. Even though an estimated 9 million Americans are unemployed and another 9 million underemployed, the use of H-1B and J-1 visas to bring overseas workers to American continues unabated.
The Bureau of Customs and Immigration Services Non-Immigrant Yearbook released last year revealed that over 1.1 million nonimmigrant visas were granted in 2003.
Remember to add 1.1 million to the number of nonimmigrant visa holders already in the U.S. working on visas they received in earlier years.
Congress not only supports work visas despite high American unemployment, it also has a long-standing love affair with trade agreements.
In spite of the harm earlier trade agreements have done to American businesses and jobs, Congress is pushing hard for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, CAFTA.
The provisions of CAFTA are so detrimental to workers that even the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), whose mission it is to promote Latin American economic opportunities, is opposed.
On its Web site, LULAC stated that it is concerned that CAFTA, if adopted, "will result in a rise of undocumented immigrants to the United States, which ironically could hurt Hispanic American workers."
Post 9/11, Bush has sucked the country into a futile war, failed to provide real homeland security and ignored the plight of the middle class.
Beware the enemy within.
While Congress wraps itself in the American flag and delivers flowery oratory about America's future, its actions speak louder than its words.
Joe Guzzardi, an instructor at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly opinion column since 1988. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.