The President of Good and Evil: The Ethics of George W. Bush

Singer, Peter
ISBN 0-525-94813-9
Date finished: 2004-11-18

I wish more people could have read this book before the recent US general election. Singer, a philosopher and bioethicist, examines George W. Bush's record to form an idea of the ethical philosophy and principles informing them. The president's views turn out to be a mass of contradictions that can't be reconciled into a logical framework. Some contradictions are well-known: frozen embryos shouldn't be destroyed and euthanasia should be banned because human life is sacred, but the death penalty is OK, as is a certain amount of illing of Iraqi civilians. Poverty and education are called important priorities, but then their budgets are ruthlessly slashed. Some equally damaging contradictions have escaped the popular eye, though; for example, in the 2000 campaign GWB argued against intervening in Rwanda out of purely humanitarian reasons, yet once it became clear that Iraq didn't have WMD, the goal of the invasion was restated as an equally humanitarian one.

Singer examines domestic and foreign-policy issues, and tries very hard to figure out the underlying idea; is GWB a utilitarian? A follower of Christian ethics? (Despite endlessly repeated claims about GWB's moral values, these primarily extend to abortion and gay marriage. Most churches opposed the Iraq war, but that didn't matter.) Is he purely cynical, working for the rich and saying anything to meet his goals? A catspaw of the neo-conservatives? Or is he just following his own unsophisticated instincts? Singer doesn't definitely come down on any side, though he seems to be leaning toward the "unsophisticated instincts" answer.

In the end this book is a impressively clear and concise statement of Bush's many contradictions and deceptions.

Tagged: philosophy, politics


%T The President of Good and Evil
%S The Ethics of George W. Bush
%A Singer, Peter
%@ 2004-11-18
%D 2004
%G ISBN 0-525-94813-9
%P 280pp
%K politics, philosophy

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