Lehigh University
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Alum’s book critiques Bush policies

Gene Abel ‘64G can handle a raging conservative. He can tolerate a wild-eyed liberal, or a feisty independent. What he can’t abide is an uninformed voter.

“There’s only one thing worse than not voting, and that’s not knowing what you’re voting for,” says Abel, a 1964 MBA graduate of Lehigh and author of a pre-election primer titled Four More for George W?

Abel will return to his alma mater at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday to discuss his book. The free talk will take place in Room 303 of Whitaker Laboratory.

Now retired and living in Cape Coral, Fla., Abel came to first-time authorship after a career that included serving as a nuclear weapons officer in Germany, a financial analyst in the space and electronics industries, an officer of a $2 billion dollar bank, and dean of the Reading Area Community College. A retired colonel in the Army Reserve, Abel says his broad life experiences helped shape a unique, but grounded perspective.

A moderate Republican

A self-described news and information junkie, Abel maintains a close watch on current events, and began documenting the impact of the policies initiated by George W. Bush when he took office in January 2001. What he observed caused the lifelong Republican to rethink his party allegiance and make voting decisions based on what he thinks will be best for the country as whole.

“I’ve been active in the Republican Party for years and I still consider myself a Republican, a moderate Republican,” he says. “But I do think the policies Bush has enacted since he took office have shifted significantly to the far right, and I do think there are some issues people should be aware of if they choose to re-elect him. Basically, we’re being governed right now by a minority with extreme views. It’s as if the party has been hijacked by the far right.”

Covering 10 major policy areas in his book, Abel offers what he hopes is an impartial analysis that draws heavily on statistics, expert projections and facts. In the end, he poses 15 questions to his readers to aid them in drawing their conclusions. Those answers, he says, should leave the reader with a clearer sense of whether George W. Bush should stay behind the presidential desk, or retire to Crawford, Texas.

In Abel’s view, the Bush administration is abandoning long-held conservative values of fiscal responsibility while ignoring significant problems, such as decaying urban infrastructure, an under-financed educational system, and dwindling Social Security funds.

“These aren’t pork barrel projects,” he says. “These are bedrock essentials that have been dramatically weakened by this administration.”

Of great concern to him is the national debt, which will be just short of $10 trillion by the time Bush would leave office at the end of a second term.

“Conservatives used to deride Democrats as ‘tax and spend liberals.’ Now Republicans are `charge and spend,’ which is a whole lot worse, in my view,” he says. “Eventually, the bill comes due.”

What Abel says separates his book from the spate of Bush-bashing tomes now on the market is that he draws upon a broad range of experts to state the facts and to show the reader the possible long-term impact of Bush’s policies.

“I don’t tell people what to think,” he says. “I want them to be informed, to question on their own, and formulate their own conclusions.”

It’s a charge that he thinks has been largely abandoned by the mainstream media, which Abel thinks is more interested in creating controversy by focusing on divisive, peripheral issues while ignoring the real concerns that impact the daily lives of Americans.

Watching those issues being marginalized, Abel says he began to conduct his own research and compile it in his book.

“I believe in fairness, in balance and in compromise,” he says. “Right now, we don’t have that. If you’re a moderate, a liberal, an independent, even what we used to call a ‘Rockefeller Republican,’ you’re disenfranchised under this president. George Bush’s position is that he has the power and he’s going to use it. Right now, the way I see it, we’re going 90 miles an hour, heading right into a wall. God help us when we hit it.”

--Linda Harbrecht

Posted on Monday, October 18, 2004

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