If criticism of the White House is off limits, we enable a national calamityGarry Trudeau had fun with President George W. Bush on Sunday. Trudeau's comic strip Doonesbury noted that Bush doesn't believe in the scientific theory of evolution. The characters in the strip noted all of the disciplines that Bush apparently discounts, including sciences ranging from biochemistry to archeology "That leaves gym and band" commented a character.

Some Americans will regard Trudeau's commentary as unpatriotic, even treasonous, because he is criticizing our commander in chief while we have troops under fire in a foreign country. In fact, there is a strong strain of public opinion that regards any form of dissent as unpatriotic.

Dissent is the American birthright. It is the bedrock of our nation. America was founded on the right to object to the ruler or the ruling class.

During the darkest days of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was depicted as an ape in editorial cartoons of northern newspapers. History has subsequently beatified Lincoln.

George W. Bush is a mono-dimensional figure when compared to the sainted Lincoln, who was one of our most un-schooled presidents but also one of the most learned and wise.

There is a strong suspicion that Bush wages war in order to avoid grappling with domestic problems. That is a time-honored tendency among political leaders. Bill Clinton launched a missile attack on Iraq during his impeachment trial. In George Orwell's 1984, the nation was in a state of perpetual defense against outside threat. The enemy at the gate is a useful means of social control.

The cartoonist Jeff Danziger has depicted a Bush war council in which presidential adviser Karl Rove suggests that a pre-emptive attack on Syria will have to wait until the 2004 elections approach. Who can doubt the grain of reality in that fantasy?

There is high unemployment. The economy is not moving. States are cutting their guts out in the worst fiscal crisis since World War II. There are serious problems across the nation, and the administration's domestic policy is a tax cut for the wealthiest. It is not far-fetched to say that the people of Iraq are getting more financial aid than the beleaguered American states.

President Bush doesn't do unscripted press conferences. His most recent appearances have been within the heavily guarded and secure confines of military installations.

Something is very wrong in America, and it has nothing to do with Iraq or Syria. Those who maintain that criticism of the president is off limits are enabling an administration that has no domestic agenda.