It’s hard to accept that any sitting U.S. president, after nearly seven years in office, could have made only one good decision and to have rejected every opportunity to provide enlightened leadership. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that without any historical perspective George W. Bush is already considered by most students of government to be the worst president in the history of the Republic. Not easy for a modern day Yale man to make Grant and Harding look good by comparison.
Admittedly, after being pried out of a Texas classroom where he sat dazed for ten minutes during the 9/11 attacks, he took decisive action against Bin Laden and invaded Afghanistan. The war on terror began well with the collapse of the Taliban. Bush gave al Qaeda and their allies an unmistakable message. Since then it has been an epic downward spiral on virtually every front. Most leaders learn from their mistakes. Bush admits to none.
There has never been a more secretive, arrogant, and inept administration more at odds with the people they purport to serve. Karl Rove’s management of the White House school of misinformation and revisionism has led to unprecedented abuse of constitutional rights.
Dick Cheney, considered by many to control the strings of the puppet in the Oval Office, is not only arrogant, but vindictive and unwilling to change course even when all the “real” intelligence dictates doing so. He most recently denies being part of the Executive Branch with no need to share any information with the public. He and Rumsfeld clearly persuaded Bush to undertake the greatest foreign policy blunder in our history, the ill-conceived, unwarranted, and poorly planned invasion/occupation of Iraq. Only the universal outrage of our military commanders forced Rummy from office. Both Bush and Cheney praised him as “one of the greatest Secretaries of Defense ever”.
Since declaring “mission accomplished” two weeks into the campaign we have been attempting to officiate a civil war for a longer period than all of World War II. The quagmire of ethnic hatred, absent any strong central government, has given the al Qaeda terrorists and all militant Islamic extremists a breeding ground of Olympic proportion to rally their troops against an occupying force that no one wants, even the moderate Iraqis who still seek political reconciliation.
The conclusions of the bipartisan Iraqi study group for a phased withdrawal of forces were summarily rejected by the Bush administration, and replaced with the concept of a “surge” – more troops, higher costs, escalating casualties both military and civilian with no achievable goals or objectives.
Bush added to his first inexplicable veto of embryonic stem cell research, a similar veto of a bipartisan congressional bill calling for a phased withdrawal. His supporters, on the surface, made a strong case for not telling the “enemy” when we intend “to surrender”. There is however no identifiable enemy, uniformed or otherwise, and we continue to watch the slaughter of our bravest young men and women who try to separate warring factions whose hatred for one another goes back thousands of years. To whom would we surrender?
The staggering current costs of the war, and the projected future costs for rebuilding Iraq and caring for the casualties is now pegged at north of two trillion dollars. The world is far less safe with Iran emboldened and Palestinian extremists like Hamas actually claiming government status. By all but forgoing diplomacy the full faith and credit of the U.S. is at its lowest point in modern history. Warrant less wire taps, clandestine off shore prisons, “enemy combatants” held and sometimes tortured without charges, the suspension of habeas corpus. Even the ultra-conservative Roberts court has begun to question Bush and Cheney’s disregard for constitutional rights.
Lest one think that the politicization of the Justice Department begins and ends with Alberto Gonzales firing federal prosecutors and lying about it, remember Bush nominated Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court. Even his most partisan blue state loyalists were shocked at the naiveté of the suggestion which reflected blatant cronyism in the extreme. When it appeared Scooter Libby would take the fall for Rove and Cheney’s retribution on Valerie Plaine and Joe Wilson for speaking the truth, the commutation of the sentence by Bush makes allegations of deliberate manipulation of the intelligence leading up to the war, far more credible.
Nixonian claims of executive privilege in so far as White House aides subpoenaed to speak to congressional committees leaves little doubt there is much to hide.
With his popularity hovering below Nixon’s post Watergate levels, with his immigration bill trashed, both houses of Congress controlled by the opposition, and major Republican leaders like John Warner and Richard Lugar abandoning ship, he continues to believe “Brownie did a great job”, tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans must be renewed, gay people have no familial rights, leveling the playing field for minorities is unconstitutional, and using embryos that will be discarded to save human lives is immoral.
Not even a series of massacres culminating with the Virginia Tech tragedy are enough to make him join his father in renouncing the NRA’s interest in keeping assault weapons on the street. He is more than a lame duck. He is a daffy duck.
This administration, by almost any measure, is a disaster. It appears that Bush honestly believes that he will be fondly remembered for being “resolute”. Lincoln, Wilson, Churchill, Roosevelt, Truman, and Reagan were resolute putting the long term interests of our society and civilization ahead of narrow partisan beliefs and personal goals. By perpetuating an open ended occupation of a Muslim nation Bush has resolutely refused to listen to either his friends or enemies, and spurned all of our allies who share his vision for freedom and democracy but abhor his methods.
If somehow he holds on until the end of his term, and I wouldn’t bet against him, he will be leaving his successors with a mission that may never be accomplished.
It will take decades to unscramble the Middle Eastern omelet. It may not, however, be possible to reestablish the U.S. as the most admired and respected nation on earth. It took nearly four hundred years to establish the United States as the most open, honest and freest of societies. We overcame slavery, segregation, oppression of women, corporate excess, and exploitation of the poor, by creating institutions dedicated to equality and justice for all. Our courts have looked wherever possible to level the playing field for all of our citizens and to treat everyone on our soil with integrity and compassion.
It is a tribute to the energy and resourcefulness of our citizens, our entrepreneurial spirit, and the creativity, productivity and efficiency of American business, that in spite of our government our economy remains strong.
The dollar is weaker that at any time since the Great Depression. Our trade deficit is at an all time high. The enormous budget surplus of the ‘90’s is gone and our social safety nets are due to run out of funds to coincide with the retirement of the Baby Boomers. Bush continues to campaign for tax relief for only the wealthiest. Forty-five million Americans have no health insurance and health care costs are growing at five tines the rate of the GDP.
The overall size of the Chinese economy will inevitably surpass ours. We, like the rest of the world, depend on free trade and cooperation to grow and prosper. We need to dismantle nuclear stockpiles which can never be used; not to antagonize our allies by building missile defense shields which will never work. While it is unlikely we will ever be energy independent, no nations thrive independent of the U.S.
We must maintain a large, mobile, and technologically superior military to deal with global terrorism. Terrorism only thrives where there is hopelessness, poverty, despair, and tyranny. A free and prosperous Iraq would not be attractive to al Qaeda. Unilaterally imposing our way of life on others by force cannot work. It is only by joining with others to help people become self sufficient that the benefits of freedom will become apparent. Only massive concessions and compromise will resolve the Palestinian problem. There is no military solution.
The vast majority of our people, our government representatives and our allies know a change of direction must happen quickly. To accomplish our mission of making the world safer will require electing new leadership in Washington committed to consensus -moderate, independent, compassionate, inclusive, not partisan, doctrinaire, and beholden to special interests. “My way or the highway” is untenable.
This week Mr. Bush again told us that he is right in spite of the fact that virtually no one agrees with him. The Supreme Court appointed him president in spite of the fact that the majority of Americans voted against him. It’s a tragedy that one man, supported by a largely discredited cadre of cronies, continues to “stay a course” which has done so much harm to a great country