Thursday, August 31, 2006

Assessing George Bush on the Anniversary of 9/11 (Or: Why No Stem Cells Have Been Killed in Iraq)

September 11, 2006 should be observed in memory of the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and United Flight 93 and we will do so here at Kiko's House. But we need to be reminded as we approach the fifth anniversary of those cataclysmic events that they cloud an even a greater tragedy -- George Bush's betrayal of the American people.

As someone who bleeds red, white and blue for the United States, values its institutions and served in its armed forces, as a student of American history, observer of eight presidential administrations and sometime White House visitor over a long career in journalism and then a second life as a blogger, I make the following statement with authority, but not one iota of satisfaction:
George Bush is the worst president in U.S. history.
Comparing Bush to James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Warren G. Harding, who are routinely cited by historians as being the worst presidents, would seem to be unfair. After all, these mediocrities held office in less complex and troubled times and only Harding served when the U.S. was a global power with the attendant challenges and responsibilities.
But this is precisely why George Bush will be judged the worst president.

He came to office declaring himself to be the right man for what are indeed complex and troubled times. But he failed make good on any of his promises -- not a single one of consequence -- despite a compliant Congress and a post-9/11 mandate comparable to that given FDR after Pearl Harbor.

In the eight months that Bush held office prior to the attacks, the intelligence community that he pledged to reinvigorate slept the sleep of the smug and complacent, rousing itself only when there were turf battles to be fought.

This despite the fact that the CIA, FBI and NSA -- as well as some of Bush's own White House advisors -- had detailed intelligence that Al Qaeda was plotting an attack on the homeland and even knew the identities of some of his confederates and were aware that they were in country and learning to fly large passenger jets. Bush's national security advisor was, by her own subsequent admission, still fighting a Cold War that had been over for a decade. Today she is the secretary of state.
While Bush cannot be given the benefit of the doubt regarding his administration's culpability in not trying to prevent the 9/11 attacks, it is his betrayals in the years since then that assure his ranking as the worst president.

His response to the attacks was to:
* Declare an unprovoked war on Saddam Hussein, a favorite pre-existing target of his neoconservative brain trust.

This diverted attention, troops and other resources from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the post 9/11 battle should have been concentrated, and plunged the U.S. into a quagmire that has cost a quarter of a trillion dollars, taken over 2,600 American lives and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives while providing a new safe haven for Al Qaeda and further destabilizing the Middle East.

The invasion might have been all about Iraq's vast reserves of oil, as some people claimed. But the occupation has been such a disaster that even Iraq's oil drilling and refining infrastructure remains only marginally functional three-plus years since U.S. contractors set about rebuilding it and, incredibly, there are fuel shortages throughout the country. This despite administration claims that oil would "self finance" the occupation, as well as provide desperately needed revenue for a new Iraqi government and more fuel for gas-guzzling Americans.

* Not only fail to reform intelligence agencies after 9/11, but to pad them with hacks whose sole qualifications were their ties to the Republican Party elite.

And for good measure to disembowel the first responder in a terrorist attack, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, which contributed substantially to the nightmarish aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

* Make a mockery of the separation of powers between the executive, legislative judicial branches and expand his own powers well beyond the limits delineated in the Constitution through a government of imperial absolutism with limitless powers.

* Fixate on secrecy to the point of obsession. This includes reclassifying previously public documents although they do not contain sensitive information, cracking down on whistler-blowers and journalists and denying historians the right to examine a vast array of presidential papers after he leaves office.

* Try to rob Americans their most fundamental civil liberties in the commission of a War on Terrorism ostensibly being fought to protect those liberties.

While the president has talked of "sacrifice," it always has been in the abstract, and other than the soldiers themselves and Americans with family or friends who have done tours, Iraq has been a war virtually without sacrifice.

Wars usually demand belt tightening, tax increases and other forms of deprivation. But this has not been a time of testing, but rather spending. In fact, about the only manifestation that the U.S. is in the fourth year of a war are the ubiquitous “Support the Troops” ribbons and bumper stickers.
My judgment might not be so harsh had there been counterbalances during Bush's tenure, say a successful domestic agenda.

In fact, no domestic agenda since Herbert Hoover's has failed so ingloriously and is so shot with betrayal. This includes:
* A yawning disinterest in protecting the environment and an energy plan that is smoke and mirrors.

* Giveaways to corporations and the wealthy and attacks on the middle class. It is no coincidence that wages and salaries now make up the lowest proportion of the economy since the government began keeping records in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest level in 40 years.

* Pandering to a fundamentalist religious right wing on issues ranging from stem cell research to single-sex marriage.
* An appalling indifference to human suffering except when it can be used for political gain such as the "spontaneous" photo op with a Hurricane Katrina "victim" who turned out to be an affluent GOP businessman. Compassionate conservatism, my ass.
On the political front, Bush has managed to do what Democrats could only dream of – bring conservatism nearly to its knees. This is because of a naked opportunism in which principle is turned on its ear and politics always trumps policy. Liberals may be gleeful, but American will be much the worse without strong conservative voices.

Richard Nixon also abused the powers of the office, but his accomplishments assured him a place above the pantheon of bad presidents.
Nixon was a tortured soul, while Bush shows scant evidence of having one.

He is a man with a congenital frat boy smirk who was born with a gold spoon in his mouth, sat out the Vietnam War because of his daddy's pull, never had to deal with failure because family and friends were always there to bail him out, brooks no dissent, lies habitually, is devoid of humility and believes he channels the wisdom of Jesus.

But it is two of his strongest traits -- a disinterest in detail and intellectual laziness -- that perhaps have made him so unsuited to lead in such complex and troubled times.
Reflect on these words from Bush's nomination acceptance speech at the 2000 Republican National Convention and contrast them with the reality of the last five and a half years:
America's armed forces need better equipment, better training and better pay . . . A generation shaped by Vietnam must remember the lessons of Vietnam: When America uses force in the world, the cause must be just, the goal must be clear, and the victory must be overwhelming . . . I don't have enemies to fight. I have no stake in the bitter arguments of the last few years. I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect . . . We're learning to protect the natural world around us. We will continue this progress, and we will not turn back ... to lead this nation to a responsibility era, that president himself must be responsible. So when I put my hand on the Bible, I will swear to uphold the laws of our land . . . I will not attack a part of this country because I want to lead the whole of it.
Until recently, Bush's stoutest defenders, including the neocon architects of his policies, asserted that he would be vindicated by the long arc of history. The setbacks and failures of 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 would recede and the leadership of this swaggering but visionary Texan ultimately would make America and the world better places.

But that crowd has been struck deaf and dumbfounded. They know that George Bush has robbed Americans of what is perhaps their most precious asset -- optimism.

George Bush has squandered his legacy for all time, and
his betrayals will leave America and the world much worse places.

ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS
The dates on each police mug shot slate correspond to a date when President Bush or member of his administration betrayed the public trust. From "Line Up," a limited edition boxed set designed Ligorano/Reese, © Madness of Art Editions.

8 comments:

doomsy said...

Shaun,

This is a terrific post, and I admire the depth of your arguments. I linked to it from my site. Well done.

the olive ream said...

Well blogged!

But think of this, of all the criminal mistakes made by the resident of 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, he is most likely to make the biggest one when he feels he is seriously cornered and under threat. He is in a situation where he cannot afford to lose power because people are lining up to come after him. So events need to happen and circumstances need to develop to ensure that he maintains and usurps more power so he cannot be touched.
Therein lies the REAL problem.

doomsy said...

Shaun,

By the way, one more thing...today (9/1) is the day for bloggers to spread the word on impeaching Bush with messages on their sites. To learn more, go to http://impeachnet.net/blog .

marcia rice said...

it has become painful to watch him open his mouth. i can't believe i voted for him.....twice. please forgive me.

doomsy said...

Marcia,

You're forgiven. Welcome to the fight - we're glad you've joined us.

Harry said...

I just read Thomas Paine's "The rights of Man". One of the principals of the revolution was to prevent wars of choice caused by the Monarchy and its courtiers in search of personal and political gain. GW and his court betrayed the revolution and have presented the worst aspect of nobility "there was an imbecility and want of intellect in the majority"

harry

Charles Johnson (Rad Geek) said...

Do you seriously mean to suggest that Bush the Younger's presidency is worse than that of James Buchanan (1857-1861), the useless doughface who actively collaborated in the perpetuation of Southern race slavery, who applauded the court for the Dred Scott, enforced the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, threw his political prestige behind the slavers' constitution in Kansas, stormed Harper's Ferry, and presided over the careening of the country towards sectional war? That Buchanan ought to be excused on the grounds that the times on the eve of the American Civil War were less troubled than in 2001-present? That seems factually false; and if the issues were less complex--slavery being obviously inhuman and the Slave Power being a manifest power for evil--that speaks against Buchanan, not for him. Idiocy and incompetance are one thing; open complicity with evil is another.

One might also mention presidents like Andrew Jackson--an active slaveholder and a successful genocidaire)--or Woodrow Wilson--a militant white supremacist who instituted Jim Crow throughout the Executive branch and fought against women's suffrage, and who, after running for re-election as the peace candidate, deceived the United States into what may have been the single most pointless bloodbath in world history, instituted a military draft to rustle up a slave army to fight it, and repressed the intense opposition to it through the expedient of throwing political dissidents in prison under the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Perspective, please.

Renegade Eye said...

I'm a baby boomer. I've been through many bad presidents. He is worst.