“Really, he’s not as bad as you think.”
As if they could possibly pull the wool over a jaded public’s eyes one more time, many of George W. Bush’s advisers and friends have been in full spin mode the past few weeks trying to convince us that his presidency wasn’t nearly as disastrous as most think. In fact, they insist, it was groundbreaking and will be remembered well by historians.
Nevermind an economy that lies in ruins, destroyed by avarice and an unwillingness to enforce regulations.
Nevermind an Iraq War that has no clear endgame, helped recruit terrorists and harmed the nation’s reputation throughout the world.
Nevermind a soaring budget deficit and a federal government that’s larger than ever, all while it seems unable to provide basic functions like infrastructure repair and disaster management.
No, Dick Cheney assures us that everything Bush has done is legal. Karl Rove alleges Bush reads books, lots of ’em. Condoleezza Rice believes future generations will thank Bush for the groundwork he’s laid in the Middle East. And Laura Bush says it’s not nice to throw shoes at her husband.
Most of us, meanwhile, have been counting down to Jan. 20, 2009, since the last election four years ago. Who knew then that things could get worse, with Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath, dropping the ball in Afghanistan and the financial markets debacle?
Why all these Bush insiders have so much time to give interviews while the world is racked with crises at home and abroad is a mystery, but I guess we shouldn’t be surprised given the administration’s spotty record so far.
In a sense, the efforts remind me of how John McCain and top Republicans acted in the recent presidential campaign. They kept assuring voters that a McCain administration would be different from Bush’s but, when pressed for details, couldn’t explain how.
McCain liked Bush’s economic policies, supported the Iraq War and a “go it alone” foreign policy. At the end of the day, they were hard pressed to list one significant way in which they differed from Bush, although they certainly steered clear of him while campaigning.
Two other recent accounts, however, offer a more realistic assessment of the past eight years and their consequences.
The first, an oral history of the Bush years that will appear in February’s issue of Vanity Fair has former administration officials, foreign leaders, campaign strategists and others giving a more sobering view.
Dan Bartlett, Bush’s ex-counselor, said the handling of Hurricane Katrina destroyed whatever trust the American people had left in Dubya. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, compares Bush to Gov. Sarah Palin, a neophyte easily manipulated by Cheney and others. And the list goes on and on.
The second account, an op-ed column in a Chinese newspaper, states what’s obvious to the rest of the world but diehard U.S. patriots refuse to acknowledge: Bush has presided over the diminishing of this nation’s clout and aided its decline as a superpower while players like China, Russia and India are gaining in worldwide influence.
Meanwhile, Cheney and other GOP leaders are trying to push the story that we’re “winning” in Iraq because violence by insurgents is declining. First, the violence began only because we invaded Iraq without a clear plan for occupation. Secondly, the surge actually was recommended to Bush years ago by top commanders, but he foolishly ignored their expert advice and fired them.
The lives and resources squandered over the past few years have been too high a price to pay.
Saying we’re “winning” in Iraq is like a person running around a dirty house with a full glass of milk and spilling it, then saying they’ve cleaned the house because they wiped up the mess they created through their recklessness while leaving dusty tables and clothes on the floor untouched.
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