Finally. Mercifully. Astonishingly. Incredibly. The insane adventure in national suicide known as the Bush administration is at last coming to an end.
This was a ride that beggars belief. Even after McCarthy and Nixon and Reagan and Gingrich, nothing prepared us for the last eight years, and I for one have difficulty finding the words that could begin to do justice to describing this historical folly of epic proportions.
The list of self-inflicted wounds is endless, running from the fiscal irresponsibility, to the lies about war, to the incompetent execution of every policy, to the extreme recklessness of environmental catastrophe, to economic meltdown, and to turning one of the most admired countries in the world into one of the most reviled.
It is a breathtaking record. It really is. Indeed, one might argue in complete seriousness that it would be far easier to list the one or two exceptions to a blanket rule of disaster than to catalogue the endless list of travesties themselves. It would certainly take a lot less time to specify any successes than to climb the mountain of wholesale failures. In short, it literally involves almost no exaggeration to describe this adventure in catastrophic governance by means of a simple covering adage: If there was a way the Bush administration could have diminished America, it did.
Given this endless chronicle of national implosion, I won’t try – for the umpteenth time – to catalogue the crimes and catastrophes here, despite the fact that this week offers a good opportunity for summing up our world of hurt. There are too many, and they are too well known. Except for those that are not, of course, of which I expect there is a huge quantity. Not for nothing did the administration – in one of its very first acts in government – rewrite the rules concerning the release of presidential documents, so that it could control them completely, despite the fact that they belong to you and me, not Alberto Gonzales. Not for nothing has Mr. Cheney’s shredder needed sharpening every morning for the last six months.
As tempted as I am to once more list what has been lost by an America that has lost so very much, I will instead confine myself here to two simple, albeit not simply answered, questions: What happened? And, Why?
The first one is easier than the second, though I contend that most Americans still don’t know the correct answer. My guess is that most people think the Bush administration has been highly ideological and partisan, and indeed it has. I think they believe the Bush people were largely incompetent at governing, and they were. Many Americans might have a sense of the corruption attendant to Bush’s team, and they rightly should. Lots of them probably see the president as simultaneously arrogant and over his head, and they’re quite right to do so.
But I’m convinced what most Americans fail to perceive, even to this day, is the true depth of the evil here. What they don’t understand is that the incompetence and the partisanship and even the garden-variety corruption are the least of what just happened. What they don’t get is that the major reason the Bush catastrophe was so catastrophic is that these people never came to Washington to do good, in the first place. They came instead to do well, and boy did they.
If this child in the body of a man were named Putin or Castro or Kim, Americans would get it. If they were observing the country from the perspective of Zimbabwe, instead of the other way around, then they would get it. They can understand the notion of some foreign thug who means to do harm to our country. They get the idea, in other places, of a domestic thug who seeks to plunder his own country. They just can’t imagine it happening here. And, therefore, they don’t see that it just has.
Most people have completely failed to perceive the magnitude of the Bush crime, because they see it as limited to ‘merely’ dumb policies, poorly implemented, by incompetent stewards of government. Would that that were so. We’d be so much better off as a country and as a world had it been only that.
Instead, this was an American Stalin, seeking to use military power for purposes of overrunning and raping other countries. Instead, this was an American Mugabe, seeking to steal power by any means, in order to plunder the wealth of his own country per the interests of a narrow band of cronies.
This president – and indeed the entire movement of regressive politics these last three decades (which I refer to as Reaganism-Bushism) – can only be properly understood as class warfare. Its purpose was never to make America a better place. Indeed, if we define America as a country belonging to its 300 million inhabitants, then the purpose was actually precisely the opposite. The mission of this ideology was in fact to diminish if not impoverish the vast bulk of these citizens, so that the already massively wealthy among them could instead become obscenely wealthy.
Where you or I might have looked at the middle of the twentieth century and seen the moment when America finally did justice to its national promise by introducing a measure of serious economic equality for the first time, and thus vastly expanding the middle class, the plutocrats behind Reaganism-Bushism saw a filthy aberration to the natural order of master and slave that had long existed in human history. They therefore set about to overturn that aberration and return to ‘better times’ through a process of class warfare. That meant that labor unions had to go, along with workplace protections, good wages, decent benefits, government protections, and a far-too-moderate average CEO to lowest-paid worker salary ratio on the order of fifty-to-one, replaced instead by something closer to five-hundred-to-one.
And, where Washington was concerned, that meant that government was to become a vehicle to serve not the 300 million, but rather the 300 families at the top, who already owned the most but craved ever, ever more. It was a cash cow that could provide enormous riches to buccaneers who make the Somali pirates look like Campfire Girls in comparison. Social Security is not, from this perspective, a program to serve seniors and keep a roof over their heads during their final decades of life, but rather a pool of money which the government had been kind enough to already collect and centralize, just waiting for barons to come along and robber it. Deregulation is another important purpose of the federal government. Protecting the long-term integrity of the economic system from the exploitation of short-term Ponzi schemers with their derivatives and their garbage loans was so mid-twentieth-century, you know? And then, chief among all purposes of government under Reaganism-Bushism, are the tax cuts for the wealthy, even if – especially if – they can be made more massive by borrowing from suckers’ – I mean, citizens’ – children in future generations.
In short, if you merely hate the Bush administration for driving the country into penury, making us hated around the world, bringing on a global economic crisis, ignoring when not exacerbating a looming environmental catastrophe of planetary proportions, killing a million Iraqis on the basis of a host of lies, letting New Orleans drown, trying to wreck Social Security, sleeping through (at best) the worst terrorist attack on our shores, allowing when not assisting the Middle East in going up in flames, or dividing our country internally – if that’s ‘all’ you’ve got against these guys, then you have no idea how bad it really is.