The last Bush press conference was a doozy, riddled with angst, anger and unrequited appreciation. You could read it in his eyes, "Why don't they love me?" Suddenly he was the teenage boy again, called in front of his domineering father and trying to explain away all those things that couldn't be explained away.
It seals the Bush legacy, that when all else fails, when his carefully crafted flying machines and fantasies come crashing to the ground, he falls back on whining.
Unapologetic, uncaring, unfeeling, it was a press conference to explain why America should love Bush rather than the other way around. His legacy as the worst President in American history is secure, but what historians will say is the verdict of time.
Richard Nixon, with his failed Presidency, could still claim opening relations with China as an accomplishment. So what are the accomplishments of the Bush administration? After hours of thought I return to you empty-handed; this is a null Presidency at best. Unless you include yourself in the top 1% of wage earners, then it's been a wonderful Presidency, or at least it was until a year or so ago. Now all that extra money earned through those tax cuts is gone. Your investments are in the toilet and there are no longer any safe havens anywhere in the world.
The people the President once called his base, "the have mores," now have less. They, too, fear for the system; the free traders, the open market boys suddenly find themselves destroyed by their own Frankenstein monster. They tiptoe past the graveyard saying the economic downturn might last for the next two quarters. Then the realist admits that they don't have a clue, that this is a systemic, worldwide collapse. The Soviet Union fell apart after an economic collapse one tenth this size involving one one-hundredth the number of people.
The people have taken to the streets in Iceland and in Greece. Switzerland totters, as their bank debts are larger than their government's ability to pay if the banks fail. In Italy, France, and Germany the governments offer aide to struggling auto industries while in America we debate the issue. The administration that choked on Katrina hasn't been able to hack up this piece of meat either and lies on the floor of the steakhouse while those in his party shout, "Someone help him. It's not his fault!"
Meanwhile, in the Peoples Republic of Wal-Mart, err, I mean China, with its one-China, two-systems policy, it is reverting to the earlier system of guns and truncheons. An estimated twenty million Chinese have lost their jobs due to this slight downturn. Like any good propaganda-based system, the downside was never fully explained to the workers. They don't want to go back to the farm; what do you mean I don't work here anymore? The Chinese government, under the guise of an anti-pornography campaign, is shutting down Internet chat rooms.
Billionaires who step in front of trains have replaced the millionaires who were diving from windows in 1929. Or in the case of Bernie Madoff, they do their best Slim Pickens imitation, riding Dr. Strangelove's economic bomb down, waving their hat and smirking for the camera. The Wall Street debacle is only beginning; the music we've heard up to this point was the overture, setting the scene and the mood. All that can be done for Wall Street has been done; the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates for the banks down to zero was the last arrow in the quiver.
It bleeds and bleeds, then revives on the good news that it's not as bad as they first thought, or so-and-so beat estimates of how much money they lost this quarter. Eternal optimists, lost in the desert without water, saying, "At least we get to watch those big black birds circling around us. I wonder what they want?" Are they lying to us or to themselves? Much like the outgoing President, they refuse to see the wreckage all around them or to understand that that smell on them is failure and on an unprecedented scale.
The President's foreign policy achievements actually make his economic record look good. There is not a single nation in the world that now holds the United States in high esteem, except Israel, which does so only for its own personal goals. "Sure, sure, we love you. Send more bombs and look the other way." Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Russia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, The United Kingdom, Germany, Ukraine, Georgia, the gang that rode into Washington, too smart to ask questions, has become the gang that couldn't shoot straight.
Iraq? Leave today or leave in a hundred years, it makes no difference. The correct answer was to let them solve their own problems. While we might have solved their Saddam problem we created a host of new problems in the process. Each with the potential of becoming worse than Saddam and leaving us with the choice of spending more blood and treasure or walking away from all that we've already spent.
If I were Condoleezza Rice I would go hide myself away in the mountains and spend the rest of my days imitating Howard Hughes. The world is destabilized in all of its flash points and the arrows point directly back to Washington. Ms. Rice, much like the oil tanker which carries her name, is a fitting symbol for her role in this cabal, huge, empty and with the sole purpose of carrying its product to the people. She gives only the illusion of diplomacy, the illusion of negotiation, agreement and statecraft. She is a bad actress in a bad play.
What can be added to the legacy of Dick Cheney? What horrible things could be said of a man whose public popularity is lower than Lee Harvey Oswald's? What horrors must the future hold that through any stretch of human imagination we could conceive of ourselves twenty, fifty or a hundred years from now saying, "He really wasn't that bad a Vice President."? He was disgraceful as Vice President and he is disgraceful as a common citizen; he makes me wonder what they've done with that island they imprisoned Napoleon on.
Today, as Ben Bernanke speaks, he continues his Orwellian double talk about free markets and averting a market meltdown by giving money away. He claims how high bank reserves have risen and congratulates himself for the accomplishment, forgetting that the banks were given the money to lend, not to hold. He is proud that our trade deficit is shrinking, ignoring that tens of millions have no money and poverty should claim more credit for that shrinkage than he. He is an academic in a political world, asked to replace the perpetrator and hold the balloon right before it pops.
Their monument should be a four-sided, black obelisk, and in glowing neon on each side should be written, "Free markets aren't free; Trickle down doesn't; Freedom isn't ours to give," and finally on the fourth side, "Remember Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice. Never Again!" I doubt such a monument will ever be built for there will be no need. Frighteningly, even if built, there might not be anyone left to read it or that can read it.
World Capitalism is taking a nose dive; global interdependence has made the problem worse, not better, as the Madoffs and Satyams prove that strict regulation is the only way. But you can't evaluate regulation on the other side of the world; you can't evaluate regulation just down the street until it fails. So the economies will begin to distrust one another. Political instability will bring us war, just as it did in the 1930's.