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We Were Right, They Were Wrong

By       (Page 1 of 3 pages)   1 comment
Message David Michael Green
Who are these people that keep telling us lies,
And how did these people get control of our lives?
(Burt Bacharach / Tonio K *)

Back in the good old days of real statesmen - before courage was defined as dressing up in a flight suit - if you screwed up this bad you went out to the back shed with a pistol and "did the right thing".

The Bush administration could not possibly be more inept. That's always been true, but after five years and with no recent attack to hide behind, the act has really begun to wear thin. The ghost of Richard Nixon hasn't smiled once since the old man died, but George Bush's job approval ratings - now at 33 percent and diving like the Titanic - may yet give the spook reason to grin. "At last! A president worse than Nixon!"

How bad is it? Asked to give a one word description of George W. Bush, 48 percent of poll respondents now produce a negative response, compared to only 28 percent who offer a positive term. One year ago, the top four responses to that poll question were "honest", "good", "integrity" and "arrogant", in that order. Apart from the proof positive such responses give that substance abuse in America was evidently far more rampant in 2005 than we knew, what is perhaps more salient is the dramatic change which has occurred in just one year. Now, the top four one-word descriptors are "incompetent", "good", "idiot" and "liar". There is a term to describe such rapid change in public perception, though it may be a bit technical in nature for lay readers. This scenario is what social scientists refer to as a "frickin' free fall, man".

How bad is it? Conservatives from William F. Buckley to Francis Fukuyama to Andrew Sullivan to that O'Reilly stuffed shirt are running for cover as fast as they can, abandoning the Boy Wonder before he takes them over the edge for good. Even uber-punk Norm Coleman, the very personification of plastic, has complained that the White House has a "tin ear" nowadays. At this rate, how long can it be before Condoleeza Rice resigns to attend to "family issues", even though she doesn't have a family? And how long is it before Poppy Bush jumps ship too, watching the historical standing of his own already-not-so- highly-regarded presidency tank further by association with young Gentleman C's? You know he's been thinking about it. Maybe he could disown the kid and blame it all on Barbara and the milkman.

The desperation on the right is palpable. It is also as amusing and satisfying as it is simultaneously frightening. Lord knows what these people are capable of if backed into a corner. Can you say "Tehran"?

It's crunch time now for regressives, and the options are as narrow as an Irish country lane. In one of the great historical ironies of all time, a war which was launched in large measure to bolster the political power of the Bush dynasty's in-house cipher has instead proved his undoing. There is nowhere to go. Plunging in and actually doing the job right probably ceased being an option two years ago, but even if it could be done would in any case require instituting a draft to pull it off. The public reaction to that idea could well make these look like the good old days for Bush. Alternatively, pulling out would give the lie to the whole project, even for the 33 percent who still comprise the Legion of the Willfully Blind. So that's out, too. Maybe the Europeans could come to the rescue! Oops. Half of the half foolish enough to have followed George of Mesopotamia have now left or are leaving Iraq, while the smarter ones are laughing their Old European butts off at the arrogant bully stuck in a self-made quagmire so richly deserved.

And that's just Issue Number One. Then there's the deficit, Katrina, the prescription drug debacle, global warming, stem cell research, and, well, it all gets a bit tedious doesn't it, recounting the failures of these monumental failures?

Talk about hearing footsteps. John Conyers' big stompers are pounding out a steady beat which grows louder and more insistent each day. If that guy gets the subpoena power in his hands, the show's over folks. Just ask the ghost of Tricky Dick ("Nixon is not a crook! Nixon should have burned the tapes!"). This administration has more dirt on it than a league of rugby-playing pigs, and their only hope has ever been a compliant Congress. November looms like a hundred-year storm on the horizon, threatening a reckoning which would not only destroy what little is left of Bush's domestic agenda, but would also dangerously empower the odd Democrat like Conyers or Feingold with the power to investigate Bush's myriad crimes and the stones to actually do it.

Meanwhile, it's fun to see them squirm. GOP Neanderthals in Congress keep waking up screaming from the same recurrent nightmare, in which they're drowning under a flood of pink slips, all blissfully signed by a cross-eyed and drooling George W. Bush in the foreground against some Daliesque tableau of melting clocks and angry headless voters menacingly marching in their direction, knives and forks in hand. Watching these hacks try dancing away from their past full body-hug embraces of the president should be worth the price of admission, just on pure entertainment value alone. You did know that Rick Santorum has actually been a Bush-basher from the beginning, right? Damnable lib'rul press has been misrepresenting him all these years!

So the latest strategy has been to call for a shakeup of the White House staff. That's rich. These guys have been dispensing the bad medicine for so long they've become intoxicated themselves. If you believed that all those angry Muslims hate us because they're jealous of our freedoms (as opposed to, say, invading their homeland or supporting Israel's occupation of Palestine), then you're probably also ripe for believing that the president's problem is his staff, not his unbelievably unpopular policies and their Keystone Kops execution. See, if we had some new blood in there to replace Andrew Card, then we could... ...what? Screw up Iraq more efficiently? Leave people to drown in New Orleans more expeditiously? Botch prescription drugs with a better PR facade to inform us everything's just fine?

Those who would call on this government to change fundamentally misunderstand its character. It cannot change, except perhaps for purposes of some temporary tactical retreat. The concept of serious policy change presupposes that their agenda is good governance and service to the American public. But such an assumption has always been a mistake with these guys, just as believing that they are in Iraq to bring that country democracy is an absurd deceit used merely to fill the space left by the evaporation of their prior invasion rationales, WMD and terrorist links. Give me a break! What sort of government goes to war at massive expense to bring democracy to a foreign land, while simultaneously dismantling it at home? They cannot change because their entire raison d'être is to maintain power for as long as possible, in order to bilk the federal treasury as much as possible, on behalf of Halliburton, Bechtel, the Carlyle Group and the like. If they cannot do that, they have no other reason to be in Washington.

I'm so sorry to burst the delusional bubble of any of my good friends on the right, but the problem with the Bush junta is precisely the same problem it's always been: Their policies suck. It's really just that simple. Not protecting us from attack on 9/11 sucks. Not capturing the perpetrator of that crime sucks. Not taking precautions to prevent another attack sucks. Unnecessary wars based on lies suck. Fiscal meltdown sucks. Health plans for seniors that leave them worse off suck. Social Security privatization sucks. Global environmental destruction sucks. Alienating our allies sucks. Ripping up the Bill of Rights sucks. Playing guitar while people rot and drown sucks.

I mean, the list is endless, but the point is obvious. These guys are not failing because their top staff are exhausted or they're out of ideas. They're failing because there are only so many band-aids you can put on top of major debacles to cover them up, and only so many times you can ask the public to pretend to believe. They're failing because a frightened Democratic Party is today just marginally less intimidated than it has been for five years. They're failing because a complicit media is now just slightly more honest than they have been for five years. But, mostly, they're failing because the American public is finally growing weary of the sheer contempt which the Bush presidency has directed toward them. These are the wages of arrogance, bullying, divisiveness, unilateralism and posturing moral superiority. If you're gonna play this sort of hardball politics in a democracy, you better get it right. Because if you don't, people are going to be very, very angry.

But getting it right is precisely what is wrong with the Bush administration and the cabal of kleptocratic warmongers populating the leadership of the regressive movement. And this is what irritates and disgusts me about the johnny-come-ridiculously-lately know-it-alls who have so consistently shown that they in fact know nothing. What the hell is Francis Fukuyama doing producing another book about international politics after having supported the disastrous mess we're presently in? Instead of running around promoting his turncoat revelation, if the guy had a shred of decency he'd just go sit in the corner and shut up, wouldn't he? What the hell are Andrew Sullivan or Bill O'Reilly doing calling a war they promoted a failure? Haven't we heard enough for one lifetime from clowns like these? Shouldn't they be in Baghdad now, relieving soldiers buried underneath the product of their prior inanity, rather than further polluting the airwaves with their current claptrap? Why does anyone still care what these boneheaded bloviators of bile think?

If there is any good news coming from the current catastrophe that is contemporary American politics, it is that a virulent strain of malignant ideas is on the verge of annihilation for a generation or more. It came by this fate honestly. For the story of the last quarter-century, and especially the last five years, is the story of America trying on the political experiment of the radical right and finding it badly ill-fitting. It's not just Iraq and the ridiculous expectations of incompetent and willfully ignorant policymakers which brought us this ruin. It's the whole enchilada of regressive ideology. And it's all coming a cropper.

Progressives have been vindicated by history, regressives swept into its dustbin already crowded with other failed ideologies and the massive tragedies they produce. On issue after issue, it's just this simple: We were right, and they were wrong.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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