There’s a lot of debate about George Bush’s legacy these days. Remember the spin surrounding the administration’s recently renewed efforts on the Middle East peace process? That was all about trying to bring one positive event to Bush’s legacy. Admittedly he hasn’t spent much time brokering peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, but that’s only because he’s been busy orchestrating war in Afghanistan and Iraq. A president only has so much time in a day. While others ruminate about Bush’s replacement, I’m delving into more concrete things, like the Bush Library at Southern Methodist University. What will go into that library? What will best represent the Bush Legacy? I have some suggestions.
I’d break it down into “rooms,” the first being The 9-11 Room. That was truly a watershed event, an opportunity both for domestic unity after a tainted election and unprecedented international cooperation. Instead President Bush very quickly reduced it to one giant photo op. Remember that photo of Bush at Ground Zero, holding a megaphone in one hand with his other arm around the shoulders of one of New York City’s finest? The firefighter in the photo is just one of the many men and women who spent days and nights breathing in the acrid smoke and sifting thorough the still-smoldering debris. The photo would certainly illustrate the President’s solidarity with these heroes. But there’s another story he wants to avoid. It’s the story of how the government suppressed the danger of breathing the air in New York in the days following the attacks. In 2006, ninety people died of illnesses tied to 9-11 recovery efforts; that’s up from about twenty. It’s a story about forgotten people, once hailed as heroes, suffering with chronic illnesses and slowly dying in obscurity with little support from the government they so willingly believed in and selflessly served.
Next, comes The Protect America Room with a copy of the U.S.A. Patriot Act, signed into law on October 26, 1991. This historic document marks the birth of the all-out attack on our Constitutional rights, giving the government unprecedented powers to search telephone, e-mail, medical and financial records without a court order all in the name of fighting terrorism. Let’s not forget the Protect America Act of 2007, a law that legitimizes Bush’s illegal wiretapping of his own citizens. According to the ACLU’s web site, it allows for the “massive, untargeted collection of international communications without court order or meaningful oversight by either Congress or the courts.” It’s still unclear which version of the act will be included, the one with or without retroactive immunity for the telecom giants that helped Bush before there was actually a law authorizing the wiretapping. While the bill has been passed without telecom immunity, our imperial president has stated that he will veto that version.
The War on Terror Room would come next. President Bush likes to call himself a “war president.” That timeless photo of the now-free Iraqis toppling Saddam’s statue would have to be included. However, the administration should refrain from using actual war photos. It’s never good to show people on either side being blown up by roadside bombs and/or shot. Instead, they can include a film clip timeline of the speeches leading up to the Iraq war…the inspirational ones incorporating the 935 lies Bush and the key members of his administration told to justify the war. The Center for Public Integrity has already done all the work at http://www.publicintegrity.org! Bush should avoid any mention of the other war zone, Afghanistan, and the dismal effort made to capture the real architect of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.
The Domestic Policy Room would have its own Veto Zone. The President can tout his tax cuts for the richest Americans, while the poor and middle class stagger under a sagging economy of his creation. In the Veto Zone, Bush can showcase his tough stand against the “fiscally irresponsible” expansion of the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act. This law would have provided health care coverage to 3.9 million uninsured children at an additional cost of $34.5 billion dollars over five years (an increase that would be covered by a 61-cent increase in the cigarette tax and other tobacco taxes). In contrast, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the monthly cost of the Iraq war to be as high as $12 billion. The total cost of the Iraq war could run up to $3 trillion. Do the math and determine who is truly fiscally irresponsible.
The misinformed won’t stop there. The Disaster Response Room will feature that powerful 2005 Hurricane Katrina speech where Mr. Bush says “the Gulf Coast must be rebuilt with an eye toward wiping out the persistent poverty and racial injustice plain to all in the suffering of the black and the poor in Hurricane Katrina’s wake.” It’s 2008 and many are still displaced and waiting to go back home. Others have given up entirely on ever returning to their home state. Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation is doing more to build affordable housing in New Orleans than our own government. Instead, abandoned buildings are being purchased for conversion to high priced condos. The same thing is happening in Mississippi, where areas are turning into casino havens for the rich. The Bush administration’s version of the war on poverty is displacing and dispersing the poor throughout the rest of the country to fend for themselves.
Don’t forget The Interrogation Room. Here the torture techniques encouraged by this administration, continually honed at Guantanamo Bay and applied to extreme at Abu Ghraib will be hailed as powerful tools in the war on terror. It smacks of hypocrisy that George Bush once cited Saddam Hussein’s cruelty as a justification for removing him from power. Of course, our president doesn’t see himself in that light. He believes it’s his destiny is to bring freedom and democracy to the Middle East, one way or another. He answers to a higher power. The end justifies the means.
Finally, let’s finish the library with The Congressional Mastery Room. The bully president will be shown brazenly breaking many national and international laws and still escaping impeachment, while simultaneously holding a Democratic Congress hostage and preventing any legislation that might actually benefit the American people from becoming law.