Well before successfully gaming the system to put and keep themselves in power, they were signally incapable of and entirely unconcerned about distinguishing policy from politics. Their policy is all politics, all the time. Nothing they have done since September 11, 2001, has been untainted by the stink of the crassest political opportunism.
With this as their guiding principle, they have put their eager torch to the dry tinder of many branches of the American Tree of Life.
The air is dirtier, the water less safe, land in the public trust more vulnerable to despoiling. Crime is up, poverty is way up, the number of Americans with health coverage is way down. Seniors are often paying more for prescription drugs after the enactment of a Byzantine program nominally designed to lower costs. Thousands of Gulf Coast residents only know about what's happening back home - and there isn't much happening - when they see it on TV. A sunny patch of budget surpluses has been drenched in the cold rain of record deficits.
The nation's reputation is a worn, cheap suitcase - stuffed with increasingly worthless greenbacks - which Bush and his ilk have dragged through the mire of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Kabul and Baghdad, Kyoto and the lobby of United Nations headquarters.
For terrorists, and even for adherents of the genteel hostility now reinvigorated among huge portions of the populace of America's closest allies, the Bush years have been a veritable Baby Boom of anti-Americanism.
Dialogues about the success or failure of Bush's tenure miss the point. Successful governance has a counter-intuitive meaning for Bush, for his family and friends, his cronies, his well-heeled enablers, his cheering section in the corporate kleptocracy, and the ideological mad dogs of the Far Right, still scarred and resentful from enduring the horrors of peace and prosperity under a Democratic president.
Bush and friends didnt bother to get government down to the size where it could be drowned in a bathtub (in the famous formulation of Grover Norquist). Instead, they took a cue from California Governor-by-PR-Coup Arnold Schwarzenegger, and pumped it up.
This process includes the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security (an agency urged by Democrats, who probably should have anticipated just what a travesty Bush's implementation would be), the astonishing costs of maintaining the illegal occupation of Iraq, the escalated use of pork-barrel earmarks, unprecedented largesse to the corporate sector and free trade initiatives designed to shaft workers and enrich executives. Bush and his henchmen have turned government into the ultimate Ugly American, a bloated, pasty, pushy hedonist hell bent on buying and doing things it can't afford, crowding out the rest of the world at the buffet table of Creation, all so it can shove the last stale e'clair into its quivering, drool-spattered jowls and suck up the crumbs with a straw.
The Bush clique then picked up this behemoth and stuffed it in Grover's bathtub. Their deep-pocketed friends in the transnational, post-democratic elites avidly wait for the water level to rise far enough to cover its nostrils.
Then, of course, the good times will really roll. A Hummer in every pot, a big fat dividend check in every mailbox, as long as you already make amounts of money that would stagger the imagination of 99% of the Earth's population. The golf is great, the private security firm keeps the rabble from breaching the gates of the gated community, yes the livin' is easy and the bourbon makes you think about that wonderful vacation you had in Louisiana before New Orleans got all wet. Who ever knew there were so many poor people, and that so many weren't white? Time to slap on some more sunscreen, fire up the grill and throw more American jobs on the barbie.
This is the America George W. Bush has crafted.
Addressing the damage done begins with this years mid-terms, and continues through November 2008. The outcome of these elections and the fairness with which they are conducted could not be more crucial for Americas future. Yet even best-case scenarios for progressives in 2006 and 2008 will mean little if a whole set of meta-political problems are ignored.
These problems include media consolidation and the death of hard news, the accelerating stratification and wild inequalities of class in a nation that still prefers to think of itself as caste-free, legislation of-by-and-for special interests, and political campaigning from tax-free pulpits.