Monday, October 09, 2006

Bush is no Washington

The N.Y. Daily News has an article that is getting a bit of attention from my fellow lefty type bloggers. The focus of most of these blogs is on how the Presidents mood has taken a turn for the worse with the recent political setbacks for the Republican party. The Presidents prickly nature is legendary and this story just adds to that legend. The part of the story that was news to me was the following part, at the end of the article:
Bush is less worried about his standing with history, telling aides that George Washington's legacy is still being debated two centuries later.
Frankly I don't know where to begin with this logic. Who is debating the legacy of George Washington? He is considered one of the greatest Presidents in American history. Until this assertion by President Bush, I was unaware that George Washington's legacy was up for debate. This matter is settled, and it is only the modern day Georges need to obfuscate the already certain verdict of history on his own failed policies that leads him to throw mud at the legacy of the nations leading founding father.

Let me bastardize the response of the late great Lloyd Bentsen to Dan Quayle in one of the greatest political flamages of history. In response to President Bush's understanding of George Washington, I say: Mr. Presdident, I didn't know George Washington, Washington was not a friend of mine, but Mr. Bush, you are no George Washington.

There are so many differences between the two men that to list them all would lead to a 10 page tome. Let me just focus on the one difference that truly points to the chasm between the men. Washington at several points in his leadership, both of the Continental Army and then as President, put aside the temptation to hold power that he felt should not be invested in a single man in a democracy. In the face of this great personal temptation for the realization of unfettered power, Washington declined in the best interest of his nation. Indeed Wasington was the perfect man at the perfect time to lead the colonies into independence in such a way as to make their progeny the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

George Bush on the other hand has failed in the same test of power sharing. Given a compliant Congress and sympathetic courts Bush has expanded executive power. Using the tragedy of 9/11, Bush has used fear and obfuscation to further expand his power. He has not needed to worry about oversight by Congress. He has used the so called signing statement to re-write legislation he does not favor and then sign the law as he has written it against all constitutional precepts. Indeed he claims the ability to do this based upon his so called constitutional right to oversee a unitary executive, while ignoring the most basic constitutional separation of powers.

The Vice President is unapologetic in his belief that the executive branch ought to be given unfettered power, and Cheney has been supported steadfastly by Bush. Even in the face of unqualified failures of policy on a global scale, causing death and suffering of biblical scope, this President claims that those who do not agree with him are fools and support our enemies. He is unwilling to admit the possibility of his own falibity and insists upon pursuing policies which have been demonstrated to be wrong headed in the face of disaster. Indeed, on several occasions President Bush has seemed to indicate his own belief in what he perceives to be the divine nature of his calling.

All of this points to an enduring drive by President Bush to expand his political power. This to me is the glaring difference between Bush and Washington. This difference is magnified by the fact that Washington tended to follow a path guided by intellectual curiosity and wisdom, where as Bush tends to walk a path guided by dogma and self assuredness whatever the consequence.

To be sure Washington was not a perfect man, but his political skill and self sacrifice makes him one of the greatest leaders in American history, well placed for the emergencies that he faced. Until President Bush called that truth into question that is.

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