Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The Unqualified Success Of G.W. Bush
The Financial Times last week billboarded an opinion column "Bush's worst legacy" and wondered whether it was Iraq or fiscal policy. The menu of choices in this case is so vast as to induce vertigo, but let me suggest that Bush's "worst legacy" is what he has done to whatever trust Americans still had in their government. This administration's incessant lying, its secrecy -- its creepy Cheneyism with its petty justifications for torture and violation of privacy -- is its worst legacy, one that will endure long after Wal-Mart opens a branch in Sadr City. Only an idiot would trust this government.The context of this paragraph is Cohen reflecting on the candidacy of Senator Clinton. Wide majorities of people asked say she is not honest or trustworthy. Cohen believes Senator's Obama and McCain could each restore a little trust in our government but Clinton would have much more difficulty.
Sullivan lifts the above quoted paragraph from all context (normally this charge is pejorative in nature, but it is not intended to be so in this particular case) and headlines his post "What hath Bush wrought". His only commentary is this brief introduction for the quote: "Richard Cohen focuses on the real damage".
It occurs to me that what Bush has wrought is to bring us the end result of the core meaning of conservatism. The goal of the right wing movement since I've been politically aware is to denigrate and devalue the role of government. After Bush has his turn at the helm, our government will be distrusted and loathed more-so than at any other point in American history, including amazingly enough the immediate aftermath of Water Gate.
This is reminiscent of the President's campaign promise to be a "uniter, not a divider". The nation naturally assumed that he meant to unite us in constructive ways, bringing both sides of the political divide together and leading us to solve our problems in a bipartisan manner. To be fair, after seven years of Bush Presidency the nation is united, not divided, but it is in opposition to this ongoing trainwreck of an administration. In fact the disapproval rating of this President is at an all time high as measured by over 70 years of Gallup polls. Yet, when Vice President Cheney answers a question based upon a wide majority of the American people opposing the war in Iraq with the one word answer "so?...", one is left wondering if this administration really gives the slightest care in the world as to how the citizenry thinks about the President.
In fact, given the wishes of the conservative movement that Americans distrust the government we may actually have a situation in which they consider the success of President Bush to be in inverse proportion to his popularity. When it comes to uniting the nation, and turning the populace against faith and trust in their own government, President Bush has been an unqualified success. Maybe future generations of conservatives will look back upon this president in much the same way one considers a soldier who heroically throws themselves upon a live grenade. President Bush insured his own destruction in order to make government a perceived plague upon the land and in order to unite us all. He sacrificed his own good name in order to save America from that horror of horrors, big guvmint, and future generations of conservatives will have to respect that.
Bill Press touches on the lessons of the Bush error in his book 'Trainwreck' by pronouncing that conservatives, as they are currently understood, must never be allowed to lead the nation forever and for all eternity. Press asserts that the conservative take on the role of government should serve as a default disqualifier for good governance, and that Bush's reign is the end result of a self fulfilling prophecy. If conservatives denigrate the worthiness of the governmental institutions set up at various points in our history, when they are called upon to run those functions after an election we can expect those agencies to be mismanaged.
I wouldn't be willing to go so far as Press in calling for the complete disqualification for future leadership by conservatives, but I do think it is not too much to ask that the people chosen to serve their offices do so with the intent of faithfully performing the role envisioned for their job. One would presume that this would include the very top levels of governance, meaning that appointments and nominations for advice and consent be of people understood to be well qualified to serve. Mayhaps with that fundamental understanding as a given going forward, many conservatives would realize that government work in some bureau which they have attacked for years is not for them.
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