The president seems to think his legacy will be defined by the muse of history who will materialize at some point in the future to proclaim him a visionary whose accomplishments were too far-reaching and profound for the dumbos of his time to understand. Historical apologists with reputations as tarnished as their leader’s will struggle to create the impression that the perceived failures of his policies were just the flip side of success waiting to happen.
It’s hard to say which is more unsettling – – the declarations of divine purpose by administration partisans or the 28% to 30% of the party faithful who continue to stand by their man, perhaps because they are as unwilling as he to admit making a mistake. Just last week a gathering of retired businessmen could be heard excoriating Clinton for depleting the army and under-funding the military, this after six years during which Republicans, except for a brief interlude in the Senate, controlled all three branches of government. Such are the delusional rants of supporters who cannot accept the likelihood that their chosen leader is dangerously incompetent.
President Bush on down to the last party hack and partisan appointee apparently think they are incapable of making mistakes. Even now, after his disastrous tenure as post-invasion Administrator, Paul Bremer maintains that the war in Iraq was a “noble enterprise” – – that he was right to disband the Iraqi army sending them off with their guns and no pay, that disabling all levels of the bureaucracy in the name of de-Baathification made sense and that handing out bundles of cash without any accountability whatsoever was the proper course of action given conditions on the ground. Yet however one looks at the war, it seems clear that under the guidance of Bremer and, then Secretary of Defense, Rumsfeld, our prospects for success in Iraq began a long downward spiral.
It is actually something of a misnomer to use the word ‘policy’ in describing the Bush governing style. Simply asserting that privatization is the best way to facilitate economic growth and that the business world makes it happen is an ideology more than a policy, and one that doesn’t translate easily into programs that serve the interests of ordinary people. Appointing corporate partisans to oversee sensitive government departments assures a lop-sided, pro-business tilt; tax breaks to encourage insurance companies’ participation in the prescription drug plan are simply a back-loaded assault on the treasury, as are no-bid contracts in Iraq, the no federal bargaining stipulation in the drug plan and “tax incentives” so profit-rich energy companies will be induced to develop resources and update machinery. And committing so much of our treasure to defense projects sustains the “military-industrial complex” President Eisenhower warned about many years ago.
It is easier of course to subscribe to a broad, sweeping ideological premise upon which to bend the work of one’s administration – – much harder to devise real programs and evaluate how they might impact the environment for example or the fortunes of future generations. It isn’t even necessary to look that far over the horizon to explore the possible effects of, say, a foreign invasion before engaging in battle. We’ve heard the bromides about making the world safe for democracy before, and they haven’t aged well. They are probably the most dangerous of all the ideological pronouncements excluding those about religion because they are so often made in the absence of facts and logic and formulated more often on the basis of opinion and wishful thinking.
Paul Krugman in his NYTimes column (5/18/07) entitled “Don’t Blame Bush” points out “…that the infamous “Bush bubble” …extends a long way beyond the White House. Millions of Americans believe that patriotic torturers are keeping us safe, that there’s a vast Islamic axis of evil, that victory in Iraq is just around the corner, that Bush appointees are doing a heckuva job – – and that news reports contradicting these beliefs reflect liberal media bias.” He concludes “…the Republican nomination will go …to someone who shares these beliefs and would therefore run the country the same way Mr. Bush has, or to a very, very good liar.”
Certainly there is no indication that any of the Republican candidates represent a new philosophy or would formulate programs different in any substantial way from those of the Bush administration. They may distance themselves somewhat from the war as it has been conducted or suggest a more muscular approach to immigration and national security, but innovation in no way informs their agenda, unless finding ways to out-conservative fellow candidates passes for an exercise in creativity. We’ve heard it all before, and it isn’t the least bit stimulating except, it would seem, to a Republican base that digs the rhetoric, no matter how old and tired it may be.
Now, without having developed any meaningful strategies to address the problems of energy consumption, global warming, national security, health care or our diminished status in the world Mr. Bush can move on to a future of unfettered brush clearing at his ranch and pray for historical vindication. An enormous library will indulge this most unlettered of presidents, with a cadre of revisionists in residence dedicated to embellishing his legacy.
Soon a new administration will attempt to salvage something worthwhile from the eight-year Bush White House where delusion and fakery prevailed, while the rest of us will face a more dangerous and unsettled future as history-in-the-making forces us to confront a reality-based world.

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