There is a tendency among historians to think that “great” presidents are those who succeeded and who influenced their successors. What they don’t consider is the possibility of a president with enormous influence who also enormously failed. This is because historians believe that American history has an auto-correct embedded in it.
The twenty-first century is upending these assumptions. Surely the most influential president of this century was George Bush. And surely he was the most miserable, rotten, corrupt, lying, failure we have yet seen in the presidency, and I am including the present sexual assaulter.
In fact, although few people seem to have noticed, the Trump administration is modeled almost pathetically on the Bush administration. When the Bushes came in, what was the first order of business? To undo everything that the Clintons had done. This included, by the way, the information and practice of anti-terrorism, which had concentrated on Al Qaeda. Of course, Al Qaeda wasn’t on the headlines of the ever lagging press – if you look back at the debate between Bush and Gore on foreign policy in 2000, you will notice not one question about Al qaeda, which had at that point blown up a U.S. embassy and been ineffectually bombed by Clinton. But inside the White House, from all accounts, remnants of the Clinton era were trying to alert Bush appointees to the dangers posed by Al Qaeda. Those appointees turned a big thumbs down on this business. It was a combination of disdain for anything Clinton and love for anything Saudi. As we know, when the CIA told Bush that al qaeda was planning a big attack on the U.S. in August of 2001, Bush told the CIA to suck eggs. He was that kind of nincompoop.
Second order of business for the Bushies was getting rid of Clinton’s taxes on the wealthy. To do this, the Bush’s cut taxes enormously for the wealthy and hardly at all for the non-wealthy.
Then, of course, everything fell to hell for Bush when the CIA’s prediction came true. He was rescued by the press, which rolled out the usual imperial excuses, and the Democrats, who felt it was their patriotic duty to make sure that the nation continued to be run by an incompetent. I mean, otherwise, there would be investigations, partisanship and who knows what divides in the country’s fabric! The Dems were happy anyway: they’d help abolish regulations on the financial industry under Clinton, they’d reformed welfare to make sure that in downturns, poor people would starve, and they’d messed up single payer health care so badly that it wasn’t even an issue.
After 9/11, of course, there was the commencement of a war in Afghanistan that still hasn’t stopped, pursued with exemplary incompetence. There was the escape of Osama bin Laden on a pony to our ally, Pakistan (who’d been financing him), which we pretended not to see – Osama turned out to be a very valuable threat, an election ploy, but not somebody we wanted to offend the Saudis and Pakistanis by actually “getting”. There were the lies that led to Iraq being occupied. There were the lies that led to Cheney’s office basically attacking the CIA. There was the second mortgage boom, the zero interest mortgage boom, the boom boom boom of credit profiles that made it the case that the average household owed more than its assets by 2007, there was the systematic slimery of the 2002 election, and there was the final boom of the economy as Bush stood by, in his usual suppressed panic mode. Oh, I forgot New Orleans drowning. And of course the day to day mendacity, racism, fundamentalism, and use of lying and stupidity.
If ever the policies of a president deserved to be overturned, it was Bush’s policies. But alas, he was opposed by Democrats. So when Obama came into office, mildness and bi-partisanship became the keywords. It suddenly became all important to have Republicans sign on for any policy that was to be passed. Obama became prematurely concerned with a deficit that was faulty only because it wasn’t big enough to bring the U.S. out of its slump in a faster fashion, with more drippings for the majority of peeps, and less drippings for the uber-wealthy. We all became more unequal, the justice system continued to rot, and the U.S. out of the badness of its heart involved itself in Libya, Yemen and Syria, all to no good end.
Bushism, in other word, endured.
Trump is a nightmare, but he is much too lazy to be anyway near as bad, as malign, as George Bush. But forgive and forget, right? Now polls show even Dems, always on the lookout for a good Daddy GOP-er, have favorable opinions about Bush.
No memory, no future. That seems to be the 21st century’s big motto.