Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How Does One Sum Up 8 Years?

It is now officially less than one week until George W. Bush leaves office, and Barack Obama begins the thankless task of attempting to repair the damage. Somewhere, a widget is counting down.

The topic of the Bush legacy is obviously a big one. Bush and his dead-end defenders insist that history will vindicate him, and I suppose that helps them sleep at night. It is hard to see how he is remembered as anything other than our nation's worst President. The best he can hope for is to be remembered as an affable simpleton in over his head and controlled by his inner circle. To take away that level of personal responsibility would be wrong, in my opinion, as I think Bush was politically smarter* (if intellectually incurious on policy and economics and any other matter) than some might give him credit for.

(*For the record, unlike many, I don't see Hurricane Katrina as where the wheel fell off that bus. It started earlier in 2005 with the Terri Schiavo mess-- which outed the religious right as the opportunists they are-- and the failed attempt to privatize Social Security, which was a bridge too far on the GOP dismantle-the-New-Deal train. Katrina just toppled an already weak foundation.)

Beyond just his personal decisions, actions, and policies, he quickly created a political and economic culture in this country that is the reason the damage is so widespread. When you hire people who hate government to run it, when you hire people who hate regulation and oversight to oversee vast agencies and economic apparatuses, when you hire people who view civilian deaths as 'collateral damage' to run foreign policy, when you use divide and conquer as electoral/political strategy... well, you get the idea. The current economic collapse and the lack of accountability for it, for instance, didn't exactly come as a surprise for those with long enough attention spans to remember Enron. All of this enacted by a party that still seems more concerned about whether gay people might get married than learning any lessons from all of this.

So how do you sum it all up? Some folks give a try...



Rachel Maddow also shared her two cents the other night with several segments... the first focusing on war on terror policies, the second on the Katrina aftermath, and the third on the economy. Worth watching.

More links below. And let's keep counting down.

The Atlantic: Then and Now: The nation Barack Obama inherits

San Francisco Chronicle: Bush: Only time will tell about his legacy

CQ Politics: Bush's Non-Mea-Culpa Tour of 2009

WashPost: Economy Made Few Gains in Bush Years: Eight-Year Period Is Weakest in Decades

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