George W. Bush's Legacy of Failure
The president's defenders are puffing his record in a positive light - but reality keeps getting in the way
With only days left until his term expires, it appears that the Bush legacy project, an attempt by the usual corps of serial sycophants to rehabilitate the lame-duck generalissimo's image, is falling upon the deaf ears and self-gouged eyes of an American public sickened by the last eight years.
Yes, the Bush cabal just couldn't clear out of town without trying to complete one last propaganda project for the Gipper, or the Decider, if you will. Karl Rove, the genius who predicted a permanent Republican majority right before destroying a temporary one, and Karen Hughes, who likes to create mutual understanding in the Middle East by explaining that God appears in the US constitution, have been unleashing a wave of their finest shock and awe talking points. To listen to them is to hear how black is white, up is down and Bush has been more Churchill than Ceausescu.
Condi Rice, the very Siren Song of Security who thought a 2001 presidential daily briefing entitled "Bin Laden determined to strike in US" meant the al-Qaida leader was thinking of investing in beachfront property in the greater Fort Lauderdale metro area, has also added her prescient voice to the chorus.
Our fearless chief diplomat's latest missive, reminding us that "the war on terror has failed to eliminate al-Qaida and its leader Osama bin Laden, but the US-led coalition and Iraq are close to defeating the group's Iraq branch", would be pretty cool if it weren't for the tiny hiccup that there was no "Iraq branch" of al-Qaida until she and her superiors chose to idiotically invade that country, and then do everything just short of providing al-Qaida in Iraq with an infusion of venture capital.
But the biggest problem for defenders of Bush's vast array of "accomplishments" is not even the cast of nincompoops trying to portray him as the "misunderestimated" heir to President Harry Truman. Their biggest obstacle appears to be reality itself. The American people have a way of getting it right, if not always immediately, and Bush's handlers haven't quite been able to force us all into the Matrix. Yet.
Right on time, CNN has come out with a poll that proves we know more than Mr Permanent Majority after all.
When asked whether Bush was "tough enough for the job", 49% of Americans responded yes, and 51% said no (even though he cleared brush in a very forceful manner! And wore a really tight flight suit! And said "Bring 'em on!"). That, by the way, is the best he performed on any question.
Is the president a person you admire? Seventeen percent yes, 72% no, but perhaps Bush legacy project peddlers can win over that 1% still thinking about it. Does Bush inspire confidence? Twenty percent said yes, and 80% said no. Did he manage the government effectively? Only 25% think he did, while 75% said not so much. Finally, did Bush bring the kind of change the country needed? A whopping 13% answered in the affirmative.
This is the way the rest of the poll goes. Whether it is about "getting things done" or "uniting the country" - two of Bush's campaign pledges - he is lucky to approach a 33% positive score. Saying these numbers ain't pretty is in the same range of euphemistic happy-talk as claiming the economy has hit a rough patch or the Cubs haven't won a World Series recently.
So when their two-page document of talking points comes your way reminding you that "Bush kept us safe after 9/11" (except for the anthrax attack, the shoe-bomber plot foiled by alert airline passengers and the more than 4,000 American kids unnecessarily killed in Iraq) and "Bush lifted the economy with tax cuts after 2001" (try Googling in succession: "sub-prime mortgages", "Bernie Madoff" and "Enron" for Bushenomics in action), much like CNN poll respondents, you can take the antidote by just refusing to close your eyes, stick your fingers in your ears and scream "nah, nah, nah, nah nah" until no longer cognisant.
As for history exonerating Bush 43 (as Laura Bush claims will soon occur), Herbert Hoover somehow doesn't elicit evocations of ecstasy 80 years later, and LBJ is still remembered more for a very bad war than his landmark legislative accomplishments. Now try combining starting a stupid war with overseeing an economic meltdown.
See where this is going, Laura?
Just two months ago, I met with Julie Blust, communications director for the National Bush Legacy Bus Tour sponsored by Americans United for Change. Upon it's arrival in my hometown of Columbus, Ohio, she took me aboard this 45-foot long, 28-ton monument to Dubya's impact on the country and planet, from Katrina to corrupt no-bid contractors, economic destruction to "enhanced interrogation techniques".
Upon seeing the real record, as it appeared in video, picture and chart form on the walls of the Bush bus, it would be impossible to draw any other conclusion than that this man was a one-man wrecking crew (well, two and a half if you include Cheney). And that he'll saunter up alongside James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding as the very definition of Oval Office calamity.
There is really only one arguable legacy of Bush's White House tenure that is a step forward for the US and all mankind. It's called President Obama.