After the 2006 congressional elections, pundits declared that President Bush was a lame duck. Each day his power and capacity to pursue his neoconservative agenda was supposed to drain away until he went back to Crawford Texas, a beaten man.
But like so much in politics, those who tie themselves to conventional wisdom are often very wrong. George W. Bush is as strong now as he was when he gained office for his second term. He is determined--ferociously, like a bulldog with a bone--to pursue his agenda even if it becomes a millstone around the country¹s neck for years and decades.
Why is Mr. Bush, in the remaining 14 months of his presidency, defying the wishes of the people, when 75 percent believe the country is heading down the wrong track? For all the obsessive secrecy of the Bush administration, the president has been remarkably open about his guide in matters of state and as a personal cleanser to his previous alcohol addiction: Jesus.
Remember he told us, "Christ...changed my heart," in the 2000 television debates and he seems to believe that Jesus is his man. Bush's rigid judgment and personal certitude in decision-making fits the classic profile of a recovering alcoholic. In this context, he was saved by his ambition which he melded to Jesus and the simplistic symbols of good versus evil. Whether or not Bush envisions himself as an instrument of God to advance his agenda or uses his faith as a political weapon against his opposition, he has put down unmistakable markers for the next 14 months. These markers have consequences that cannot be wished away:
* Bush has made clear the Iraq War is his legacy. He intends to make sure the United States stays his course over the next 14 months. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed. Nearly 28,000 have been seriously wounded and maimed. Some 660,000 Iraqis have died since the war began, according to a Johns Hopkins University report. How many more people will we lose to sustain this murderous folly?
* Iraq has cost over half a trillion dollars. The U.S. currently spends $12 billion a month on the war. Over the next 14 months Bush has asked for an additional supplemental totaling 280 billion dollars. What's to stop him from extracting billions more from taxpayers for his war without end?
* Congress must also consider a separate 750 billion dollar defense budget for this fiscal year. Remember that number when federal officials say they lack the funds to repair public services, roads, and bridges decaying before our eyes.
* Promises were made to rebuild New Orleans. The federal government under Bush has done virtually nothing and that is what can be expected as that city continues to decay.
* Bush has made clear that he does not care about the impending health disaster in the U.S. He vetoed a children's health bill which would have cost 12 billion dollars over five years on the grounds that it was too expensive and would protect too large a category of children. In 14 months he could use his executive power to further damage, even destroy the health and lives of tens of thousands more.
* On the Bush watch, adults without medical insurance rose to 47 million in 2006, up over 2 million from 2005. Uninsured children rose by 8.7 million. We may expect these figures to rise by January 2009.
* Bush believes America, under his version of Jesus, must remain the sole warrior state. He routinely threatens Iran as his administration continues war in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and the Sahara. There is nothing to suggest war plans hatched in the next 14 months would be any more legal, moral, or in the U.S. and international interest than his misbegotten plan for Iraq. And there is little to suggest that the Democratic leadership will hasten to give up power stolen for the presidency by Bush.
* Bush will veto Congressional attempts to strip the Patriot Act of its most repressive provisions--should politicians summon the courage to give back civil rights and liberties guaranteed to the people by their Constitution and Bill of Rights.
* Bush and Cheney have made clear that they have no interest in restoring the checks and balances of the Constitution. In their remaining 14 months in office they will press for an executive grab of power to undertake extra-constitutional acts against citizens and deepen the U.S. commitment to permanent war. There is little reason to believe that the enlargement of the imperial presidency will change in a new administration.
* Bush has made clear that he has no interest in treaties with friends or agreements with anyone. He has systematically destroyed treaties on global warming and arms control at the very time when enlightened leadership could have changed the course of the planet for the better.
* Bush has made clear that he has no interest in pressing for international criminal courts. Over the next 14 months he could abrogate other attempts to build a stable international legal system by his assumption that he alone is the keeper of the flame of justice.
* Bush has issued more "signing statements" than any president in history. Thus, he has made clear that even if Congress overrides any of his vetoes he will in effect rewrite a new law with a signing statement meant to "interpret" it but which really nullifies the meaning of congress. How many more will he issue in the next 14 months to suit his agenda?
* Bush will nominate as many "midnight" strict constructionist judges as he can in the next 14 months as a way of redefining the government and throwing it back to the pre-FDR period.
* How many vacancies might occur on the Supreme Court during Bush¹s last 14 months that will be filled by conservative radicals out to destroy social and economic justice while underwriting presidential power to make unilateral wars?
* How many more instances of torture at the hands of the intelligence agencies can we expect to be administered on detainees and prisoners during the next 14 months?
Under George W. Bush we have witnessed breathtaking irresponsibility and cynicism, even for recent American presidents. He has used his war on terrorism to spread fear throughout the land. Kleptocracy-a government comprised of thieves--is the order of our day. The coarsening of American life, which comes from continuous war and selfish public policies, has become more vulgar. The rich are awash in Bush's tax cuts, while the poor and the working and middle class struggle with absurd trickle-down handouts. It is hard to believe that Jesus would applaud these policies of Bush and Cheney as they will surely apply them in the next 14 months.
George W. Bush holds the cards against Congress unless it is made clear to Congress and the president that the nation will not and cannot afford even one month let alone 14 more months of clouded thinking, mismanagement, malfeasance, and the cynical killing of our troops and innocent Iraqis in the name of God or Jesus, and here on earth fantastical views of remaking the Middle East supposedly to give Americans cheap oil that now hovers around 95 dollars a barrel.
So we are left with a question: Can the Democratic Party right the wrongs of the Bush administration with a humane program that works for the society as a whole and individuals to protect their civil rights and liberties with economic justice? Can the Republican Party cleanse itself of its prejudices against Americans of different persuasions and follow the teachings of Jesus, and, yes, Herbert Hoover who campaigned for disarmament and against aggressive wars?
Marcus Raskin and Robert Spero are co-authors of The Four Freedoms Under Siege: The Clear and Present Danger of Our National Security State. (Praeger, 2007).