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                                       politics + culture

Monday, January 15, 2007

the era of President G.W. Bush

The era of President G.W. Bush began sometime in the late-1990's when a coalition of Conservative Republican fundraisers, Texas "energy" men and former members of President George Herbert Walker Bush's administration assembled behind the prospective candidacy of the first Bush's eldest son, George W. Bush.

Given what we've learned during President George W. Bush's six years in office, during which time, in partnership with his extraordinarily powerful Vice President, the younger Bush has exhibited both gross inadequacy in presidential leadership and successive substantive policy failures at home and abroad, it is remarkable that neither the media nor the Republican establishment saw fit to question the then Governor of Texas's ability and suitability to lead this nation through the first decade of the 21st Century as President of the United States.

George W. Bush the candidate was, for pretty much the entirety of the 2000 campaign, simply a "likable" Governor from Texas with a huge pile of money. That was all anyone needed to know.

Of course, it turned out not to be that simple...


Or, to put it bluntly, it was, in fact, "that simple"...but the simple answer was something that many in this nation thought privately but virtually no one who could have ultimately made a difference, including candidate Vice President Al Gore, saw fit to mention in any decisive manner:

George W. Bush is and was unfit to serve as President of the United States: as a man, as a leader, as an intellect, and, ultimately, even where he has been given his greatest credit, as a politician. It is on that level, politically, that we must now decisively defeat him.

George W. Bush, as President of the United States, is an unmitigated failure. History will remember him as a president with a distaste for nuance, a dislike of policy and a chronic inability for even the slightest amount of self-reflection or pragmatism even in the face of repeated abject failures. President George W. Bush has carried his hallmark characteristics of willful self-certainty, an ignorance of history, ideological rigidity and a faux-naif Reaganite vision of American goodness to their far breaking point. Failure in his stated objectives has been no obstacle to this president; when things don't go as planned, George W. Bush simply changes plans and rationales as if no one will care or notice. In sum, it's not enough for George W. Bush to be the idiot-in-chief, he's been intent on taking the rest of us down with him.

That reality, in conjunction with a lock-step conservative GOP Congress and a national corporate and investor culture that favored the money class to the detriment of the national good has created what most of those who held guarded doubts about George W. Bush the candidate would now acknowledge as the greatest disaster in American presidential history.

George W. Bush is not simply a "failed President." The failure of his presidency threatens the very fabric of our Constitutional Democracy and the standing of this nation in the world at large.

The litany of Bush's failures is as familiar as it is long:

The failed and ongoing war in Iraq, the troublesome and ongoing war in Afghanistan, the rising and unchecked national debt, the debacle of the Federal response to Hurricane Katrina, a failed national energy policy, a failed national educational policy (NCLB), a health care system whose costs are unchecked and out of control, a U.S. military pushed to the breaking point and beyond, an outright war on this nation's environmental and regulatory policy, a myriad of corporate scandals, the nomination of a series of ideologically-rigid Federal judges, the loss of U.S. standing in the fields of diplomacy and human rights, the use of torture by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the rampant use of signing statements, extra-territorial detention and rendition, widespread, extra-legal government surveillance of United States citizens (warrantless wiretapping), the abandonment of the Middle East Peace Process, the abandonment of the Kyoto protocols, the abandonment of engagement with both the newly nuclear state of North Korea and the emerging nuclear state of Iran, the outing of Valerie Plame, the conversion of every Presidential event into crass political merchandizing, the stifling of dissent, the repeated selling of the "Big Lie," the demonization of one's political opponents and distortion of their views, and the failed policy sets surrounding "the axis of Evil", "WMD", "Preemptive Warfare" and the "Global War on Terror."

In all the above, President George W. Bush had the willing partnership of a now-defunct GOP Congress headed by the likes of Tom DeLay, Dennis Hastert, Trent Lott and Bill Frist and lobbied by the likes of Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff and Grover Norquist. That GOP Congress, which the American voters saw fit to show the door in November 2006, laid the ground work for the Bush Presidency with the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998. History will remember that impeachment for what it was: a Republican power grab intended to shake the Democratic Party's hold on the executive branch and a needless distraction executed as the United States faced the emerging threat that finally surfaced on our shores on September 11th, 2001.

Impeachment also "primed the pump" for the emergence of a figure like George W. Bush. The Starr Report, it is obvious now, was an assault on the Presidency. It sought to bring down a President, but it succeeded most at bringing down the Office of the President itself. Impeachment made the election of a middling and indifferent student and failed businessman to succeed a Rhodes Scholar, policy wonk and one of the most skilled rhetoricians in American history seem like an even trade. It wasn't. Not even close.

George W. Bush, in partnership with Dick Cheney and the now "out of the majority" GOP Congress, have left their indelible mark on the first six years of this new millenium. Our nation and our world have paid the price.

Our job, at this moment, as patriots and citizens, is to heal that breach. 2009 will be too late. The job of moving this nation out of the era of George W. Bush must begin now. The 2008 Presidential race will be waged in the shadow of this battle and this battle will shape the 2008 race whether the candidates choose it or not.

There are two years to run in President George W. Bush's constitutionally-mandated term of office. The job of every American citizen who understands the debacle that has been the presidency of George W. Bush must be to use that very Constitution to defeat him politically. To put it simply, it is the job of all citizens of conscience to use any and all constitutional means available to us to kick this President's political butt, to thwart his agenda, and, if needs be, to remove him from office.

This is an active issue. The President, in defiance of his Generals, a bi-partisan commission, Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and the freshly-expressed will of the majority of the American electorate has committed this nation to an escalation of the war in Iraq. Escalation is a policy that defies common sense. It runs in the face of the mandate of the 2006 Congressional elections and the notion of government by and for the people. It is also, one must note, a policy that was well under way at the time President Bush announced it. Escalation in Iraq is a fait accompli. The significant question is, what are we going to do about it?

If Senator Hagel called the President's escalation in Iraq, the "most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Viet Nam" then the President's recent truculent appearance on CBS 60 Minutes should set off constitutional alarm bells. The "educator-in-chief" needs to be taught a constitutional lesson: when the people kick your cronies out of office, pull your congressional majority out from under you, and demand a change of course leading to a U.S. exit from Iraq, you oughtta listen to the people.

I very deliberately mentioned the impeachment of President Clinton above. I am not now advocating a potential impeachment of President Bush as an attack on his party or the office itself, especially if that implies the kind of partisan assault on the Office of the President that the GOP engaged in in 1998. That should be neither our goal nor our methodology.

What I am saying, however, is this: nothing should be off the table in the constitutional battle to politically defeat and thwart George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in their remaining two years in office. We must tie no hand behind our back.

Whether it be acts of Congress, citizen petition, legal challenges, State or Municipal action, First Amendment Protests or a movement to popularize and express support for the impeachment of the President and Vice President, or all of the above, one thing is clear in January of 2007: no constitutional means should be off the table when it comes to considering the range of options for opposing this President at this time.

Two months ago, the first step for this Congress seemed to be simply a return to oversight and the passage of broadly bi-partisan legislation. That point of view naively expected this President to respect the outcome of the 2006 elections. While both of those agendas must be advanced, this President's commitment to an escalation in Iraq changes that.

The Democratic members of Congress, in partnership with the voters of the United States and any and all good faith bipartisan allies, need to reassert government by the people in the near term. The stakes are too high. We cannot hold an election and then allow the will of the voters to be rejected outright. American Democracy is not a monarchy. George is no King. Dick is no Duke of Court.

That, however, is exactly how the President and the Vice President are acting. The voters called for withdrawal and a clear cut timetable for leaving Iraq. Bush and Cheney have given us an escalation in Iraq with no end in sight.

This President must come to know, and soon, that, politically, the era of George W. Bush in American politics has come to a close. He doesn't have "one more chance." He may see the light and perhaps end out his term as a weakened, investigated and censured figure; or, if he remains intransigent and truculent in his insistence on his "god-given" right to override the will of the voters and the oversight of Congress expressed in the 2006 elections, he must face a constitutional check.

We should be flexible and pragmatic as to what that check might be. That constitutional check may come in the form of congressional oversight or legislation passed with veto-proof majorities, or it may take the form of a popular movement for the impeachment of this President and Vice President, a "people's impeachment" if you will.

This President and Vice President are hovering at 30% approval ratings. We must rally the other 70% of this nation and come together to finally break the partisan split that has divided our nation for too long. Our Constitution sets clear and high hurdles for those who would oppose a President. If we are to be effective in opposing President Bush, we don't have the luxury of easy outrage or vaguely symbolic actions. We must reach out to build as broad a coalition in opposition to this president as possible. Pragmatism must temper our outrage and idealism.

Whatever the ultimate political check on this President, this much is clear, the meaning of the elections of 2006 must be made plain to this nation and this world. The American public voted for a change of course leading to a U.S. exit from Iraq. Nothing less than that is acceptable.

Opposition to Dick Cheney and George W. Bush's escalation of the war in Iraq may be what, finally, brings our nation together and ends this war. We may well use that opposition to elect a new President with a new agenda and broad support. That would be no small consolation considering what we already know about the grim legacy of the era of George W. Bush and the challenges our nation faces as a result.

In the end, however, there is one thing our Constitution makes clear: the answers and outcomes are up to us. We, the people, decide. It's high time the guy in the Oval Office be made to realize that fact.


  • Hee-hee. Check this out, it's sort of an impeachment carol. A lot of low blows, but it's nice to see folks holding them accountable.


    By Anonymous Don, at 10:28 PM  

  • I would love to see this as an op-ed in the NYT and WaPo!

    By Blogger Disgusted in St. Louis, at 12:29 AM  

  • Hre's a solution, have the Democratic Party run a candidate that has a chance of winning by more than the margin of error.
    Till then we are doomed by the Democratic Party Leader to suffer.
    Edwards, Clinton, Kerry, Gore? This is what we have to look forward to?
    How about someone with a solution?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:31 AM  

  • what a terrific and well written piece - thanks very much.

    By Blogger CentFla, at 11:38 AM  

  • Don: LMAO

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:49 AM  

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