Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One More Year - Good Riddance To Bush, Hell Awaits The Next US President

From the UK Independent :

Arabia is the land of illusion and desert mirages. And as he jetted last week from kingdom to sheikdom, to be regaled with feasts and falcons, jewels and ornamental swords, George Bush might have imagined that all was well with his presidency. But this, his longest and most ambitious trip to the Middle East, will surely be remembered – if it is remembered at all – as a gaudy, irrelevant footnote to a presidency that has long since failed.

Today is a sombre milestone, marking the start of the last of Mr Bush's eight years in the White House. This being a leap year, exactly 366 days remain until 20 January 2009, when his successor will be sworn into office. It is a time when incumbents look to their legacies. And for this President the view could scarcely be bleaker.

Is he the worst President in US history? Mr Bush faces stiff competition from the likes of James Buchanan, who watched as America slipped towards civil war, or Warren Harding with his corrupt administration, or Herbert Hoover, who failed to halt the slide into the Great Depression, or, more recently, Richard Nixon, the only President to be forced to resign. But in terms of dogmatism, incompetence, ignorance and divisiveness, Mr Bush surely compares with any of the above.

His first, albeit far from most important, bequest is seemingly inevitable defeat for his own party in November, ending almost 30 years of Republican dominance since Ronald Reagan took power. As David Frum, a one-time Bush speech-writer, put it the other day: "I fear the Republicans are heading to an epochal defeat, 1980 in reverse. Every gain we have made since then has been wiped out since 2002."

That, it should be noted, is a Republican speaking. But Frum's evidence is overwhelming, from the President's consistently abysmal approval rating, to the 70 per cent of the population who believe the country is "on the wrong track" (a level not seen in two decades, and that before all-but-certain recession began to bite), to the 51 per cent of Americans who identify themselves as Democrats. By contrast, just 36 per cent of Americans call themselves Republicans – the widest such margin in two decades. Even on the Republicans' signature issue of national security, Democrats are at level pegging. All other things being equal, it is hard to see them losing in November.

In politics, of course, all other things are not equal. The chances of Bush ordering military strikes on Iran may have receded, after last month's report by the US intelligence community that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003. But some other foreign calamity, a lethal domestic terrorist attack or even a scandal could reshuffle the electoral cards.

....the Bush era leaves its own nasty odour. Corporate cronyism has been rife. Globalisation and cuts driven by ideology have turned the wealth gap between rich Americans and the rest from an embarrassment into an obscenity. Since 2001 the real income of ordinary Americans has stagnated.

And the mind-boggling losses suffered by such pillars of the financial establishment as Merrill Lynch and Citibank, followed by humiliating foreign bail-outs, suggest something is fundamentally amiss with capitalism, American-style. Like Enron and WorldCom, these colossal financial shipwrecks will forever be associated with Bush's tenure.

The new occupant of the Oval Office can but hope today's dislike for America is directed at a leader, not at a country. That may well be, but one thing is for sure. Never again will the US occupy that extraordinary position of supremacy – military, moral and economic – that it held in the interlude between the demise of Communism and the attacks of September 2001.

To the 44th President falls the task of explaining that truth to the country, as well as dealing with the concrete day-to-day problems left by George Bush. Indeed, one wonders, why would anyone want the job?