Saturday, November 22, 2008

How to write an epitaph for a presidency

Michael Barone looks back at history, that Americans had gone through bad economic times in particular, to say of this era, and this presidency, well, it isn't so bad. That truly great presidents, well, they left unresolved issues behind. Leave it to the apologist of U.S. News & World Report writing as well for Creators' Syndicate, to try to put a silver lining on a dark cloud that only historians can look more fully at. Did GW protect this nation from terrorism? No. Because he had basically abandoned counter terrorism efforts left behind by his predecessor, Clinton. Until 9/11/2001 woke him up to the fact that terrorists don't care what the political ideology of the current president happens to be; they'll attack anyway. Then, GW over-reacts, after that, he mismanages how he should even address the issue. On the war front, we can abandon Afghanistan for Iraq, even though we haven't resolved creating a stable country, nor assured that a power vacuum would not be created in the aftermath of deposing the Taliban gvt. We did not guarantee a stable country and we sure as hell did manage to create a power vacuum. Thus, we saw the emergence of the Taliban for one as a newly energized threat. Point two in rebutting that vain attempt at creating a silver lining out of whole cloth, we managed to create more terrorist attacks in more parts of the world, because we took our focus off of dealing effectively with Al Qaeda.

GW also mismanaged whom he thought the enemy ought to be, by spying on American phone calls and e-mails. Just how many disaffected Americans would actually call up Mahmoud the Al Qaeda guy based over in erstwhile ally Pakistan, anyway? But, Americans were randomly spied on anyway. Because of some twit "shoe bomber" ready to blow a hole in a commercial plane in flight bound for the U.S., anyone prepared to travel on a commercial flight must remove their shoes. Yet, over the years, there have been plenty of investigations into actual airport security that showed how many holes in our security actually existed. Law abiding people take off their shoes for airport security, and the potential bad guy can put a bomb in a box that gets overlooked at the checkout counter. How about that.

Yeah, Barone can tell us all about how GW put together funds and a network to aid AIDS sufferers. That is, after spending years ignoring AIDS sufferers. And only on condition that faith-based organizations get the largest piece of the AIDS funding pie. What he doesn't say, but CNN does, is that for GW's efforts, AIDS treatment in places like Africa remains spotty at best. And wasn't that a one time program that GW could push and then go on to basically abandon? We didn't hear from him another time, at least, about its progress and shortcomings and how it could be improved.

We could hear however about his midnight executive orders intended to force his successor into compliance with for example anti-abortion regs, or for that matter, pro-mining regs that are also anti-environment. But given GW's penchant for abandoning a lot of the things that his predecessors had done, inclusive of SALT 2; what makes him think that President elect Obama will bow to "his legacy" and carry out his last minute orders? By 20 January 2008, its a whole new ballgame.

Bad presidents are historically remembered better than great presidents. That is, Nixon is going to be better remembered for Watergate than for his China proposals that ultimately made China an economic powerhouse. Bad presidents are going to be better remembered for presiding over economic downturns, such as Herbert Hoover, more so than good presidents such as FDR, who used "socialism" to take this country out of bad economic times. And to be castigated for it, decades later, by the middle class beneficiaries of that "socialism." Unfinished business? I'm sure that Barone would like to put GW on Mt. Rushmore. But the sort of dude who late in the game finally decides that imported foods from China need to be quality checked so as not to poison the people expected to buy and eat it, after years of refusing to do anything about it. Well, he isn't Mt. Rushmore bound by any means. Who, late in the game finally recognizes the need to invest in the American workforce by signing extensions of unemployment insurance, when he had opposed the idea for years. Well, he doesn't deserve the soft pedalling that Barone thinks he needs. Historians don't base their views on a single column. They will take a long look at records, consequences and results. The consequences for this nation because of GW verges on the catastrophic. GW the "disaster president." That is how historians should really record him. A disaster in the business world. A disaster as President of the U.S.

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