Summary: Enough time has passed so that we can see in the 8 years of George W. Bush America changed to a degree seldom seen in our history, making him one of our few transformative Presidents. That many (perhaps most) of us do not like the specific changes he made does not matter. The 1% — his peers, in whose interest he ruled — gain much from the big steps under Bush away from the America-that-once-was towards a New America. (This is the 2nd of 2 posts today.)
“The best leaders are those the people hardly know exist.
The next best is a leader who is loved and praised.
Next comes the one who is feared.
The worst one is the leader that is despised.
— Laozi, in the Tao Te Ching
- Our 7th transformative President
- National Security: triumph of the Deep State
- Undercutting the solvency of the government
- Etc, etc
- His buddy, Obama
- For More Information
(1) Our 7th transformative President
Since his inauguration, following his award of the Nobel Peace Prize, many have called for Obama to be added to Mount Rushmore (or, realistically, said that he deserved to be there). That is obviously absurd. ObamaCare is almost his only substantial legislative accomplishment. He executed the end of the Iraq War, negotiated by President Bush Jr. Obama made some executive orders, which might prove significant (or not, or might be cancelled by a successor). He followed trends well-advanced at the State level expanding civil rights to gays. But his major accomplishments were overwhelmingly to continue, deepen, and expand the policies of his truly transformative predecessor. A man who deserves to be on Mount Rushmore: George W. Bush.
More accurately, a statue of Bush should begin a similar yet competing line of sculpture, since he undercut or outright reversed the accomplishments of Washington, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and Lincoln. The changes Bush made had precedents — as Hoover’s policies foreshadowed FDR’s, and Carter’s did Reagan’s. But like the bold measures of Washington, Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, FDR, and LBJ, Bush’s effects on America are of breadth and scale that defy easy description. We’re too close to see the full range of theses changes, to assess their relative importance, or do more than guess at their effects. But they’ve clearly set America on a new path.
(2) National Security: triumph of the Deep State
After his administration ignored eight months warnings about al Qaeda, 9-11 struck. He masterfully exploited American’s shock and fear — supercharging it during the next 7 years — to reshape America from one protected internally by law enforcement agencies to one subject to security services (as seen in the Stasi-like name and functions of the Homeland Security department). Immense expansion of the domestic armed forces and intelligence agencies (including those who, working with our allies, actually suppressed al Qaeda — in both size and power (including the numerous legal, borderline legal, and illegal domestic surveillance programs that continue today).
His programs affected all levels of the government, as in the accelerated militarization of police, with the expansion of their surveillance programs and increases in transfers to them of military equipment under the 1033 program. (For a fuller picture of this see “The Militarization of U.S. Domestic Policing“, Abigail R. Hall and Christopher J. Coyne, The Independent Review, Spring 2013).
Bush started the Long War (aka the bizarrely named War on Terror), with expeditions to fight in foreign civil wars on a scale without precedent in US history. We invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, sent troops and missiles and drones to participate (in shadowy ways) in insurgencies in other nations (e.g., Yemen, Pakistan, Philippines) — and laid the foundation for new wars by creating the Africa Command — building upon the Pan Sahel Initiative, which became the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative. The disastrous Libyan intervention was its first fruits.
Bush didn’t build a new world order just by starting wars. He withdrew America from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Through his invasions and occupations he overthrew not just the international law established at such cost by America after WWII, but treaties prohibiting torture going back to 1906 — and treaties restricting the use of mercs and preemptive attacks going back to Westphalia in 1648. These precedents will haunt us for decades, perhaps generations. We have embraced the evils of torture and mercs, with malign effects we cannot well imagine.
Perhaps the greatest effect on America has been on our national character. We have become a nation shaped by wars, internal distrust, wide surveillance, and militarized police. We watch the adventures of our stylish security police (NCIS, NCIS-LA, NCIS-New Orleans) — who treat laws as mild suggestions, and regard judges and juries as irritating formalities. We don’t just embrace torture as a useful tool (best done with a minimum of supervision or records), but applaud stories about torture at theaters. I’m not the only one to worry about our increasingly evident bloodlust.
(3) Undercutting the solvency of the government
Like his Republican predecessor Reagan, Bush Jr worked with great success to demolish the solvency of the Federal government. With the retirement of the boomers looming ahead, Clinton balanced the budget, with forecasts of a rapidly shrinking debt that would put the government in strong condition for the inevitable deficits from 2020 – 2040. Like Reagan, Bush made irrational promises about the magic of tax cuts — without any basis in history or economic theory — which we believed a second time — to get Congress to approve the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. The resulting deficits and slow economic growth weakened America, setting us up for the great recession of Bush’s last two years in office.
That change in the trajectory of the Federal debt, a second push into the red, puts us on course for some difficult times ahead. Not the end times, as the deficit doomsters say. But we’ll need good policies and some good luck.
The 2007-08 crash didn’t just happen. The deregulation mania of Republican officials made it possible, with the support of Wall Street (e.g., the SEC’s 2004 regulatory scheme in 2004, that allowed a massive increase in leverage of investment banks). Just as they ignored the warnings about al Qaeda, they ignored the far louder warnings about the real estate lending bubble.
(4) Etc, etc
“In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread.”
— Anatole France in Le Lys Rouge (The Red Lily, 1894)
I could continue, but you already know all this. The three Right-wing nominations to the Supreme Court of Bush laid the foundation for the on-going evolution of our law into a form more suitable for a plutocracy, where the right of the rich and corporations are paramount.
(5) George’s best buddy, Barack
“that government of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1% shall not perish from the Earth”
Movies today almost always feature dissimilar characters, usually men, who become buddies when fighting for a cause. When distant future generations see Hollywood’s version of our time, they might see the Bush – Obama team. Obama had Bush’s back, as he continued, expanded, and deepened Bush’s economic and military policies.
This was obvious in his first year, as David Swanson explained at TomDispatch in “Bush’s Third Term? You’re Living It“. It was more obvious in 2012, as explained by at the American Spectator in “Bush’s Third Term“. And in the 14 thousand other such links on Google. He reauthorized the Patriot Act and other key Bush-era WOT legislation. He granted immunity to crooked bankers and Bush-era senior lawbreakers. He fought to defend the extraordinary (often illegal) activities of the CIA and NSA.
Obama expanded Bush’s innovations. He not only expanded government secrecy, but pursued whistle blowers using the almost dormant Espionage Act of 1917. He proudly and openly expanded our assassination programs to include American citizens. He surged our troops in Afghanistan, delaying our inevitable defeat, and helped wreck Libya (no grrl-power after America arrives to help). He expanded our use of flying robot killing machines (e.g., see the numbers in Yemen). Etc, etc.
(6) For More Information
(a) Posts about American politics:
- About politics in America
- About the Democratic Party
- About the Republican Party
- About Obama, his administration and policies
- America – how can we reform it?
Why the Right wins:
- The evolution of the Republican Party has shaped America during the past fifty years, 8 May 2010
- The world of wonders: Democratic Party takes center, pushes GOP right to madness, 19 February 2013
- Important: Why the 1% is winning, and we are not, 26 July 2013
- A harsh clear look at the history of the Republican Party, 22 September 2013
- The secret to Conservatives’ success, and why they deserve to win, 12 June 2014 — Planning pays off.