Friday, May 16, 2008

Never Forget What Not Paying Attention Costs

Well, we are almost at a point where we have two candidates for the presidential election in November. While the Democratic Primary play winds up it's last act and it looks as if the Jr. Senator from Illinois will be the nominee against John McCain, it's appropriate to take a short rest from the campaign activities and reflect on what has happened over the last 7+ years.
I was moved to write this article because of something our current Commander in Chief said in an interview on Tuesday that he decided to stop playing golf in 2003 because of the war. The sheer stupidity of this statement got me thinking about the presidency of George Walker Bush.
It is no secret to my readers (all 5 - 10 of them) that I do not like Mr. Bush. To me, it was a tragedy for America that he was elected. I felt it then, and I've not changed my opinion. However, many people voted for the man, found something in him they liked and respected, and believed he was the best choice of those available to lead our country. I'll never understand what they saw in him, but will acknowledge the fact that this country elected him president twice.
The irony to me is rich. This is a man who ran on the notion of bringing "honor and integrity" back to the White House. He would be the CEO president, running the administration like a finely-tuned business. After all, he was a businessman before he was a politician. He has an MBA from Harvard Business School and is a graduate of Yale. He was in the oil business and the managing partner of the Texas Rangers professional baseball team. As governor of Texas, he was able to reach across the aisle and work with the Democratic Lt. Governor, Bill Hobby.
The resume looks good. So, why the absolute catastrophe as president? This should have been easy. It should have been, according to the advertisement of the man an efficient, ruthlessly effective government that shrunk the role of government over time and provided more freedom for the people at large.
What happened? OK, 9/11 is an easy answer. We all heard that this changed the world forever. We were told that nothing will be the same ever again. I don't think this is the reason. I think the reason is massive incompetence and malfeasance.
First and foremost, this government has been one of the most ill-conceived and structured administrations in recent history. Cabinet official after Cabinet official have come and gone. After the war in Iraq, the commanders of the armed forces have turned over like pancakes on a griddle. Mr. Bush has one rule and one rule only for remaining in his government. Absolute loyalty. Any questioning of policy, decision or thought results in removal. Don't believe me? Ask Paul O'Neill, Colin Powell, Ricardo Sanchez, Peter Pace, and on and on and on. Cronyism was and maybe still is rampant in the administration. Harriet Meirs? Alberto Gonzales? Please. These people were imminently unqualified for their positions and Bush tried to get Meirs appointed to the United States Supreme Court for Pete's sake.
The malfeasance thing is more troubling to me. Secrecy, overstepping of privilege and authority, blatant disregard of the law. All of these are attributes of the Bush Administration. How did it come to this? Why do we, the American People, the engine of the greatest democracy in the world allow this to happen and continue? Well, perhaps we're spending too much time worrying about what Britney Spears is or isn't wearing when she goes out. Perhaps we're more concerned with a sex-scandal for the governor of New York (or New Jersey). Perhaps it's just we're exhausted, don't give a damn anymore and just aren't paying attention. We're paying an enormous cost because we can't seem to be bothered by what's going on around us. How will we explain this to our kids and grand kids? It's both embarrassing and shameful what we've done. Not only have we elected probably the worst president in the history of worst presidents, we did it twice and don't seem to care. There is a poll on this blog that asks the question of who has been the best president since 1959 (when I was born). Shockingly, as of today, 4 of the 12 who've voted (33% overall) have said George W. Bush has been the best. I am quite astonished after all we've been through with this guy.
For your reading pleasure, I'd like to list a few events that have occurred on his watch and have occurred either as a direct decision of his administration or his lack of action in order to prevent it.
1. 9/11 - Well before the towers came down, Richard Clarke, the chief of counter terrorism on the National Security Council when 9/11 occurred attempted many times to get the administration to pay attention to Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, even going so far to apprise National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice about an plan to crash airplanes into buildings in the United States. On August 6, 2001, the President was given his daily security briefing which indicated the plan mentioned above that Bin Laden was determined to attack the United States. The resulting failure to act or even pay attention now has us mired in a war that has been going on longer than World War II.
2. The Invasion of Iraq in 2003 - Despite lack of credible evidence. Despite of pleas from the International Community to wait. Despite information from Hans Blix, chief weapons inspector on the ground in Iraq prior to the invasion, George W. Bush approved the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We now know with almost absolute certainty, that the information used to justify the invasion was false. We know that well before the invasion (summer of 2002, according to the Downing Street memo) that the US had plans to invade Iraq. We know that after 9/11, the president, his Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, and his Vice-President, Dick Cheney were making every effort to tie the attacks in some way to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. We know all of this has led to the deaths of over 4,000 US Soldiers and countless Iraqis. We know that the economic situation in our country has been hurt by the billions of dollars spent on the Iraq war. We know this is the largest fuck-up in US history.
3. The torturing of detainees - Rendition, black operation prisons in Romania, Guantanamo bay, water boarding, Abu Ghraib, Egypt, and on and on and on. Perhaps one of the more insidious gifts George Bush and his cronies have left us is the enormous black spot on the integrity of this country. Bush, Cheney, and many others in his administration are willing advocates of the use of torture. How low have we sunk when this has become US policy? In World War II, we executed Japanese officials for their use of torture against US soldiers. We have consistently decried this as a crime. Until now. There is no debate, we torture people. The United States of America tortures people. Thanks to George Walker Bush.
4. Complete and utter failure to manage the disaster aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Remember "Heckuva Job Brownie"? The Bush administration's FEMA team was the equivalent of the Three Stooges. They couldn't do anything right. The visual of the thousands of people (mostly poor black people) standing at the Superdome for days waiting for assistance is hard to erase. The lack of coordinated response by FEMA was a national embarrassment. While the Bush administration attempted to blame the problems on Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin, the Governor of Louisiana and Mayor of New Orleans respectively, it is clear that they could have done much more to alleviate the pain and suffering of the victims of this disaster. This single event is perhaps for me the summation of the Bush Administration's legacy. Incompetence run amok.
There are literally hundreds of web-sites listing hundreds of Bush administration scandals and they are so numerous it is almost laughable if it wasn't so sad. Google up Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby, Walter Reed, Signing Statements, Wiretapping, Jack Abramoff, John Bolton, etc. etc. etc. and you will see what I mean.
I hope the last 7 years have taught us one thing. Those that don't pay attention are doomed to the consequences of decisions by the few. Get active, Get informed, Get concerned.
Tell me what you think.

Friday, May 02, 2008

28% Approval

Gallup's latest poll on George Bush's job approval is registering at 28%. The president has not seen his approval rating in the majority side of the ledger since December of 2005. Polling, a register of major poll results has a terrific table that shows presidential approval ratings since early 2005.
OK, so the president is unpopular. This is certainly not news. As the polls show, less than half the people polled believe he is doing a good job. He doesn't have a lot going for him right now. Continued violence in Iraq, an economy that is suspect, food and fuel prices soaring, and a general lack of confidence from the American people in government have contributed to the low numbers. He also has not helped himself, because in spite of all evidence to the contrary he and his administration continues to pursue a course of leadership that is more and more secretive, more accumulating of executive power, and more ignoring of the will of the people.
The arrogance of this administration is staggering to me. Bush, Cheney, Rice and the other key players in the executive branch have consistently maintained they are right and every other person is wrong.
When the dust settles on this administration and the historians write their perspectives about George W. Bush, he is hoping he'll be considered differently than the conventional opinion of him held today as a poor performing president. His belief is that over time, historians will view his decisions on the "War Against Terror" as correct policy. He would like to be the next Harry Truman, another president who was vilified while in office, but after leaving office gained respect and admiration from the American people. That's his goal. I hope somehow he achieves it, but in all candor, I can't possibly recall a worse president in my life-time. Certainly economic times have been worse (1970's under Ford and Carter). Certainly we've had presidents who were of incredibly bad personal character (Nixon, Clinton). Certainly we've had presidents who got us embroiled or escalated America in an unnecessary and tragic war (Johnson, Nixon). But George W. Bush to me is the entire package. Almost nothing the man has done in office has had a positive impact on the country overall. His tax cuts stimulated the economy, so if you benefited from that, then certainly credit him for that achievement. I think the tax cut did more harm than good, and the consequences of that decision will affect this country for a long time to come. The economic policies supporting the energy companies have been terrific for the oil companies, but it's been a negative impact to consumers overall.

I was biased against George W. Bush from the beginning. I lived with him as the governor of Texas prior to his election to the White House, so I was already of the opinion this was an empty suit before his election. I know I'm biased, but I do believe he is the worst president in my life-time, and I've been alive since Eisenhower was president. Check out the poll and give me your views on who has been the best president since 1959, which was the year I was born.

Tell me what you think,