Wednesday, November 23, 2005

George Bush's Third Term

Friedman has a good article in today's NYTimes. Here are some of his most relevant points:

When I watch Mr. Bush these days, though, he looks to me like a man who wishes that we had a 28th amendment to the Constitution - called "Can I Go Now?" He looks like someone who would prefer to pack up and go back to his Texas ranch. It's not just that he doesn't seem to be having any fun. It's that he seems to be totally out of ideas relevant to the nation's future.

Since there is no such clause, Mr. Bush has two choices. One is to continue governing as though he's still running against John McCain in South Carolina. That means pushing a hard-right strategy based on dividing the country to get the 50.1 percent he needs to push through more tax cuts, while ignoring our real problems: the deficit, health care, energy, climate change and Iraq. More slash-and-burn politics like that will be a disaster.

For two men who have fought this war without deploying enough troops, always putting politics before policy, without any plans for the morning after and never punishing any member of their team for rank incompetence to then accuse others of lacking seriousness on Iraq is disgusting. Yes, we need to stay the course for now in Iraq, but we can't stay the course alone or divided. That's the point.

We are about to produce the most legitimate government ever in the Arab world, and the Bush-Cheney team - instead of acknowledging its errors on W.M.D., seeking forgiveness and urging the country to unite behind the important effort to defeat the jihadist madness in Iraq - does what? It starts slinging mud at Democrats on Iraq. Sure, some Democrats goaded them with reckless remarks - but they are not in power. Where are the adults? We can't afford this nonsense, while also ignoring our energy crisis, the deficit, health care, climate change and Social Security.

"We are entering the era of hard choices for the United States - an era in which we can't always count on three Asian countries writing us checks to compensate for our failure to prepare for a hurricane or properly conduct a war," said David Rothkopf, author of "Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power."

"If President Bush doesn't rise to this challenge, our children and grandchildren will look at the burden he has placed on their shoulders and see this moment as the hinge between the American Century and the Chinese Century. George W. Bush may well be seen as the president who, by refusing to address these urgent questions when they needed to be addressed, invited America's decline."

Truly, I hope Mr. Bush rises to the challenge. We do not have three years to waste. To do that, though, Mr. Bush would need to become a very different third-term president, with a much more centrist agenda and style. If he does, he still has time to be a bridge to the future. If he doesn't, the resources he will have squandered and the size of the problems he will have ignored will put him in the running for one of our worst presidents ever.

The pessimist in me says it's already too late. Given the presidents cock-sure attitude and the fact that he has surrounded himself with yes-men I see very little chance of him having an intellectual epiphany and realizing he governs a nation of diverse people and interests. He'll continue to push policies based on his ivory tower view of capitalism and democracy unencumbered by the realities of these systems' shortcomings when practiced anywhere near their idealized form. To him, their textbook definitions should be realized by all societies.

Mr. Bush - Happy Turkey-day. You'll go down as the biggest turkey in the history of the White House.


Intellectual Insurgent said...

It is already too late. Even if that imbecile was out of office tomorrow (we can dare to dream), the country would still have a big mess to deal with. I feel sorry for whoever wins in '08.

Reign of Reason said...

So true.

And as much as I'd like a moderate, fiscally conservative democrat to win in '08, cleaning up this mess is gonna piss off the spoiled (republican) Americans.

We'll have to raise taxes (responsibly), cut programs -- including some our bloated defense spending (not pay/benefits for the troops, but crazy spending, like on missile defense).

Sometimes I think Americans are like spoiled children: buy them what they want (on credit) and they're happy... but give them the truth and they start crying and telling you you're a terrible 'parent'.

Intellectual Insurgent said...

Wow - that pretty much sums it up. Spoiled children who want their cake and to eat it too. They want an abudance of jobs that pay well and give health benefits, but they want their 401k's invested in companies with ever-increasing profits, and they want to buy everything on credit and it better be affordable.

It's the quick-fix mentality. Everything now!

Laurila said...

It would be an important step forward if debaters in the U.S., from kitchen tables and bars to N.Y.T., started to search the roots of the problem not in one or another presidential administration or political party, but for instance maybe rather in common American thinking patterns.

It seems to be a common misconception that Americans automatically do good when interfering abroad.

Maybe the U.S. would be better served by a political system more similar to that in most other democratic countries? Maybe that could help reduce the epidemic lawyer-like hypocrisy among American politicians?

Maybe the U.S. would gain from a shift in perception, so that people in general started to consider Caucasian Americans to be equally much worth as people of other nations and ethnicities?

Maybe people in the U.S. ought to consider if they in the long run are served by vilifying and disrespecting those nations that are the most similar and have the potency to be their closest friends and allies.

Maybe Americans ought to start taking themselves and their country seriously, and demand the same from their officers of government, since the effects of decisions aren't nullified every forth or eight year.

Democracy Lover said...

Amen, Laurila - You are absolutely right.

We have far too much focus in the US on short-term goals and political strategy and too little focus on the long-term effects of the policies both our political parties pursue.

We need to rethink our role in the world. We need to understand that global security and national security (pretty much identical at this point) cannot be achieved by force, particularly unilateral force.

We need to understand the security implications of funding our government by borrowing from China and Japan. We need to realize we are undermining our own future by reckless ideologically driven tax cuts coupled with unnecessary military spending, and weakening of environmental regulations.

Yes, we will need to restore the Bush tax cuts and probably roll back to the taxation level of the Nixon years simply in order to stem the tide of red ink intentionally caused by the "shrink it to a size we can drown in a bathtub" ideology of the far right.

We will also need to drastically cut our military expenditures - 50% at least within the next Presidential term. We need to stop all federal giveaways to the oil and coal companies, freeze all highway construction and focus our efforts on providing a sustainable energy and transportation policy for the nation. We need to increase the competitivenees of US companies by moving to a single-payer national healthcare system and protecting vital industries from unfair competition. We need to revitalize our stagnating public education system and start preparing our young people from the world of the future and stop arguing over idiotic claptrap like "intelligent design" and "abstinence education".

A DINO Democrat will not suffice - and will not get elected in the first place. We need someone with courage and a real vision for America.

Reign of Reason said...

Laura, DL…

You guys are on the mark.

Since you’ve both already expressed my comments I’ll keep it short and specific to one of my pet peeves: How can we justify subsidies to big energy when they are recording record profits? At the same time we cut health care for the poor?

What kind of backwards policies is our society implementing?

Isn’t that the point of “society”? – to band together to help those amongst us that are less fortunate?

I’m not for spending my tax-dollars in a highly inefficient manner (with regard to social programs), but to cut those programs while giving money to big oil, that just declared another ~$8 BILLION-profit-quarter, seem obscene to me.

Why don’t 99% of Americans agree and cry foul?

jj said...

RR you have it. If we could stop (1)corporate welfare , Missile Def.(that was never fully tested and may work so long as the enemy puts gps on it and tells us the trajectory)and the tax cuts we would not have to cut programs and mortgage the future of the country with China holding the note.

Iraq has also been quite costly.

As for why more people do not demand change I can only conclude they are ignorant of the facts. Far to many people vote against their own interests.

Reign of Reason said...


Its funny caught on to the missile def fiasco.

I have been involved with missile defense on-and-off for the last 15 years. And as you say, even if the enemy missile telemeters its EXACT position (in-flight) to our interceptors, we are only about 50% successful in shooting them down.

Throw in counter-measures and there’s no way this system will defend the homeland – at least not for the next 20 years. This project is the biggest travesty perpetrated on the American public -- ever. Hundreds of billions have been wasted on it since the 80's.

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