Thursday, January 22, 2009

Transitions: The Bush-Cheney era ends

This is rough form. It's a worksheet. It's nowhere near finished. But what the hell, I'll put it out anyway. Feel free to respond. 

Yes, I was one of those who cheered when he got on the plane. I joined the Obamas and the Bidens by waving at the giant screen as the helicopter flew away. I even joined the "nah nah nah nah" song, informing those around me that it was sung when the opposing football team was going down to defeat and that its words included, "Hey, ay ay, good-bye." Quite loudly, singing them for full effect. 

To see what was wrong with the Bush presidency, look at where we were eight years ago as Clinton moved on to New York and Dubya moved in from Texas. The budget deficit had not only been turned into a surplus, we could see the light at the end of the tunnel when our multi-trillion-dollar debt would be paid off. Today we have ...

We are in the middle of two wars when we should have gone forward with only one. Even if we had gone ahead with Both, had he listened to his advisers, we might be done with one or both. And we wouldn't be so many more trillions of dollars in debt.

He thrashed diplomacy. Forget that his rush to war and unilateralistic tendencies and his you're-either-for-us-or-against-us swagger has alienated even our allies, his Axis of Evil philosophy shattered a real chance to make inroads with North Korea and especially Iran, who then felt a real threat from the US not experienced in decades. Their reaction was not to cower at Washington's feet but to gird themselves up dig themselves in for a long and testy confrontation. Even pro-American Iranians, who had supported the moderate policies of Khatami, turned to hardliner Ahmedinejad. 

And in South Korea, anti-Americanism took an ugly turn as many people thought the Axis of Evil rhetoric and subsequent invasion of Iraq meant that an attack on North Korea, which would likely have meant retaliation by Pyongyang against South Korean targets, was a far higher possibility than before. 

Some critics of the idea that Bush-43 was the cause of a spike in anti-Americanism will correctly point out that anti-American sentiment had existed long before Bush came along and it will continue into the Obama administration and beyond. Yes, but in 2002 the degree and type became very different, as people could reasonably surmise that Bush's actions could lead to their own deaths. It wasn't like that under any other president in the past half century except Carter, who threatened to withdraw all troops because of the antidemocratic excesses of Park Chunghee. 

(And Japanese were none too happy either, since a North Korean attack would likely involve them, too, just as Iraq shot missiles at Israel during the Gulf War of 1991.)

Some give him credit for keeping terror attacks off American soil, but so did Clinton, Bush-41, Reagan, Carter, etc. And they did so without eroding our civil rights. 

The wars may have created more future terrorism, so I'm not about to give him credit for a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach that demands payment down the road. 

But I'll give Bush credit.
He has expanded public health facilities. Yeah, the Republican did some mighty good in an area where Democrats are expected to shine. 

He mainstreamed Muslims. He didn't have to speak out on Muslims' behalf, but he did. He called it a religion of peace and he underscored the fact that the vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims in America or around the world had nothing to do with this terrorism and many had risked their lives to speak out against it. There is a sea change that some have not noticed: When we talk about faiths, it's no longer "Christians, Jews, and atheists," it typically also includes Muslims. Dubya had nothing to gain and everything to lose by saying that, but he did. In this case, I'll give him credit for the courage of his convictions. 

I'll also give him credit for trying to deal with the illegal immigration issue. His plan was not perfect—no plan is—but he was trying to realistically and pragmatically deal with the facts on the ground and not do so in a ham-handed way that mostly involved force. He understands the reasons why people come and, more importantly, understands that they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. Too bad Dick Cheney doesn't think the same about the 100,000 Iraqis who died, which Cheney answered was justifiable for American security. 

That's what's ending. What is beginning? (That's another post.)

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