Monday, June 23, 2008

Monomania in the White House

In the face of abysmal poll numbers, Bush and Cheney will again have to recalibrate and redefine the standards for passing historical judgments on their administration. No doubt they will declare their years in office to be a grand success if no additional terrorist attacks occur within the U.S. on their "watch." The boast would be simple enough: "we kept you safe."

But to make such a claim, they'd have to ignore the 4,102 U.S. troops who have been killed in Iraq and another 30,000 who have been wounded. Not to mention the tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi casualties. They'd also have to dismiss the greatly increased long-term risk of attacks that their disastrous policies have created. Such short-term thinking, in one form or another, has long been the bane of U.S. politics. For Bush and Cheney, all that matters is deferring the consequences of their mistakes until after their term has ended.

On domestic issues, their only consistent policy has been to maximize the influence of — and minimize the restrictions on — multinational corporations. In this effort, and often with the assistance of a nominally Democratic congress, they have enjoyed some modest successes at the expense of the economy and the political process.

On his recent visit to the U.K., Bush again tried to insulate himself from contemporary judgments about his "legacy" by declaring, in his inimitable way:
“Well, first of all, just so you know, I’m not going to be around to see it. There’s no such thing as objective short-term history,” [Bush] said. “It takes a while for history to have its, you know, to be able to have enough time to look back to see why decisions were made and what their consequences were.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald offered a far more telling judgment on the Bush/Cheney administration's legacy in this description of two main characters from The Great Gatsby:
"They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made…"

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