Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Legacy

I am convinced that, in spite his dearth of human intelligence, wit and compassion, George W. Bush has it together enough to be worried about his legacy. Unfortunately, he does not care how many people die as long as history records his presidency as successful.

So, what is his legacy? How could the future possibly view him as a successful president?

1. The destruction of Iraq as a stable society. It is difficult, if not impossible to imagine the people in Iraq living in proximity after the brutality of sectarian violence that we see every day (like today in Baghdad with car bombs killing 57 and injuring 150+). Yet, some day there will be stability because that is the way that human life goes. History teaches us that the worst of enemies can often become the best of friends. It is almost impossible to imagine that Russia and Germany could have gotten along after the horrors of World War I and II, yet they do. However, Bush will not be credited with a stable Iraq 20 years down the road (is Nixon, or Johnson, credited with a stable, and friendly, Vietnam?)

All Bush wants to do now is get to the end of his presidency without Iraq going under on his watch. The cornered animal will bite off its paw to get free of the trap. Consider that George W. Bush has the ability to push the button on nuclear war. Consider that he is now obsessed with Iran and doesn't want to leave office with Iran having nuclear weapons. What next?

Conclusion: In spite of our understandable obsession with Iraq, whatever happens there will not be a significant part of Bush's legacy. Nuking Iran would be.

2. Standing by while the environment is destroyed making the planet unlivable for the majority of our children.

Disappearing ice is already causing problems for the Polar Bear and it is likely to be driven to the brink of extinction unless it can find ways of adapting.
But, you know, when it hits people on the head that the East and West Coasts of America will be under water, they will do something. Will may also forget that this Administration sat idly by while New York got ready for drowning? See the discussion of Katrina below.

Conclusion: While the environment will be the issue in 20-30 years, few will give a damn about Bush's lack of contribution to solving the problem. We will have much more important things to do like staying alive.

3. 9/11. As this episode in our history recedes from our consciousness, it becomes bereft of emotion. This may be largely due to the constant reminder by Bush in his speeches. "9/11.... 9/11.... 9/11." Human beings have a way of blocking bad things and only remembering neutral or good things. Thus, I think in 10 years 9/11 will be almost forgotten, except by those who immediately suffered. And, of course, by all the NYC emergency personnel who are now experiencing long term effects from their rescue efforts. Some peoples, e.g. the Jews and the Holocaust, have a long memory. Americans don't. We forget the earthquakes, the Chicago fires, the hurricanes, etc. For crying out loud, look at Katrina (below). In summary, I think 9/11 as a part of Bush's legacy is overrated.

Conclusion: Not what Bush thinks it will be.

4. The Imperial Presidency. I am sure Bush doesn't want to be known as the President that destroyed the American Constitution. However, he has already gone a long way towards doing that. But, as an astute 89 year old friend of mine who has been in national politics for a significant portion of her life keeps reminding me, America is a resilient entity. It is only when the voters become irresponsible, and lazy, that we get in trouble (c.f. the 2004 elections.) Hopefully, the pendulum is swinging and the horror of the last six years will be reversed in the next two. I am optimistic.

Again, like Iraq, in spite of our obsession with Bush's dismantling of the Constitution, it is possible that this may be rectified by the 2008 election. Unfortunately, as Glenn Greenwald always points out, Bush has broken the law and, if we are a nation of laws, that issue has to be settled. Breaking the FISA is a felony and the punishment is imprisonment. Bush in jail?

Conclusion: In terms of his legacy, could go either way. Hard to see how it could benefit him unless he does a 180 degree turnaround in the next two years.

5. Katrina. This is much different than 9/11. The damage has not been cleaned up. Hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced. The economy of the area continues in shambles. Every single response by team Bush was inadequate. I think, particularly if the Democratic Congress makes some moves towards New Orleans and its levees, this could be a long term black eye for Bush. The difference from 9/11 is that the damage is still there.

Conclusion: Could be one of the big negatives of his legacy.

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