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Hey, wasn’t that George W. Bush presidency really fantastic?
You do still remember it, don’t you?
Wasn’t it great? Don’t you have lots of warm and fuzzy memories of it? Isn’t it a shame that he couldn’t have a third term?
Okay, so maybe you don’t see it that way. Maybe the last eight years weren’t such a party for you. But remember the regressive right? Remember how much they loved the guy? Remember how they adored Ol’ Georgie, especially back in 2001, 2002, 2003? Remember how they gloated and stuck it all in our faces? Remember how much they loved not only Bush’s politics, but his in-your-face, my-way-or-the-highway, love-it-or-leave-it, macho cowboy routine delivery?
I don’t know about you, but I recall all of that really, really well, thank you very much. Painfully well, one might say.
Which makes it all the more puzzling that the troglodytes of the right seem to have disappeared their former grand hero almost completely these days. Isn’t that odd? They never talk about him anymore, as if he had never even existed. They seem quite desperately to want to vanish him entirely, like the body of some beaten-to-death prisoner at Abu Ghraib.
Hmmm. Wonder why? Wonder what gives?
I’ll go out on a limb here and speculate that it might have something to do with the fact that the Bush presidency was a spectacular failure. You know, a total train wreck. A complete cock-up. A gigantic exercise in FUBAR so bad that nobody wants to be associated with it, anymore than with syphilis or projectile vomit.
But that’s kinda weird given the former adoration directed toward the Caligula Kid. Isn’t that kind of intellectually dishonest? Can it be that the right in America is actually disingenuous? I mean, everyone knows they are destructive, selfish, hypocritical, racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, imperialistic, nasty, brutish and short. But who would have thought they were dishonest too? This is almost more than I can bear!
If you pin a regressive to the wall and torture them (a practice which I recommend as often beneficial for both parties involved), they will do two things to try to stop you from beating them up about Lil’ Bush.
First, they’ll attempt to deflect your attention away from the whole painful affair by talking about a certain Ronald Reagan fellow, patron saint of lost causes. That’s an interesting move, given that Junior Bush was more Reaganistic than was Reagan himself. And, especially, given that Reagan was last in the White House an entire generation ago, making him about as relevant to many Americans today as Millard Fillmore.
It’s also more than a bit weird because, of course, Saint Reagan bears little resemblance to Ron Reagan, the dude who actually was president. (Indeed, Ron Reagan the person – a guy so out of it during his presidency that he actually introduced himself to his own cabinet members and his own children in White House receiving lines, and used 3 x 5 cue cards even to read his small talk lines with people (“Pretty humid today, huh?” “How ‘bout those Yankees?”) – actually bore little resemblance to the presidency he played in the movies, but that’s another story entirely.) Saint Reagan solved all our economic problems. Ron Reagan, on the other hand, gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression (until little Bush would trump him), and tripled the national debt (until little Bush trumped him again). Saint Reagan was a great champion of American values. Ron Reagan shredded the Constitution in the Iran-Contra Affair. Saint Reagan was tough on the Soviets and ended the Cold War. Ron Reagan nearly agreed to eliminate all American nukes in a pow-wow with Gorby, tucked tail and ran from Lebanon, and was so powerful that he succeeded in rolling back the Soviets from every square single inch of the Carribean island of Grenada, current population 90,343. And so on…
So playing the Reagan card is the first game used to avoid the horrid little reality of Bushism. But if that particular line of diversionary legerdemain fails miserably, the next thing you’re likely to hear is that conservatives have abandoned George W. Bush because he wasn’t really a conservative.
This is my favorite. Oh yes, indeed.
Do they mean by that that Bush was too nice in his foreign policy, concerning himself too frequently with world opinion rather than American self-interest?
Do they mean that he failed to invade other countries – like, say, Afghanistan or Iraq – when he should have?
Are they upset that he was too squeamish to deploy American military forces in endless wars based on lies?
Or are they angry that the administration didn’t privatize everything in sight, including the country’s armed forces?
Do they mean that he was too nice to the mealy-mouthed diplo-nothing-burgers at the UN, rather than sending a thug over there to jam policy down their throats?
Do they mean that he wasn’t unilateral enough, always worrying about what Europeans and other pansy countries were concerned about?
Is their problem with him that he coddled the Russians and refused to shred the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty?
Or that he was far too deferential to bearded, Birkenstock-wearing, Al Gore-adoring dittoheads, and wouldn’t unsign the Kyoto Accord?
Or that he failed to undermine the International Criminal Court at every possible opportunity?
Maybe it’s all about how he negotiated too much with North Korea.
Are they angry that Bushiekins didn’t have the guts to piss all over international law by authorizing illegal invasions, torture and renditions?
Are they miffed that he constantly kowtowed to Palestinian terrorists, never taking the side of Israel in the endless rounds of Middle East peace negotiations he presided over?
Oh, I know what I was. They’re angry that he didn’t slash taxes during his presidency! That’s obviously it.
Or, wait, was it that he was too pro-choice, both at home and in US family planning policy abroad?
Maybe they’re fuming because he didn’t put real regressive, pro-government, pro-executive branch, pro-corporate, 13th-century-social-policy-preferring, justices on the Supreme Court – people like John Roberts or Sam Alito, for example.
Could it be that they really wanted a president who would absolutely thrash the historic barrier between church and state, and all they got was this lousy Bush-Cheney 2004 tee-shirt instead?
Maybe they’re pissed because Bush refused to spy on Americans. Or that he was so weak-kneed that he went and got warrants before he did it. Or that he waited for Congressional approval to do any of this.
Or is it that he refused in principle to autograph over a thousand signing statements appended to legislation, which would have effective wiped out the role of Congress in American government?
Possibly they don’t think he was a real conservative because he refused to jump on Air Force One and fly across the country in the middle of the night in order to intervene in one family’s legal, medical and ethical nightmare over whether to unplug Terri Schiavo from life support.
Maybe, as fans of small government, they’re angry that he used FEMA so effectively to save lives and to save the city of New Orleans, before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.
Could it be that Bush was too tough on corporations, refusing to give them tax credits for exporting American jobs, or blocking any massive giveaways to them under his prescription drug bill?
Or was it that the Bush White House was just too much in favor of corporate regulation, across the board?
Certainly it must have had a lot to do with how Bush took the lead in fighting for the very survival of the planet by calling the country into battle against the peril of global warming, a total fabrication by evildoing scientists.
Are they mad that the Bush White House flinched at politicizing the institutions of government – for example, I’ll just pick one at random here, the Justice Department – in order to turn them into agents of the Republican Party?
Or are they angry that there was hardly any cronyism in the administration, so that party workers could never get government jobs – say like running the Iraq occupation, for example – because the president was too scrupulous.
Probably they’re just furious that Bush let accused terrorists and other assorted brown people run free in America, because he didn’t have the guts to defy a bunch of mamby-pamby lawyers and open up a bottomless-pit of a jail in some hell-hole somewhere, like say at Guantánamo Bay.
And I know they’re still mad that he didn’t have the stones to steal elections when push came to shove in confronting those tough, take-no-prisoners Democrats.
Are all of these failings why regressives don’t think George W. Bush was one of them as president? Of course not. In fact, Bush did all of these things. In fact, he and his fellow-travelers fulfilled every single item on the regressive wet dream checklist during his presidency.
Except for two. First, they expanded the size of the national government through reckless spending. And, second, because they were careful not to take any popular goodies away so that voters would experience the real pain of regressive politics, they paid for it all (and the tax cuts, and the wars) by borrowing. Future generations could pay for it. Plus interest, of course.
Those are both important issues to the right, to be sure, but it is absolutely ludicrous to argue that those two items, stacked up against everything else he gave them listed above, remotely suggest that Bush was not a conservative. Utter nonsense.
So what’s going on?
The obvious answer is that Bush was a total disaster as president who was hated by a country that couldn’t wait for the clock to run down on his nightmare. Who wants to be associated with that?
The less obvious answer is even more telling, though. It’s true the Bush folks were grossly incompetent, at least at the things they didn’t care so much about. But the deeper and more profound reality is that this was far less a failure of one fool than it was the acid test for an entire ideology, which in fact failed the exam miserably.
I know how shocking it can be that regressives are hypocritical or deceitful. Go figure, eh? But, truthfully, this is the biggest whopper of them all. The King Kahuna. The Mother of all Deceits. So big, in fact, that I’m pretty sure that they even lie to themselves about it at the same time they’re lying to us.
Because if they didn’t, here’s what they’d have to admit: We tried their ideology. Big-time. And it totally sucked.
Unless, of course, you happen to like war, recession, environmental destruction, constitution shredding, prejudice, hatred, greed, deceit and failure. Those things enjoyed rather remarkable success, actually.
Americans can be astonishingly stupid, and embarrassingly easy marks sometimes. But, even so, they’re usually able to see that these are bad things.
If only there were national figures within the supposed opposition (that means you, Mr. Happy Face, in the White House) who were willing to label this disaster for what it was, perhaps we might have stamped out the scourge of regressivism for a generation or six by now. But, alas, that would require a modicum of political courage.
Unfortunately, that’s just about the only thing regressives have.
Even more unfortunately, it is often enough to carry the day, even when your ideas are so unequivocally destructive.
DAVID MICHAEL GREEN is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.