Bush: hoisted by his own petard

The Thinker by Rodin

On the word history of petard:

The French used petard, “a loud discharge of intestinal gas,” for a kind of infernal engine for blasting through the gates of a city. “To be hoist by one’s own petard,” a now proverbial phrase apparently originating with Shakespeare’s Hamlet (around 1604) not long after the word entered English (around 1598), means “to blow oneself up with one’s own bomb, be undone by one’s own devices.”

Is George W. Bush starting to sound a little shrill on the campaign trail? I’d call it more than a little shrill. He is starting to sound more than a little scared and desperate.

Bush has a big problem. He wants to win reelection in three months but he has no record of accomplishments to run on. I’m not sure he realizes it. But I suspect his campaign advisers have figured it out. Bush is in deep doo doo. His hand is poor and he has to hope that some combination of luck or events will boomerang in his favor. You would be wise not to take this bet.

Bush’s list of “accomplishments” is thin. He can say he gave tax relief. Unfortunately the vast majority of it went to the wealthiest 1%. For the rest of us the tax relief we received probably didn’t make up for increases in our taxes from our state and local government. For those who became unemployed it was moot. In just four short years he took our country from the largest budget surplus in history ($236B in 2000) to the largest deficits in history ($445B projected for 2004). That’s a $681 billion dollar gap in just four years! So clearly he can’t run on fiscal responsibility. Fiduciary? He never heard of the word.

Bush is also touting the 1.5 million jobs created since last August. That sounds great except for two minor matters. First, he is still 1.2 million jobs in the hole. He stands an excellent chance of being the first president since Herbert Hoover to actually have fewer jobs at the end of his term than at the beginning. Anyhow at its peak Bush was down 2.7 million jobs from when Clinton left office. It would take an economic miracle to fill those last 1.2 million jobs by Election Day. Second, even in the unlikely event he manages to put job growth in positive numbers, it doesn’t mask the plain reality that most of these new jobs pay less than the ones that were lost. Real wages have been declining for two years in a row. So he can’t run on a record of job or wage growth.

But Bush is a strong leader who will keep us safe from international terrorism, right? Unfortunately the 9/11 Commission faulted his administration for missing numerous warnings that a 9/11 type event was likely to happen. This is like you getting into an accident because you are chatting to your wife on the cell phone instead of paying attention to the road. Yes, the other guy might have caused the accident but it might have been avoided if you had been concentrating on the road. The warnings were there. But once engaged he allowed the war on terrorism to lose focus. Instead of concentrating on destroying al Qaeda he largely gave up trying to track down and find Osama bin Laden. Instead he led us into an unnecessary war against Iraq. Meanwhile real problems like North Korea and Iran’s nuclear capacities festered into much larger problems. Now we can’t deploy our forces in these countries unless we want to condemn Iraq to wholesale anarchy.

Bush can say (with fingers crossed) that no new terrorist attacks have happened in the United States since 9/11. That could change at any time, but it certainly hasn’t kept terrorists from striking us overseas. Rather than contain these forces our War in Iraq seems like it has stirred them up instead. There is nothing like injecting over 100,000 predominantly Christian troops into the middle of the Islamic World to make the lines long at terrorist recruiting centers. It doesn’t help when Bush talks about the war on terrorism as a “crusade” either. At best Bush’s handling on the war on terrorism has been inept. Pretty much anyone with any lick of common sense could have done a better job. And then there is the minor matter that he blew up most of our bridges to the international community. As Kerry rightly pointed out one nation can’t create world peace. It takes lots of nations working together.

Bush was going to be a united, not a divider, remember? That’s why many Democrats and Independents voted for him in 2000. He quickly showed that he had no idea what bipartisanship meant. Rather he used control of government to push the most extreme aspects of his agenda. These include giving obscene tax breaks to the wealthy and our tax money to religious charities. So any attempt to pretend he can govern in a bipartisan manner will be laughed at. Those who voted for him for this reason in 2000 certainly won’t during this election.

Most Americans are concerned about the environment and support common sense treaties like the Kyoto protocols. Unfortunately for Bush’s reelection prospects he doesn’t. He withdrew support for the protocols, opened old growth forests for logging and reduced emissions standards for power plants. As a result we get to deal with more, not less, mercury in our atmosphere today, along with other pollutants. Any attempt to run as an environmental president will be laughable.

Success on the diplomatic stage? Not much. For our war on Iraq he convinced major powerhouse nations like Palau to join us. Instead nations with real armed forces like Spain are pulling out our so-called “coalition of the willing”. It’s pretty much us and the Brits there now and the Brits may be getting antsy.

If there is any accomplishment Bush can boast about it is that interest rates have been at all time lows. This was largely true when Clinton was in office too, but the situation improved during his tenure. This made home buying more affordable to many people. But this is not an accomplishment that he can take credit for. Rather it is a direct result of the Bush recession. It was the Federal Reserve that kept cutting interest rates, desperate to keep the economy from sputtering back into recession. Most people would have preferred good jobs and steady income to a couple points lower interest rates.

Bush has no record of accomplishments. He does however have a long record of failures and mismanagement. He cannot speak with conviction because he has not demonstrated much in the way of results. Metaphorically he is a petard: a large discharge of intestinal gas. High on words, low on results. He’s a big gaseous and pompous windbag. Given his lack of results it doesn’t take much brainpower to figure out that Americans will decide it would be almost impossible for anyone else to do worse. So they’ll vote against him, and not necessarily because they love John Kerry.

And that’s why on January 21st, 2005 John Kerry will be president and Bush will be flying home to clear brush.

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