Like most Americans, I am wondering why we have to wait fifty-eight more days for a new president. Couldn’t Bush and Cheney just tender their resignations now? Nancy Pelosi would then become our president for the next fifty-eight days until President-Elect Obama takes office. Yeah, I know Pelosi is a San Francisco liberal, but she could hardly make things worse than Bush and Cheney and she would be a caretaker only. At least someone with a brain would be in charge until Inauguration Day. Meanwhile, women everywhere would rejoice because we would have (however briefly) our first female president.
If Bush and Cheney had any sense of patriotism, they would resign right now. However, it looks like they will not only tenaciously cling to power until January 20th, but they are working feverishly to make sure their toxic legacy will last beyond the inauguration. Not only have they left us with an economy that is in shambles, in their final days they are busy creating future havoc. Regulations are furiously being written, sometimes bypassing the public comment process, to ensure that our problems will continue to only get worse after they are gone. Yes, in their final days the Bush Administration is making sure it protects fewer endangered species while opening up more federal lands to energy exploration. Meanwhile, in various federal agencies its senior executives are busy “burrowing in”, i.e. changing their status from political appointees to civil servants so they can hang around and attempt to bollix up the Obama agenda, all while drawing high salaries and having the benefit of civil service job protections.
The faults of this Administration are so numerous and egregious it is hard to know which ones to single out. I keep looking in vain for something I can say in favor of this administration. I am reduced to exactly one thing: the Bush Administration has dramatically boosted the money spent on antiretroviral drugs for those with HIV and AIDS in the third world, while also strong arming drug manufacturers to make these drugs available to the third world at just above cost. Naturally, Americans who came down with HIV or developed AIDS had to pay top dollar for their drugs. Maybe they should have moved to Africa, where they might have gotten the lifesaving drugs for little or nothing.
Republicans spent much of the last few years screaming at Senate Democrats for blocking so many appointments and judgeships. In retrospect though the Democrats showed great foresight. Bush came into office with a conservative agenda. Conservatives believe in smaller government. While smaller government eluded him as it did other recent Republican presidents (in fact, Bush made government much bigger), his sidekick Dick Cheney proved unusually adept at throwing monkey wrenches into the gears of government. The result is a government that while it costs much more, is now also far more dysfunctional than it ever has been. Some examples:
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development spends much of its time trying to reduce Section 8 housing for the poor.
- The Department of the Interior is busy opening pristine national lands to energy exploration.
- The Department of Defense is overextended and our armed forces are exhausted. Our fancy military equipment has been squandered in the deserts of Iraq fighting the wrong missions.
- By taunting North Korea and Iran, and labeling them as part of a bogus Axis of Evil, both countries have become more isolated and dangerous.
- Our Department of Homeland Security could not even provide disaster relief to the residents of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, perhaps because the director of FEMA knew how to raise Arabian horses, not provide emergency services.
- No one in control of our government saw the housing bubble coming because they were too busy trying to give Wall Street exactly what it wanted. In fact, through changes in the law our government encouraged the sort of behavior that exacerbated the crisis.
- We added four trillion dollars to the national debt in eight years, which was at about six trillion when Bush took office.
- We engaged in an embarrassing national folly in Iraq that even if President Obama can get us out within sixteen months will probably cost us a trillion dollars. The long-term care for veterans injured in the war will continue for decades. Meanwhile more than four thousand of our soldiers died in the conflict started to remove weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.
- The Dow Jones Industrial Average is about two thousand points below when Bush took office. Stocks now have approximately the same value they had in 1997. We have, in effect, wiped out all of the wealth that we accumulated in the last decade.
- Our national infrastructure is in shambles. An interstate bridge collapse in Minnesota killed thirteen people while thousands of bridges that do need repair languish for lack of funds.
- The rich have gotten much richer; the middle class has shrunk and have had their real earnings decline.
- This administration spent much of the last eight years denying global warming was even occurring. After much hooting and jeering from scientists it finally agreed it was happening, but said it was part of a natural cycle so we should not do anything about it. Later, it agreed that we were part of the problem, but that we should do nothing more than set goals to reduce the problem. Meanwhile, environmental standards were regularly loosened.
- We went to great length to limit research on embryonic stem cells, which in fact are not even alive unless implanted in a uterus and given some time to gestate, while taking extraordinary action to make sure the hulk of Terri Schiavo’s brain dead body stayed tethered to medical equipment for more than a decade.
- Our brave servicemen and women who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan ended up with substandard care and spend much of their time dealing with a dysfunctional and understaffed medical bureaucracy.
The sad truth is that I could easily fill up ten pages or more with more examples like these and I would have hardly scratched the surface. It would be easy to say that this Administration was just inept, but the sad truth is they were inept when they were needed to be savvy and malicious and mendacious when they were not, answering only to themselves and tone deaf to anyone with a different opinion.
If any good is to come out of this, it is that the Republican Party has become a minority party with little likelihood of resurgence for at least a decade. In addition, social conservatism has backfired and neoconservatism has had a stake driven through its heart. It seems that with such sterling examples of what doesn’t work, we have a good idea what will: just do the opposite.
Meanwhile, all Americans are enveloped in a feeling of dread knowing that if any team can make things worse in just fifty-eight more days, the current boobs can and probably will. January 20th cannot come soon enough.