Monday, August 01, 2005

The Worst President America Ever Had

I don't know if I agree with Charles Cutter that if Al Gore had been allowed to assume the presidency that he won in 2000, he might have been the best president America ever had, but he certainly would not have been the worst president America ever had. That dishonor belongs to George W. Bush.

Americans have not yet begun to pay the price for the Bush presidency. The global ramifications of his foreign policy, the long-term impact of his budgetary excesses, our depleted military, the ongoing erosion of civil liberties and church/state separation, the unprecedented acquiescence to corporate power…all these factors, and more, will dictate the course of this nation for decades to come.

Had Al Gore assumed the presidency in 2001, he would have confronted the same challenges - a nation, and world, simmering in a mix of cultural/religious extremism and declining resources. Realistically speaking, Mr. Gore could probably not have solved any of these problems, but he would have worked in the direction of long-term solutions - and by doing so, minimized the overall impact.

George W. Bush, on the other hand, has worked feverishly to exacerbate virtually every problem confronting America and the world. The differences between these two men - on policies both foreign and domestic - are surprisingly black and white.

Mr. Gore had proposed using the now-nonexistent budget surplus to strengthen Social Security. He also backed a Medicare prescription drug program that used the government’s buying power to yield volume discounts - a tremendous savings to taxpayers. Mr. Bush has been a spendthrift of historic proportions - he first engineered huge tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, then started screaming about how Social Security was "bankrupt." Bush’s "privatization" scheme for Social Security was designed to benefit Wall Street, not retirees. His Medicare prescription drug program was not structured to benefit the elderly, but rather the pharmaceutical and insurance industries.

Mr. Gore supported conservation and fuel-efficiency, touting the emerging technology of hybrid automobiles. Mr. Bush ridiculed those vehicles and allowed energy companies to set America’s energy policies in secret meetings with Dick Cheney. (Mr. Cheney, of course, also ridiculed the idea of using energy conservation as an aspect of a national energy policy). The result, of course, is that the foreseeable oil needs of China and India are skyrocketing, demand is at an all-time high, and domestic gasoline prices are over two dollars a gallon.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Gore would likely have carried over a Clinton administration focus on terrorist cells and Osama bin Laden. On the other hand, the Bush administration was actually dismantling America’s anti-terrorist infrastructure at the time of the September 11 attacks. Bush & Co., of course, totally ignored a written warning proclaiming "bin Laden determined to strike in U.S." Would a Gore administration have connected the dots and prevented the horror of 9/11? That, of course, is impossible to assess. What is crystal clear: No administration could have done worse than Mr. Bush and his people.

Cutter is right. George W. Bush is certainly not the only awful president this country has seen; but there is no doubt he has done the most harm to this country. No other president I can think of has done more to compromise his own country's safety and security. No other president has so monumentally and breathtakingly squandered the entire planet's good will and feelings of kinship with the U.S. at a moment of horrifying tragedy and turned that good will to disgust, anger, resentment, and, in many quarters, hatred. It's quite an accomplishment to have made the world more cruel, more violent, more unfree and undemocratic, and more dangerous than we all felt it to be on September 11, 2001.

The evil that Bush has done will live on long after he leaves the presidency, and who knows how long it will be before we'll be able to turn it around. That is the legacy of America's 43rd president.

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