Welcome to the Third Term of President George W. Bush By Victor J. Massad
It all seemed so clear to progressives in the summer of 2008. A dense president born into old establishment wealth had conned the American people and we were trapped into implacable problems, both foreign and domestic. These problems included a bad war that the president had lied us into, a good war that he had ignored, a deficit that was out of control, a prison that violated human rights, and a relationship between big business and big government that had become too cozy. But there was hope. A young, charismatic, Kennedy-esque black man traversed the country with promises to abandon the bad war, win the good one, fix the deficit spending problem by taxing the rich, close the prison, and reform the government so that big business would not be able to use the taxpayers as an instrument of profit.
Fast forward to 2011. We are now engaged in three Middle East wars with many more looming on the horizon and no apparent end in sight. The deficit is more than double what it was in 2008, unemployment is 50 percent higher, and rampant inflation is rearing its ugly head in the form of astronomical gas and food prices. The facility at Guantanamo Bay is to remain open, and it will be the site of military tribunals for the prisoners remaining there. Big business remains firmly in charge of establishment policy, so much so that Goldman Sachs, General Electric, CitiBank and Blue Shield seem to have carte blanch to use the government as an instrument for fleecing taxpayers and erecting barriers to entry for competitors.
I say we are not in the first term of President Barack Obama. We are in the third term of President George W. Bush. In fact, it’s worse than that. We are living in the midst of the third term George W. Bush would have had if Bush had been unconstrained by conservatives and right wing reformists. Obama did not reverse the courses Bush had set forth, but instead doubled down on the worst of them. The result is that we are now beset by problems so severe that solving them will cause pain that will be immeasurably higher than it would have been in 2008, and there is a real possibility that the United States of America will lose its status as world leader and superpower.
In 2008, right after the election of Obama, I wrote on this site that the rich would get richer and the poor poorer under this president. I predicted that his policies, contrary to his rhetoric, would propel us toward third world status, exacerbate the class divisions in this country, and retard upward mobility for working and lower class Americans. Now, as we face the specter of double digit unemployment combined with double digit inflation, can anyone deny it? Can anyone point to a single problem in this country – from rising education and health care costs to out of control government spending – that is closer to being solved today than it was in 2008? Take your time. Think about it. Is there one national societal problem that is closer to being solved today than it was three years ago?
Just how did this calamitous state of affairs come upon us? I think the reason is that candidate Barack Obama carefully constructed a false image of himself that was anti-establishment, bold and unafraid to take on the powers that be in the northeast and in the beltway. The progressive “wisdom” on Obama was that, like Kennedy, he would transcend racism and partisanship, and see the nuances that Bush failed to grasp. But once in office, President Obama tended to build on the decisions of the Bush administration, in the worst cases doubling down on them. As it turns out, in Washington it doesn’t much matter which party is in charge. The people change, but the paradigms and assumptions they use for decision-making remain the same. Preserving the short-term viability of the establishment is the paramount consideration, and that leads everyone to the same basic conclusions with only minor variations in policy.
And yet, the progressive reformists continue to cling to this man as if he is the product of the second coming. They have been utterly blind to the harsh reality that they were duped by a slick, establishment politician with a penchant for style, and virtually no substance.
If George W. Bush was a “cowboy” in terms of foreign policy, what must progressives make of Obama? The man, on the flimsiest of pretexts imaginable, lobs cruise missiles into a sovereign country that presents no threat to US interests. He does this without any consultation with the American people or congress, and by his own admission with no defined mission ahead of time. The progressives in his party justify the action as “humanitarian” even as they bury their heads in the sand at the quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When conservatives question the commitment and competence of the president as a commander in chief, the progressives respond with outrage and question our patriotism. The fact is, most conservatives support the action in Libya in principle. But they also understand that if we have learned anything from our foreign misadventures of the past it is that the bad guys there have a very astute capability to exploit our disdain for strong governments into stronger governments that target the west and amass weapons of mass destruction. Taking military action without a clear plan and understanding of what kind of government will replace the one being toppled is precisely the reason Obama gave for our being hated by the people of the Middle East, and now he is far more guilty of that sin than George W. Bush ever was.
In fact, I think the Libyan affair has closed the book insofar as my saying that President Barack Obama is now officially guilty of every single thing he accused George W. Bush of in 2008. And he is far guiltier of all of them than Bush was.
As we head into a new presidential election year, my fear is that Republicans will be duped by a GOP version of Obama. All of the candidates in the field will be posing as reformers, but the majority of them will be establishment insiders whose main purpose as president will be to protect the “investments” that have been made in Washington-based initiatives and placate the true reformists with sound bites and symbolic measures. My hope is that the experience of the past three years has opened enough eyes that people in the Republican Party will judge the candidates based on what they have done in the past as opposed to what they promise to do in the future. If they do, then the attractiveness of the GOP field is wafer thin. There are some promising up-and-comers, but no one in the present field can lay claim to being a true and committed conservative reformer.
It would be a shame for us to fight the fight we have been engaged in since Obama’s election only to be duped into George W. Bush’s fourth, fatal term.