By Alejandro Grattan-Domingez

     President Bush recently celebrated his first year in office, and pundits were quick to judge whether there was any real reason to rejoice. Our own view is mixed, with different appraisals of what might be termed "pre-9/11" and "post-9/11." During the first period, Bush managed little more than an economic incentive package which contained disproportionate tax cuts for the extremely wealthy. These programs have rarely if ever worked, but of course Bush had to pay back the super-rich who got him elected. As for his often-repeated pre-election promises to reform Medicare, Social Security, prescription drugs, HMOs, campaign financing, education and some half-dozen other pressing domestic problems, as president he dropped his mask of "compassionate conservatism" and abruptly became more right-wing than even his father. Zealots don't have to think about complicated things.
     Bush was stumbling badly. The huge Clinton surpluses had evaporated, and the country was lurching toward full-scale recession. Then Bush fecklessly lost his Republican majority in the Senate. In Europe, he was regarded a "crazed, lonesome cowboy" (viz. his intent to abrogate agreements such as the Test Ban Treaty with Russia). In America, he was lampooned in newspapers, and worse had neared total gridlock with the nation's lawmakers. His approval ratings were in the low 50s. Hence, our grade for "pre-9/11" would be no more than a D.
     Then came September 11, 2001, a day that drastically changed the world. It also changed George Bush. He grew more presidential, and his subsequent conduct of the war against terrorism has-in the main-been both prudent and successful. But recently, he reverted to his old right-wing mode, thoughtlessly lumping Iran and North Korea in with Iraq as an "axis of evil." This might prove highly counter-productive, as Iran has been tilting toward a pro-US position, and a great deal of effort had previously gone into neutralizing North Korea. More cowboy diplomacy.
     Enter the Enron scandal. John Dean, Richard Nixon's former special counsel, and a gent who knows a potential disaster when he sees one, was recently quoted as saying Enron could become Bush's own Watergate. Marianne Means, writing for the pro-Republican Hearst newspapers, dismissed the Bush argument for denying the non-partisan GAO with information regarding the administration's dealings with Enron on the pretext that such a safeguard was set by the framers of the U.S. Constitution-in effect placing the blame on America's Founding Fathers! Means wrote, "They were not a clandestine band of wealthy industrialists pressing self-serving policies on an ideologically sympathetic government without regard for the public good." Ominous words coming from a Republican.
     Finally, Bush and Company, having failed to eliminate bin Laden or the head of the Taliban, have now escalated the war on terrorism far beyond these two initial objectives. This is understandable. Bush now enjoys the huge public support initially given any president in wartime, and it would take a great man to shuck such lofty ratings to go back to the far more divisive domestic issues. Bush probably hopes to do what his father could not-stretch a war into the next presidential election. Whether that will be good for America and the rest of the world remains to be seen.
Our "post 9/11" grade: B-