CLOCKING BUSH AT THE ONE-QUARTER MARK
By Alejandro Grattan-Domingez
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
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-