Since this is the month that we honor our chief executives on Presidents’ Day, February 20, 2006, I would like to share a dream I had one night that involved all our living presidents. In this dream, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted its responsibility for the mess the U.S. has found itself in over the past five years and took actions to correct our dire situation. Since everything that happened in this dream promoted the concept of justice, I chose not to wake up until it became utterly preposterous.
Guilt-ridden, Justice Anthony Kennedy wanted to reverse his vote on the Court’s ill-conceived ruling on the 2000 presidential election, which prevented any further counting of Florida’s votes and awarded the presidency to George W. Bush. In my dream, by a 5 to 4 vote, the Supremes declared their previous ruling to have been unconstitutional and declared the “co-presidency” of Bush 43 and Dick Cheney to be null and void.
To prevent them from doing any further harm to the American people and to the rest of the world, the Court ordered them to be placed under house arrest for the duration of the current term of office. Mr. Bush was sent to his ranch in Texas, and the Vice was confined to the Chesapeake Bay retreat that he had been shopping for when Katrina was blowing in. Because they should never have been allowed in office in the first place, they were guaranteed that no charges would ever be brought against them for any crimes they may have committed since January 21, 2001, and they eagerly accepted the offer.
Bill Clinton, being the last president to receive a majority of electoral votes without controversy, was asked to return to the White House to get the country back on track. Aware that our Founding Fathers believed they were resurrected Romans, the Supremes returned to a method used by the ancient Roman Republic to handle emergencies that threatened the life of the nation: Clinton was given the position of Dictator until January 21, 2009, when the Constitution would be restored and a new president would be inaugurated.
As in ancient Rome, the Dictator was given the power to do his job, but he would be held accountable for his actions after his specified time in office expired. He could violate no laws nor infringe upon the rights of any American citizen. The wiretapping of U. S. citizens without court warrants was finally at an end! Judge James Robertson agreed to return as the eleventh member of the FISA court after having resigned when he learned of Bush-Cheney’s violations.
The Supreme Court ordered that everything done under the dictatorship would have a sunset clause, with Clinton’s first action coming up for renewal three months after the next president took office. This would provide time for the new administration to assess the effectiveness of each Clinton action. It would also allow a liberal policy to be used in keeping the programs that worked, fixing those that showed promise, and terminating those that failed.
To take advantage of their unique experiences, former Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush were brought back as honorary advisors to the Dictator. They had been caretaker presidents who had followed presidencies that failed because of two of the most serious constitutional crises in U.S. history: Ford came in after Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal and Bush I after Ronald Reagan’s Iran-Contra Scandal.
Jimmy Carter was asked to accept the role of being a U.S. ambassador-at-large. The winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace promised the U.N. that the alleged acts against human rights at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the CIA’s secret prisons in Eastern Europe were no longer the policies of the United States and that we would once again honor our treaties. This relieved many concerns caused, among other things, by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s advice that the President was not limited by the Geneva Convention, V. P. Dick Cheney’s desire that the CIA be allowed to use torture, and Mr. Bush’s signing a congressional bill that prohibited torture and then signing a statement saying he might disobey it, which he did!
Clinton cleaned house and brought back to government experienced professionals who were actually serious about implementing public policy. Out went Bush-Cheney’s cronies, the cronies of their cronies, and the former lobbyists for big corporations (who had absurdly been appointed to regulate their old bosses). In came form labor secretary Robert Reich* to restore fiscal responsibility at Treasury and put the breaks on the soaring deficit that began with Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Gen.Wesley Clark took over at Defense and began to create method out of our madness in Afghanistan and Iraq. Bruce Babbitt returned to Interior to undo the damage done to our national parks and forests. Former Director James D. Witt was recalled to FEMA. Former anti-terrorist advisor Richard Clark accepted Homeland Security.
Al Gore was asked to be a U.S. Environment and Energy Czar. The U.S. government suddenly stopped embarrassing the American people and frustrating the members of the rest of the planet by pretending that global warming was not a problem. Instead of opposing solutions to atmospheric pollution, the U.S. embraced the Kyoto Protocol and began to lead in achieving results. The Environmental Protection Agency returned to performing its reason for existence – enforcing regulations that protect endangered species, air, and water. It also became official policy to encourage energy conservation and to develop alternatives to oil.
Clinton ended the Bush-Cheney backdoor draft of using the National Guard in Iraq and returned them to the states they had enlisted to protect. He also assured all returning guardsmen and other soldiers they would be cared for months or years hence when illnesses resulting from the depleted uranium used in bombs against Iraq’s cities might begin to affect them. The Veterans Health Administration (V.H.A.), which began its successful reforms during Clinton’s presidency, would be ready. The 16,300 who have already been seriously wounded were promised lifetime healthcare and benefits.
Over fifty years after President Truman recognized the need, Mr. Clinton returned to the issue of national health care as he had done earlier in his own presidency. This time there was additional pressure from industries (like General Motors and Ford) that were facing bankruptcies, closures, and/or layoffs to do something to relieve their burden of providing health care in their payroll and pension plans. Using the V.H.A. as a model, the U.S. finally joined the rest of the developed nations in providing quality, less expensive, and more efficiently administered health care for all its citizens. Consequently, many industries declared a moratorium on shipping jobs overseas.
Clinton also signed the Republican-stalled Count Every Vote Act of 2005. Therefore, the Presidential Election of 2008 took place without a hitch. Electronic voting machines provided printouts for verification. Everyone who was registered and wanted to vote was allowed to easily do so, and each vote was actually counted.
On Inauguration Day, Chief Justice John Roberts officially announced the end of the Court-imposed dictatorship before he issued the oath of office to the President-Elect. Sitting next to Bill Clinton was Chelsea, and they were both smiling and looking admiringly toward the podium. It was only then that I had to accept that all this could only occur in a dream and woke up. There was a woman being sworn in as President.
by David Offutt
*Note: This is a slightly revised version of an essay that was published February 3, 2006, in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor. I agree with commentor Dan Lynch (below) and replaced Robert Rubin with Robert Reich at Treasury and regret my error. I stand by the rest except that had I had clairvoyance, I would have had a black man being elected instead of a woman. That may still happen in 2016.