Posted by: David Offutt | April 21, 2009

Bush’s Legacy: What Did Barack Obama Inherit, or What Hath Bush-Cheney Wrought?

I’m always hearing people say that George W. Bush was the stupidest president we ever had. Actually, I suspect he saw it the other way around: He thought we were stupid. He warned us and the media when he campaigned in 2000: “Don’t underestimate me.” He appeared intellectually lazy, ignorant of history, arrogant, irresponsible, misleading, hypocritical, dictatorial, and contemptuous of the Constitution and the desires of the people – but Mr. Bush was not stupid! He did nearly everything to us that he planned, and he never cared about the consequences. Now, President Barack Obama must deal with messes that were created and critical issues that were ignored.

15_failureFirst, of course, is the urgency for the U. S. to become the leader in solving global warming. Mr. Bush’s father embarrassed us at the 1992 conference in Rio de Janeiro. In 1997 the Clinton-Gore Administration took a lead role at Kyoto, Japan, but they had to contend with a hostile Republican Congress. Then W. Bush came in and renounced the Kyoto Protocol! He shamed us again at the 2005 conference in Montreal and more recently in Bali, Indonesia – even after Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize!

The second issue is that of achieving universal healthcare. The U.S. is not ranked 37th in the world because our doctors and medicines are 37th best. It’s our extremely bureaucratic, inefficient, discriminating, expensive, and profit-oriented private insurance system that makes us Number 37. The 1993-94 Clinton healthcare plan was fatally flawed with too many compromises for insurance and pharmaceutical companies. It was designed to get the votes of congressional Republicans, who had already decided to oppose it under any circumstances! Mr. Bush twice vetoed the expansion of Clinton’s 1997 State Children’s Heath Insurance Program (SCHIP), which is primarily for children in modest-income families that cannot afford expensive insurance. SCHIP has been so successful that the states wanted to increase the number of children covered, but that’s also why Mr. Bush opposed expanding it. He fears its success will convince the people to demand national healthcare for everyone.

The third issue is the need to get Osama Bin Laden. When the Clinton-Gore Administration was leaving office, it warned their successors that Osama would be their biggest threat in foreign affairs. However, the Bush-Cheney gang was surprised and unconcerned. Remember, the closest military attack that Clinton made against Osama infuriated the Republican Congress. They wanted Clinton to quit wasting time with that Muslim fanatic and devote more time telling them about his private sex life! The former chief counter-terrorism advisor for the National Security Council, Richard Clark, said that Clinton didn’t do enough to get Osama, but at least he tried. Clark insists that he never could get Bush-Cheney to even try until after 9/11. We chased bin Laden from Afghanistan, but Bush-Cheney failed to pursue him because they were more interested in invading Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11.

The fourth problem will be impossible to deal with because of the Great Recession. Mr. Bush should have used the Clinton surplus to continue paying off the Reagan-Bush debt, which had tripled the debt of all previous administrations combined. Now we have the Bush-Cheney debt, which doubled the one they inherited! Since there was no need to change the tax rates that existed when Bush-Cheney took office, we may be able to begin solving our current problem by returning to the rates of January 2001. The Federal Reserve’s Alan Greenspan, who had supported Bush’s tax cuts on the highest income levels, recently admitted to being “afraid” the entire national debt would get paid off within six years had Clinton’s policies been continued! Mr. Bush’s return to the disastrous “Trickle-Down Reaganomics” of tax cuts for the wealthy and “borrow and spend” policies ended the Clinton surplus! Our tax dollars are continuously being wasted to pay the interest on Reagan’s and W’s borrowed money! The reason you don’t run up the debt when you don’t need to is that situations like the Great Recession require massive spending by the our government to get the economy back on track.

A partial list of new issues that the Bush-Cheney Regime has created for our next President includes the following: (1) extricating our troops from the Iraq civil war; (2) preventing the Taliban from regaining control of Afghanistan; (3) mending our tarnished reputation abroad – partly because of torture, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo; (4) helping those who are losing their homes due to foreclosures – Reagan left us with the Savings and Loan Crisis, and Bush will leave us with the Subprime Mortgage Fiasco; (5) appointing mainstream justices to our federal courts to counter Bush’s radical and reactionary appointees – his far left and far right extremists; (6) regenerating morale at the Department of Justice and returning its mission to enforcing the laws in a non-partisan manner instead of helping Republicans get elected; (7) reestablishing competence in all other departments of the executive branch – FEMA’s ineptitude after Katrina was symptomatic of the overall scheme to use cronies and corporate apparatchiks to prevent our government agencies from doing the work that taxpayers expected; and (8) reversing Bush’s anti-conservationist policies that have jeopardized our national parks, refuges, forests, and other public lands.

If you also consider the restoration of New Orleans and our national highway infrastructure, the Great Recession that began in December 2007, rising unemployment, and the hot-button illegal-immigration issue, you have to wonder why anyone wanted become President in 2009. I recall that there was only one challenge to the re-nomination of President Richard Nixon in 1972. It was by his fellow Republican Pete McCloskey, a little-known representative from California. McCloskey was questioned as to his qualifications to be President. He admitted that he really didn’t have any, except that when he compared himself to Nixon, he knew he couldn’t be THAT bad. Mostly in that same spirit, there were more than twenty declared candidates offering to replace the diabolical Mr. Bush.

The need to succeed in all of the above is imperative, and we are fortunate to finally have a president who actually wants to do something about them. The Nobel Peace Price was awarded to President Barack Obama largely for just that reason. However, it won’t be easy for him to succeed because he must deal with an obstructionist Republican minority in Congress. In 2007-2008, the Republicans  set a record for a two-year Congress for using filibusters to prevent issues from being voted on. Before he resigned to become a lobbyist, Sen. Trent Lott, the 2007 Republican Minority Whip, confessed that “so far it (obstructionism) is working for us.” Don’t forget, most of these problems were intentionally neglected or deliberately inflicted on the American people by a rogue Republican President and his rubber-stamp Republican Congress. They are not going to let Mr. Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress change their handiwork without a fight.

by David Offutt
Revised October 15, 2009 : A version of this essay was published February 2, 2008,
in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.

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