Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’
Posted on February 20, 2014 at 4.49 pm
Thanks to Rare for publishing this piece! Original version here.
Cats vs. dogs. Coke vs. Pepsi. Democrats vs. Republicans.
These are the great divisions of life. But what if one of those rivalries isn’t actually much of a division at all?
Don’t worry, I’m not trying to reignite the cola wars of the 90s. (Besides, we all know Coke is the clear winner: Do you order a Jack and Pepsi?)
No, I’m talking about Democrats and Republicans—or rather, the out-of-date and out-of-step establishments of both parties.
For libertarians, saying both parties are the same is a common theme. Democrat and Republican partisans dismiss such critiques as cynical or unserious, but there’s a real case to be made if we look at the cold, hard facts.
Here are 7 big reasons there’s no difference between establishment Democrats and Republicans:
1. Both support endless war. It’s been more than a decade since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and America’s entanglements are far from over. Though Bush is remembered as the consummate hawk, Nobel Peace Prize winner Obama has used his time in office to start or maintain additional wars in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia. Now, he wants to add Syria to the list. My generation can barely remember peace—and there’s no end in sight for a foreign policy with devastating human and financial costs.
2. Both engage in out-of-control spending. Yes, deficit spending has accelerated under Barack Obama. But you know what? There was also a massive acceleration under Bush. The fact is, debt is a bipartisan problem, and neither party is innocent. With $17 trillion of debt (and rapidly counting) as the consequence of decades of bipartisan irresponsibility, the time has passed for pointing fingers and dubbing a slightly slower rate of spending growth a “historic cut.”
3. Both ignore our most basic rights. CNN recently asked “When can a government kill its own people?” but for President Obama and some old guard GOP leaders like Sen. John McCain, that question has already been answered: Pretty much whenever it’s convenient. In fact, the U.S. government has already assassinated a 16-year-old American citizen by drone strike, killing a boy who was neither accused nor suspected of any crime.
Posted on May 1, 2013 at 11.14 am
I’ve never been one for poetry — prose is my game. But one poem I’ve always appreciated is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias, a short poem which tells of a once-glorious statue to a powerful king, now abandoned and decaying with time. Here’s the text:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Our modern kings take Ozymandias’ lead, but they tend to be less interested in statues and more interested in libraries — specifically, Presidential Libraries.
Above, the five living U.S. Presidents stand in front of the newly-dedicated George W. Bush Presidential Library while literally being heralded by a row of trumpeters. Ozymandias would be proud.
In the wake of the recent opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Reason has a good piece from Gene Healy calling for an end to tax-dollar funding of Presidential libraries. “Let America’s former presidents burnish their legacies on their own dimes,” cheekily declares the tagline.
I completely agree. Not only are these fluff projects expensive:
At 226,560 square feet and a cost of $250 million, the Bush Presidential Center is the biggest and most expensive yet of the 13 presidential libraries that one scholar has derisively called “America’s Pyramids.” [...]
Though the libraries’ construction is privately funded, they’re managed by the National Archives and Records Administration, using federal tax dollars. Last year, it cost the American taxpayer some $75 million to keep them open.
…but they also (in this case, at least) seek to justify the unjustifiable, serving as a new wing of the self-glorification campaign in which ex-Presidents apparently love to engage:
One of the key exhibits at the Bush megalith is Decision Points Theater, a virtual Situation Room wherein visitors can “consult” video advisers and make their own calls on some of the “Decider’s” key decisions, like war with Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and bailing out the banks. [...]
In Decision Points Theater, if you decide not to go to war with Iraq, “43″ himself comes onscreen to tell you flatly that you’re wrong: ”Saddam posed too big a risk to ignore. … The world was made safer by his removal.”
All sarcasm aside, let’s be honest: These libraries are vanity projects, nothing more — fodder for field trips and president-worship incarnate. Erected to memorialize the greatness of Presidents not yet dead, they’re Ozymandias’ statue modernized: ”My name is George W. Bush, Decider of Deciders: Look on my works, ye Tourists, and accept that I’m right!”
Let’s be honest again: These guys are not poor. Of the living ex-Presidents, Clinton clocks in as the wealthiest with an estimated net worth of $38 million, and even Carter, the “poorest,” is not exactly struggling at $7 million.
If former Presidents want to play Ozymandias, let them also play financier. They’re better situated to it than are we. Healy concludes, “As it happens, our recent presidents have mainly left us a patrimony of mounting debt, intrusive government, and permanent war. If you seek their monument, look around you.”
Perhaps our Presidents have surpassed the ancient king in one regard: They’ve skipped straight to the decay.
Posted on September 19, 2012 at 12.36 pm
When each new President takes office, he is allowed something of a grace period in which he may say, effectively, “I’m simply cleaning up the other guy’s mess; soon I’ll get to the good work on my own agenda.”
This is all good and fine for a while, but sooner or later his partisan opponents in particular will begin to demand an end to these claims. With Obama, of course, we have long since passed that point — that the President puts too much responsibility for the economy on Dubya is a standard Republican talking point. Obama apparently disagrees, and it may be an effective election strategy:
In a big campaign speech in Ohio this week, President Obama made perhaps his most focused case that the economy is still struggling because he inherited a giant mess created by eight years of Republican policies. And according to a new Gallup poll , Americans don’t necessarily disagree: Three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, 68 percent of Americans still blame our 43rd president a “great deal” or a “moderate amount” for the lousy economy. The “blame Bush” crowd includes 67 percent of independents and, surprisingly, 49 percent of Republicans. What’s more, those numbers have remained relatively static since August 2010. Mitt Romney is running hard against Obama’s economic record, but could Obama keep his job by running against Bush’s?
Those are fascinating stats, and while I’m no fan of Obama’s economic strategies, it’s good to see that Republicans are beginning to accept that Bush wasn’t so hot either.
I think the bigger issue, however, is this: How much responsibility is it actually fair to attribute to any President for the policies and changes in the country which occur while they’re in office? Typically supporters of any candidate are eager to give their guy credit for all the good stuff while just as eagerly asserting that all the bad stuff is out of his control. Whatever we conclude about the President’s responsibility, I’m pretty sure that conclusion is wrong.