As the end of your term in office approaches, you are now beginning to reflect on your leadership through one of the most controversial presidencies of all time. The last 8 years will forever change the world and the future of the United States.
In your bid to win the Presidency back in 2000, you had a modest platform of lowering taxes, larger military spending and education reform. Your presidency wasn’t without successes; you successfully lowered taxes for all Americans in old “Regan” fashion with one of the largest tax cuts in American History and you increased aid to Africa to record levels. Your education reform had some limited success under the “No Child Left Behind” Act.
You presided through some of the largest corporate scandals in the history of the world as we know it, including Enron, WorldCom, and more recently the wave of banking collapses on Wall Street. Your WhiteHouse.gov tax plan sums up some of the principles behind these scandals that you have presided over:
“President Bush also understands that, over the long run, wealth is created by hard-working, risk-taking individuals, not government programs. Countries with low taxes, limited regulation, and open trade grow faster, create more jobs, and enjoy higher standards of living than countries with bigger, more centralized governments and higher taxes. The United States has led the way in economic performance over the last century because America is a freer country. If people are given the freedom to create, they do. If people are given a stake in the outcome, they succeed.”
This narrow view of the world simplistically equates wealth to “high standard of living” and ignores the real components of a truly high standard of living; environment, family, friends and the simple things that money can’t buy. It highlights all that is fundamentally wrong about America and the artificial material happiness and greed that your Government has directly promoted.
In 2001 you brought the country together after the September 11th attacks and won the hearts and minds of many Americans. You vowed revenge on those responsible for the attack and you incited a feeling of resolve in your fellow Americans.
But you abused that power and trust that your people had given you and in 2003 you lied to those same people to achieve the goals of a small group of Washington elites promoted by your right-hand-man Dick Cheney. Many of those who pushed you to go to war have since left the government, leaving you to take the sole blame, although they are as much to blame as you for their failures.
Your decision to fight 2 simultaneous wars in the Middle East played right into Osama bin Laden’s hand. With the memories of driving the Soviets out of Afghanistan fresh in his mind, Osama’s dream was to pull the US into a costly war that cannot be won.
With your USA Patriot Act passed in October 2001, you violated the most basic rights of your own citizens in the name of fighting terrorism. You tortured suspected militants in the Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq, and you’ve held prisoners of war in Guantanamo Bay for several years without charges and without trials. Your government has used an ”extraordinary rendition” program to secretly transport suspected militants to CIA “black site” prisons around the world with no oversight and zero human rights.
Your terrible handling of a natural disaster in New Orleans was a cause of resentment for the families of those who unnecessarily perished days after the hurricane hit. Not to mention your hiring of an inexperienced friend to be the head of life-saving agency FEMA.
On the environment, your country has made some achievements in increasing its capacity to generate sustainable wind power, although rolling back your father’s legislation to ban offshore drilling wasn’t a win for the earth. Toronto writer Lloyd Alter suggested that you might perhaps be a “Closet Green” because of measures you have taken to reduce your footprint at your Crawford Ranch including a 25,000 gallon rainwater collection tank for reusing rainwater and preventing erosion.
Nobody can argue that you have taken very bold measures as President; for good and for bad. But with 8 years of hindsight, the lowest approval ratings in history, a collapsing economy, a big Washington government, 2 wars, record debt levels, and a shrinking middle class, few can argue that the good has outweighed the bad.
James D. Schwartz @ The Urban Country