Friday, June 6, 2008

Bush Did His Best

I'm reasonably certain that George W. Bush has done what he though was best for the country at most if not all opportunities. I just don't think he was very smart about quite a few huge items on the domestic and international stages. I imagine this is for a variety of reasons: 1) I don't think he is very accepting of opinions differing from his once he's made up his mind. 2) I suspect several of his advisers are acting in self-interest (consider the Cheney-Haliburton connection, for one, and see the amount of money being funneled into political campaigns and lobbying in Washington for another source of corruption) 3) I expect he gets much of his input from those advisers before making up his mind and 4) I'm not convinced that he is especially smart, given his C grades at Yale. None of this says he's a bad person or in any way unpatriotic, just misinformed, resolute, and ill-suited to his present job.

Domestically, the only complaints I have with him are regarding logging old-growth forests that had previously been protected and an energy policy that focuses on increased consumption of non-renewable resources and research into inefficient renewables like ethanol and hydrogen fuel cells to the exclusion of other, more urgent needs like improving vehicle fuel efficiency and our railroad system. I also don't like his warrantless wiretapping on U.S. citizens, which you might say is justified, but I would point out that there is a court in place to authorize such things, and the court was not consulted. "No Child Left Behind" has proven to be aimed at getting students out of public schools and into private ones, because its requirements are impossible to meet. How are English as a second language (ESL) students going to improve their test scores as a group when the group is always rotating because they are the ones who are new to the country? I'm also disappointed in various political appointments, such as Michael Brown as FEMA head, who had no relevant experience when he took the job. There are a few other issues, but those are the biggest in my mind today.

Politicians favoring cronies has cost many countries much livelihood. I imagine it is mostly corruption that Mexicans have to thank for their present economic state. In every administration, and especially in the most recent, we have a fine example of our President returning political favors by making appointments of unqualified people to various positions and then wondering why things didn't work out. If I were President, I would hire a staffing firm to find some qualified cabinet members!

Internationally, Bush got off on the wrong foot at the start of his administration when he as much as said, "The Middle East is not my problem. Let the Middle Easterners sort it out." It didn't take him long to change his tune. The war with Iraq was a colossal blunder and should not have been undertaken. It was a presented as a conflation of two events that were unrelated (9/11 hijackings were clearly linked to Al Quida and Afghanistan, but not to Iraq). The Iraq reconstruction was undertaken with all the foresight of a fifth grader. We learned much in the reconstruction of Japan and West Germany that could have been useful in Iraq, but history was disregarded because we supposedly had new methods that would make troops more efficient. When Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki suggested in a Congressional Briefing that it might take "several hundred thousand soldiers," more troops than the White House wanted, he was sidelined within four months of that accurate assessment because it was not politically expedient. Guantanamo Bay is a national disgrace. How can we claim to be fighting terrorism when we take innocent civilians off the streets in foreign countries and imprison them halfway around the globe? Ah, "But they're not innocent", you might say. And I ask how you would know that, since they haven't been tried in 5 years, they haven't had access to courts, and everything related to the camp has been a fiasco. These people have been held against their will and without any recourse whatsoever. What's more, a number of them have been tortured. It is only this White House that would try to coerce information from a prisoner who hasn't been in the loop for 5 years. Imagine the furious families those political prisoners left behind. Unfortunately, the nearly solo invasion and continued occupation of Iraq has cost this country dearly in terms of international clout. (If you doubt this, try discussing our President with any foreigner, or better yet, travel abroad and discuss our politics.) You don't have to take my word for it, either. Just look at the performance of the U.S. Dollar for his term. It has been on a steady decline.

In summary, I suppose if Bush had been specifically determined to ruin our country, he would have been more efficient about it, but he has fairly effectively ruined the economy by spending money we didn't have for a war we didn't need, taken our freedoms by listening to our communications, spent our international political capital to zero, and done his best to see that the public school system is ineffective. In all, he has done a fantastic job of wrecking things in spite of his best efforts.

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