Adding Insult to Injury: The Bush Legacy

(Really Just a Toegacy)

By Ben G. Price

"Come the millennium month 12, in the home of the greatest power, the village idiot will come forth to be acclaimed the leader."--Nostradamus 1555

Prophecy is for weathermen and dead eccentrics with beards longer than mine. I prefer Irony. And it IS ironic that Nostradamus spoke with so little evidence about a time he knew not at all (not unlike George W. Bush speaking of his own times), yet defined so well the current leader of what his father termed the "New World Order."

Where Bill Clinton could not patch together a "legacy" after eight years of lost opportunity, George W. Bush has staked out a territory of historical remembrance of his having passed this way with the ease of a fart allowed an unhindered path into the wider world. (Had California not been so miserly with its votes for the minority White House resident, such intentional natural gas leaks might seem less cruel from the oil man's friend in Washington.)

So what is this legacy, already established in blueprint by the new regime? I can't supply in this space all the details of its callow origins in the deep pockets of well-healed benefactors, but perhaps I can indicate tubers and roots that go further back than the humble beginnings of a presidential primary campaign that offered some opposition to what we can see in retrospect as the purchased certainty of a Bush Jr. win.

In the second Republican primary debate, George Bush II allowed as how what he wanted to do was open the economy for the advancement of the "Entrepreneurial Class." These were his words. That was his goal, he said. And it seemed, in context of the GOP run-off between eight contenders, that George wanted to evoke the inglorious Reagan revolution and assume its mantle of conservative, property-rights oriented Whig tradition.

You will recall that the rationale for instituting "trickle down" economics attributed to "the Great Communicator," Ronald Reagan, was the ideology of deregulation of corporate industry and the defanging of worker and consumer rights and protections. Reagan, being the Great Communicator that he was, rephrased the rollback of rights as the "unleashing of the American genius."

The cautions expressed by many at the time said that what he and his handlers really wanted to do was let the corporate genii of greed, acquisition and community irresponsibility out of the bottleneck of justified regulation, but these Cassandras went unheeded in Washington and the media. Ironically, George Bush senior, who challenged Reagan in the 1980 primaries, referred to the Reagan economics plan (later dubbed "Reagonomics") as "Voodoo Economics." It was a candid moment that did not cost him the Vice Presidency. Duplicity in the name of power is no vice forfeiture, apparently.

When George W. lionized the "Entrepreneurial Class," he also seemed to be resurrecting his father's inept attempt to couch the media-aimed reevaluation of his rebuke of "the Vision Thing" in terms of visionary grandiosity. Bush Senior's coining of the Velcro Ping-Pong ball term "The New World Order," haunted him domestically and internationally. It seemed, with the demise of the Soviet Union, too enthusiastic a chest beating by the lone "Super Power," and it left allies and enemies alike, edgy and apprehensive about American intentions under the new global political conditions of American unilateralism. To his credit, George H.W. Bush never again used the term "New World Order." But it's been as hard for him to live-down as was his vomiting on the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister at a state dinner. ("I'm so sorry, Mr. Prime Minister! Next time, dinner's on me!")

George Herbert Walker Bush (Mister Golden Mouth) tried to recuperate from the "New World Order" faux pas domestically by seeming to adopt a vision for America (something for which he had publicly expressed disdain in his "I don't get this 'Vision Thing'" statement) by speechifying from his bull pulpit during his reelection bid about "A Thousand Points of Light." Cautions similar to those sent forth about "Trickle Down" Reagan anti-populism accompanied this inept pronouncement. It was generally perceived by those not inured to privilege that what George I was referring to was the thousand or so plutocrats who control more wealth than the rest of the population combined. Bush Senior's newfound vision went as far as the spotlight gleaming off of a thousand donor's bald heads at a fund raiser. The refracted light went out of his campaign about as fast as it gleamed off those happy orbs. Little George stood by, a headful of hair and unhappy.

There was a lull in the Bush legacy for eight years while Bill Clinton tried to limbo lower under the lowered ethical bar of politics than any of his predecessors. I hate to think of that as "the good old days," but when we keep electing the lesser of two evils, eventually we all end up cheering for evil incarnate. Funny thing, this time around, Nostradamus or not, we might not have got the lesser of two evils for a change.

Given presidential term limits, Bush Jr. (affectionately known as "The Shrub" in some circles) didn't have to do much to win the White House except lose the popular vote and play a Supreme Court stacked with his dad's appointees against a controversial outcome in the state of Florida, where his brother is Governor and the Attorney General (who ruled on the controversial recount question) headed his state campaign. All's fair in love and Class War.

When critics look back on the short political life of George W. Bush as we know him so far, his raising of "the Entrepreneurial Class" to his preferred pantheon of American heroes early in the campaign for an office he now holds with dubious legitimacy will be seen as the first shot in a Class War waged against the vast majority of Americans.

Ironically, when more temperate and responsible critics of his early moves against individual rights in favor of property rights speak out, George W's allies (panjandrums of the deified few who funded his campaign) hit the corporate owned airwaves and corporate monopolized print media with hoots and howls, claiming that, "As usual," the liberals are "playing the class war card."

Life imitates the death of honesty.

Okay, what do I mean by his early moves against individual rights in favor of property rights? Gee mister W, that's easy! Individual rights are those things both defined in the US Constitution's Bill of Rights (and left undefined too, as rights not to be infringed on if not explicitly regulated by the Constitution) and defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which the US is bound).

Property rights are legitimate claims to ownership of land and assets. However, there is a new version of "property rights" being advocated and well on the way toward a fait accompli which makes corporations superior not only to human individuals in the eyes of the law (a tyranny sealed by Morrison R. Waite, Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1886 when he unilaterally claimed that corporations have the same rights as people under the protections afforded by the 14th amendment), but also superior to national governments elected democratically by human individuals. Legitimate property rights differ from illegitimate ones, but they are difficult to tell apart, given the use of money to blur the distinctions.

Those who denigrate the protesters in Seattle who shut down the World Trade Organization (WTO) conclave, and the citizens of many nations who gathered in Quebec City to halt the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) conclave, and those who were arrested in Prague to challenge the WTO, and those throughout South America who are standing up against undemocratic forces aligned with profit over community....those who do not understand and therefore acquiesce to the use of police to control and intimidate citizens are mislead by the corporations who have absolute control of the information outlets of network and cable news, as well as monopolized newspapers and magazines. The truth is this: democracy is on its last legs. We can watch it exit quietly, or we can oppose its passing and either save it or mark its demise with a clear popular statement of protest.

George W. fits into this puzzle. He got where he is on a green carpet of cash, and his every move to-date has served a master other than the American electorate. That would seem fitting to some, since the American electorate chose not to elect him. I'd call it ironic.

Let's see. George W. favors the death penalty, which has been banned by all advanced and industrialized nations other than this one. In fact, George Dubya presided over the largest number of state killings in the nation as Governor of Texas. He has rolled back American workers' rights to sue employers for harm caused, has presided over the impoverishment of people seeking bankruptcy protection, thinks global warming is okay and that deaths from industrial pollution are justified in the pursuit of profit. He doesn't want to make mining companies responsible for dumping arsenic into drinking water. He lied about backing the Kyoto accords during his campaign, and cancelled his promise to commit American industry to clean up Carbon Dioxide emissions that are unquestionably warming earth's atmosphere and will cause death, loss of land and home for many throughout the world if not checked. He opposes banning land mines that terrorize whole populations long after wars are ended. George W. was not, apparently, surprised when the UN voted the US off it Human Rights Commission. He didn't care, and he wasn't surprised. He told congress to send our dues to the UN anyway. Let them eat greenbacks, I suppose.

Two days after being booted from the UN Human Rights Commision, the US was ousted from the UN Narcotics oversight commision. Everyone in congress must have shrugged as they did when the UN sent its message that the US is violating human rights and shouldn't globally legislate them. What could the narcotics ouster portend?

As I suggested at the outset, I am more attuned to Irony than Prophecy. Given that the US has been conducting its own version of a global Boar War over drugs for decades, and using the pretense of drug manufacture, transport, or use to violate human and civil rights at home and throughout the world, I am more bemused by the ouster of the US from oversight of UN Narcotics policies than shocked or dismayed. It is, after all, less dissonant with reality to have the US censored for its longstanding supidity and duplicity than to see war criminals such as Kissinger granted Nobel Peace Prizes.

The mistake made by early critics of George W. Bush is that he is himself manifestly stupid. True believers in justice often make the mistake of judging rogues as intellectually inferior to patriots. They are not. Though borish and without couth, many a tyrant is smart enough to get what he wants despite the best arguments of better educated and better mannered opponents. Facism is a great attractor for low-brow but effective and motivated over-achievers.

I would prefer to think of George W. Bush as a clownish college boy who drinks too much but wouldn't hurt a fly. I'd like to think that he sees his presidency as the ultimate Toga Party, and that he will do no more harm than the usual incompetent president. I do not, however, really think we're in for a mere Togaocracy. That's the spin, such that it is, given the triumph of the greater of two evils. What could be worse?