A Canadian politician once told me that if you put a frog in a pot of water and slowly increase the temperature a degree at a time, Mr. Hoppy would be completely cooked before he realized anything was wrong. I have no idea whether that is actually true for amphibians. But it does seem to be true for the American people.
Without exaggeration, George W. Bush, light blue tie, silly smirk and all, is the worst president this nation has ever had. Yes, I know my history. Richard Nixon was a nasty crook, Warren Harding was a slob, U.S. Grant’s administration was hugely corrupt, and James Buchanan failed to do anything to stop secession.
They were all bad, but nobody has done as much to ruin the nation and mess up the world as the reformed drunken frat boy whose daddy failed at the job before him.
You can’t blame the voters too much; most of them didn’t even want him. He had to be inserted into the Oval Office by right-wing partisans on the U.S. Supreme Court after the people narrowly chose Al Gore.
The wise men then predicted he would run a moderate, healing administration. Ha. Since day one, his government has worked hard, and largely successfully, to beggar the lower- and middle-classes for the benefit of large corporations, and nibble away at our civil liberties. Worst of all, he has gotten us into a senseless war with no end in sight with the wrong enemy in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We’re only beginning to reap the fruits of this disaster. I’ve been reading Daniel Ellsberg’s excellent memoir, Secrets, which is largely about how a succession of presidents got us into our Vietnam disaster without ever really understanding what they were doing. Dubya’s Iraq policy seems like déjà vu all over again, except worse. His crowd makes what we did in Vietnam seem reasonable. David Halberstam’s book on the men who got us into the Indochina quagmire was called The Best and the Brightest. Today’s headlines cry out for a sequel: The Worst and the Stupidest.
We apparently invaded Iraq for the same reason my dog lifts his leg on the neighbor dog’s tree. The two reasons given — that 1) Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” and 2) was involved in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — have been revealed to be totally false.
Meanwhile, we have 127,000 soldiers stuck on the burning sands of Iraq. Every day, a few get shot in the back by local guerrillas who want us out of their country. Last week, we retaliated — and managed to kill 10 Iraqi policemen and a hospital worker. Nothing like winning the hearts and minds of the conquered — oops — liberated people.
During Vietnam, our policy was that we would go home if the North Vietnamese would stop trying to take over the South. What’s our policy in Iraq? Your guess is as good as mine, or Colin Powell’s.
George Bush, remember, once sneered at the idea of “nation-building.” Now he talks as if that is our most sacred honor and duty, and hints we’ll be there for years and years. Except blustering Donald Rumsfeld, his recycled defense secretary, doesn’t seem to agree. “I don’t believe it is our job to reconstruct the country,” he told the New York Times last week. “The Iraqi people themselves will have to.” That is, when and if their new masters — us — let them.
Without any doubt, Washington was totally unprepared for the aftermath of war, unprepared for everything from the need to prevent looting to — oh, yeah — set up a new government. Most of all, they never imagined that the Iraqi people, no matter what they thought of thuggish Saddam, would see us as occupiers.
Which they do. The United Nations would take things over if we were wise enough to allow it. But for whatever reason (Oil? Pride? Worry Iraq might get a government it wanted?) the administration says no. So our men sit in the sand and are shot. And this costs, they say, $5 billion a month.
How much is that? Well, if you made a million dollars a year, it would take you until the year 7003 to reach $5 billion. The actual cost is probably higher.
Incidentally, the nation’s finances went from enormous surpluses in 2001 to the largest budget deficit in history this year. That has huge consequences for our future, starting with the interest and inflation rates. You might suppose all this would mean the president’s gang would be willing to at least postpone more tax cuts for the rich.
Not on your life. Yet today the Shrub is a heavy favorite for re-election, mainly because one shrewd band of terrorists hijacked four airplanes two years ago, and he has talked tough since and blamed them for everything from sunspots to hip hop. Next year, we do have our one chance to fire him. We don’t have to do so, of course. After all, as they used to say in the boardroom at Enron, the next four years could be really interesting.
Now for a good Texan: Jim Hightower, populist, former elected Texas official and nationally syndicated radio host, author, and damn funny storyteller, appears next Wednesday night, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. at the Centre for the Arts on Southfield Road in Southfield. He plans to explain “if we’re the world’s strongest nation, how come we have such a puny health care system?” Admission is free, but the sponsor, the Michigan Alliance to Strengthen Social Security and Medicare, can use all the donations they can get. They are, in fact, so desperate that when they needed someone to introduce him, they were forced to resort to asking me.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]