12 January 2009

Dubya Bush's last stand

I had a very good laugh today watching Channel 4 News who led with Dubya's final press conference before the handover. Jesus, this guy stays duff right to the end. He said there are "enemies who want to inflict damage on Americans" when his own administration has inflicted more damage on more Americans than any since the US Civil War. He wished Obama good luck - he would have been more honest saying "I got us into a right mess, kid - now let's see you get us out of it".

It was quite hard to disagree with anything George Galloway said (his basic line was that Bush had been a disaster for the developed world and the Middle East). They had a guy from the supposedly 'progressive' Brookings Institute on who wasn't really given a fair hearing but in any case, what he had to say was patent bollocks - saying that Bush will be looked on kindly by historians in the long run. Well, if Obama is actually Mussolini in disguise, that's probably right. But in the real world, the Brookings guy (can't remember his name, sorry) should be ashamed of himself for talking such absolute crap.

My final view on Bush is a bit more nuanced than some on the Left - I don't think he is a complete idiot. On the contrary he's an astute, if limited, politician, who made an agreement with Dick Cheney and with some of the major US corporations - particularly in oil and infrastructure - that he was going to run America in the interests of big business and a few super-wealthy people at the top of the pile. He then proceeded to implement that strategy to perfection over 8 years. 

Huge cuts in taxes for the very rich, massive government deficits going towards pork-barrel spending to favour large corporations (particularly a massive increase in the defence and internal security budgets), and also, post 9/11, using the Patriot Acts to pave the way for the future abolition of the US electoral system and the final corporate takeover of America and the establishment of a corporate-fascist state. That's the long-run Republican agenda. It's anti-democratic, anti-liberal, anti-libertarian and anti-(traditional) conservative. Which explains why Dubya currently has an approval rating of 25%. That 25% is the proportion of the US population who are either benefiting directly from his legislation, or who are so dumb that even after the collapse of the US economy, they still can't see the agenda.

Actually, on the economy, Bush made things worse but the foundations for economic collapse were laid by Reagan and Clinton in the 1980s and 1990s respectively. It was Reagan who began financial liberalisation and Clinton who repealed the Glass-Steagal Act which separated commercial and investment banking. Clinton of course has the excuse that he was just following what had then become the conventional orthodoxy (not a perfect excuse, by any means) - whereas Reagan helped create that orthodoxy. Bush had little in the way of explicit ideological underpinning for any of what he did, which was his strength as a populist politician. But it's also wrecked the Republicans' electoral chances - probably for a long time to come, in the same way that the intellectual incoherence of the Carter presidency killed the Democrats off for a decade.

So I would advise that you ignore any sentimentality which emerges as Bush departs. The guy was not an idiot. But he was a dangerous populist asshole, possibly the worst US president of all time, and we are all much worse off because he was in power for 8 years, and much better off now that he is the hell out of there.


Van Patten said...

I agree with some of what you say here. As the recent 'W' film by Oliver Stone points out, there was no 'exit strategy' for the Iraq debacle, and although some sterling work by the commander on the ground, Richard Petraeus, has made the situation less grim than it seemed in '05/'06, it's still highly volatile. Afghanistan remains very difficult, and has all the hallmarks of being as ill-fated a venture as the Soviet invasion of the 1980's.

Surely it was gratuitous to use Galloway (how many Jews did you kill today?)in support of any argument? Why not drag in quotes from Lenin or Laventi Beria? This is a guy who described the collapse of the USSR as 'the greatest tragedy in his lifetime' (try following that line in any of the newer EU ex-COMECON states and avoiding a hefty bill for dental reconstruction)and who persistently gives succour and support to some of the most anti-democratic, anti-semitic and violently reactionary elements of Islam for electoral consideration. It's like me hauling Nick Griffin in to support my arguments!

Interesting to note your reference to Glass- Steagall, which was mentioned as one of the prime causes of the economic crisis. Interestingly, Super Obama has a number of economic advisors on his team who were instrumental in removing the Glass-Steagall restrictions? One wonders if the benefit of hindsight will lead them down a different path this time?

Where you lose coherence completely is in attributing this economic crisis to the reforms of Reagan. I think you need to check your Calendar as I'm concerned your life might be being used as a sequel to the BBC series 'Ashes to Ashes' . Reagan left office in 1988 and died in 2004. Thatcher left office in 1990 and although still alive, is in a state of declining health. I could well understand your ire if, like so many on the left, the collapse of the USSR, caused in no small part by Reagan,had caused immediate financial pain in terms of loss of second income (as it surely did for Galloway, Ken Livingstone and Arthur Scargill) but otherwise, it is now nearly two decades on - Move on!

'Reagan began financial liberalisation'

Which suggests you would prefer (at least in the UK) that the Thatcher reforms of the 1980's were repealed or indeed had never happened? Thus the reimposition of exchange controls, the reintroduction of passbook only accounts, Monopoly provision of basic public services? Can you imagine had the conditions in 1978/79 continued to prevail even to now? I don't think we'd be having this discussion as I think Tim Berners- Lee would never have been able to invent the internet as he wouldn't have been able to take enough money out of the country to do so!

Besides which, Clinton was in power in the US for 8 years, surely during which time he had enough support to reverse the direction of the economy? In the UK the situation is even more stark. The Major government was an ineffective lame duck administration from '93 onwards,thus the Labour pary has had the benefit of 4 years in opposition of poll leads that seldom went below 25% and 11 years of government - why during that time, has no effort been made to 'turn the clock back?'

I think Bush will not be looked upon especially favourably, but as for him jeopardising the Republican's electoral chances 'for years to come' Even with that millstone around his neck, Mccain did better than any losing Democrat candidate in my memory, and as Obama's lustre begis to fade, it doesn't take much prescience to see a Republican vistory in 2016, especially once the extent of South East Asian influence on the Democrats becomes known!

giroscoper said...

Actually you make some very important points here. I agree on Galloway - the guy is pretty duff, and I only put him in there because I'd just been watching Channel 4 news and what he said on that particular occasion was hard to disagree with.

Good point on the Obama advisors - Larry Summers in particular is pretty suspect.

Surely the point is that the deregulation started by Reagan (OK, so if we want to get really technical it started under Carter, but Reagan is where the real push started) is where the finance system started to head out of control? In other words, this crisis was nearly 30 years in the making. Not all the deregulation was bad or unwelcome but a good proportion of it was reckless.

Good point on the "why didn't Clinton or Blair roll back the tide" argument? My answer would be, firstly they lacked the guts, and secondly they started to believe the right-wing hype.

One thing I forgot to say in defence of Bush - to paraphrase one of your earlier comments on this blog, he has done more than any US president in history to reinvigorate the hard left as a viable political option. Good for him!