At the end of my column on this subject two weeks ago, I restated my position that “success,” whether in a Presidency or on a Saturday morning errands trip, is to be measured against goals set and the degree to which they have been achieved. Thus, when one looks at the BushCheney (or CheneyBush — as I have said, your choice) record, is this a “failed Presidency?” Hardly. They set out to achieve what I have on more than one occasion termed a “coup d’etat in slow motion.” BushCheney did not measure success in terms of polls nor subsequent Republican electoral victories (at least so far). Forget them. We must look at what they did with the control of the Executive Branch that they had.
Upon gaining the Office of the Presidency Bush man first embraced the powers truly vested in him by the Constitution. Bush was then little challenged by a very weak opposition. Further, he was strongly supported for most of the first six years by his lock-step Republican Congress, and ongoing, his in-the-pocket Privatized Ministry of Propaganda. Together, he used them to create an Office of the Presidency with powers that no reading of the Constitution can possibly support. That’s success, man. Let’s review some of the policy specifics. They are well-known to most readers of TPJ, but we shall review them briefly here anyway.
On the foreign policy side, let’s begin with Iraq. Is/was it a disaster? Well, it is, if you measure it on the supposed WMD/al-Qaeda connections, or the “establishment of Democracy” (not an originally stated goal of the US invasion), and certainly on what has happened to that benighted country since. Ohmigod. First the Iraqi people suffer under Hussein for 20-plus years. Then they get Bush and his pro-counsels. What did they do to deserve that sequence? But supposing when that pre-invasion intelligence analysis predicting chaos in Iraq following an American invasion (“Analysts’ Warning of Iraq Chaos Detailed,” Pincus and DeYoung, Washington Post, May 26, 2007) came through, you didn’t say “ohmigod, how could we possibly go in there?” But rather you said “ohmigod, exactly what we are looking for: Permanent War here we come.” It is becoming ever more clear that the latter was indeed the BushCheney response. And even though in the end they did not achieve it (at least not yet), why would they want Permanent War? There are three main reasons.
First, it was the central part of their campaign to create the atmosphere of Permanent Fear at home, the only way they could have possibly legally kept the Executive Branch in Republican hands after Jan. 20, 2009. Second, it was a means of keeping one of their two most important backers, the arms industry, in clover even after the end of the Cold War oh-so-many years ago. Third, it could have created the basis for creating that “terrorist attack” and coup d’etat in Oct., 2008 which would have keep CheneyBush themselves in power after Jan. 20, 2009, about which I and many others viewed as a distinct possibility. And so, even before his famous-in-advance “September  Report” was issued, Bush’s hand-picked Gen. “Mouthpiece” Petraeus was saying (in statements that appeared to have been written for him by Rove’s staff) “we’ll be there for 10 more years, at least.” If what you want is indeed Permanent War, that’s success, man. As a side-car to this main foreign policy thrust, Bush tried as hard as he could to create a mini-Cold War with Russia with his “defensive missiles on your borders” and the “bases on your soft Central Asian underbelly” program. This would have helped for both the Permanent War strategy and “let’s keep the arms industry going full blast” plans.
Turning to domestic policy (not necessarily in order of importance), a major goal was to, as Grover Norquist put it in his famous mantra: “Shrink the Federal government to the size of a bathtub and then drown it in the bathtub.” (That is, of course, drown those parts of the Federal that serve the National Domestic Interest, not those concerned with political oppression, domestic and foreign spying, defending the extractive industries from any interference, promoting the depredations of finance capitalism, domestic thought-control [e.g., on abortion rights and gay rights], and so on and so forth.) What happened after Katrina struck was only the most famous example of the Bush/Cheney/Norquist approach to government and governing.
It was not incompetence, folks. How the Georgite Federal government acted and continued to act in the aftermath of Katrina and in so many other venues is exactly how the Georgites want it to act, viz. the Norquist prescription. They want to destroy all the functions of the Federal government, except those that have to do with the military, the prisons, other instruments of oppression and repression, and the use of tax revenues to line the pockets of themselves and their rich supporters. It is happening exactly the way it was planned to. The only big target Bush failed to hit was Social Security. Chalk up another success for Bush.
Further, Bush secured the dominance of the profit-makers, the drug companies, the insurance companies, and the health-technology companies, in the US health care delivery system. And with the help of a group of reactionary Democrats, just as were organized against the Clinton Health Plan in 1994, these sectors are once again organizing to defeat the Obama Health Plan. Bush may well have made sure that there will be no significant reform of the health care delivery system for the foreseeable future, for he has totally entrenched the aforementioned profit-makers. As Bush made sure that there would be no Federal support for stem-cell research on his watch, the US fell behind in this arena of research as well as many others (e.g., alternative energy supply and how to combat global warming and climate change). Bush made sure that homophobia would for the foreseeable future be at the centre of the Republican Party’s political attack apparatus (see the success of Prop. 8 in California).
More successes? Bush and Rove presided (indirectly to be sure) over the creation of the most powerful propaganda machine since the days of Adolf Hitler and Josef Goebbels, their Privatized Ministry of Propaganda. Just see how it wheeled into action, with a common agenda, after the Libby Commutation: “there was no crime; everyone knew Valerie Plame was covert; Ambassador Wilson’s findings were false; Libby’s memory was simply faulty.” All lies, of course, but all reflecting the White House message, and, since it sounded just like him, most likely coming straight from Karl Rove. Currently the PMP is screaming the lie that THE cause of the major breakdown that has occurred in Third Stage Capitalism (that is Finance Capitalism, succeeding the Mercantile and Industrial Stages) was “Fannie Mae” and “Freddie Mac.” They were of course supported (you know) by the “evil trio” of The Woman (Nancy Pelosi), the Gay (Barney Frank), and The Black (woman to boot) Maxine Waters. Trick mortgages from companies required to have virtually no reserves, the “securitization” and “credit default swap” processes, interest-conflicted bond-rating, and market manipulation by totally unregulated “hedge funds,” among other factors, of course had nothing to do with it.
Bush converted (if I may use that term) the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department into the “Promotion of Republican Rightist Religion Division” (N.A. Lewis, “Justice Dept. Reshapes Its Civil Rights Mission, New York Times, June 14, 2007). Bush placed in the Federal Judiciary at every level an extensive cadre of the most reactionary jurists he could find. He created a private army of “security contractors” totally beholden to him, and used them both overseas (Iraq) and at home (Katrina and now near the Mexican border, south of San Diego). Some of them already wear black uniforms. Since Blackwater has been kicked out of Iraq by the Iraqis, I wonder what their next mission might be.
At Guantanamo and elsewhere Bush trained a huge cadre of torturers and brutal prison guards for purposes that can only be guessed at (except to say that they went way beyond dealing with a group of unfortunate Muslims caught up in a web that had no purpose except torture-systems development). Then there was all the environmental stuff, no-to-global warming, and etc. And oh yes, I almost forgot, with his planned fantastical deficits and debt, and tax cuts for his rich friends and backers, even before the crisis of finance Capitalism, Bush tried as hard as he could to cripple fiscally any future Democratic government that would try to do anything positive for the country, along the lines of carrying out the governmental functions as spelled out in the Preamble to the Constitution. So far, Obama and his people seem to be outsmarting him on this one, but the story is far from over.
It has now become clear that Bush, without, then with, and now again without full control of Congress, accomplished many of his objectives, some probably beyond the Georgites’ wildest dreams of success. He did this primarily because he and Cheney and Rove and their minions had a very well thought-out plan for doing so. This man is not impotent. He was highly competent, that is to do what he clearly set out to do. In terms of his own terms, he was not a failure by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, when you compare what he achieved of the goals that he set out to achieve with what any other US President achieved in terms of his goals, Bush is indeed the most successful President of the United Sates, ever.
This column is based in part on my The Political Junkies.net Column No. 157, “The Most Successful American President: George W. Bush, Part 3: Goals and Successes”
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor of 30 books. He has also published numerous articles and reviews in both the academic and the lay literature on health policy, health and wellness, and athletics. On politics Dr. Jonas is a www.TPJmagazine.us Contributing Author; a regular Columnist for the webmagazine Buzz Flash; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano’s Journal Online; a Contributing Columnist for the Project for the Old American Century, POAC; a regular contributor to Thomas Paine’s Corner; and a Featured Writer for Dandelion Salad.