The Tragedy of the Bush Administration

Once in a generation, the stars align for a political leader. There is this perfect moment – too often based on some enormous danger of long-lasting consequences for generations to come.

Once every half century, the perfect combination of leadership and threat, of challenge and response meet. The leader – imperfect, fallible, yet ready to rise to the occasion – grabs the brass ring.

Think Winston Churchill fighting the global threat of the Nazis, Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence, JFK’s dare to send a man to the Moon.

On September 11th, George W. Bush was presented one of those rare and horrible historical moments. The terrorist attacks united the country and the world around the President: His approval rating skyrocketed to 90%. Even the French Prime Minister announced, “Tonight, we are all Americans.”

The historical opportunity was laid at the feet of the President. With a unified country behind him and a sympathetic world willing to cooperate with him in just about every imaginable way, he could have achieved monumental greatness: He could have asked for great sacrifices from the populace, and they would have willingly made them. At that moment, any reach across the aisle would have been fruitful on a number of vexing issues. A bipartisan approach to any political problem at home – cutting pork out of domestic policies, reforming Social Security, renovating the tax code – could have been accomplished in a bipartisan spirit of strengthening the economy and defending the country. He might have even done something about our education system so, in truth, no child would be left behind.

One would imagine that a man elected under what can be charitably described as “inauspicious circumstances” – with nary a mandate in sight – might have taken the 9/11 tragedy as an opportunity to move to the center, putting aside partisan political differences, and governing “all the people.” To be, in fact, truly a “uniter,” not a “divider.”

Alas, it was not to be.

After invading Afghanistan and damaging the Taliban, the President made a monumental blunder. He followed the advice of the cabal around him, and made a hard-right turn. Surrounded by ideological extremists, he took advantage of a staggering national tragedy to ram through a series of radical programs: Severe tax cuts; the highly controversial Patriot Act; and last, a very questionable second war in Iraq.

If President Bush ends up losing tonight, he only has himself to blame. Even worse than the loss, however, will be the unkind words history will write about him and his administration. It will be one of missed opportunity and squandered potential.

The epitaph will read: “Here lies the Bush Administration. It’s great tragedy was being handed a brass ring and refusing to grab it.”

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  1. BOPnews commented on Nov 2

    The Tragedy of the Bush Administration

    Once in a generation, the stars align for a political leader. There is this perfect moment

  2. rob hone commented on Nov 2

    I have heard from thinking friends on the right that the Bush agenda on tax cuts and spending was a deliberate attempt to bankrupt the systems of big government. A kind of tough love that would lead to a “force majeure” in the process of privatizing America. It would be ironic if the conservative movement had finally overplayed its hand with the Bush 2 era. Surely the rise of the conservative media along with the rise in republican power in Washington would seem to have reached a parabolic point on the cosmic chart, perhaps to recede inexorably toward a more European zeitgeist.

  3. Jeff commented on Nov 2

    Well said Barry.

  4. Mike commented on Nov 3

    Frankly, as a moderate independent who voted for Giuliani & Bloomberg here in New York, but yesterday supported Kerry over Bush, I don’t understand how this guy (Bush) won again, and with a majority of the popular vote, no less. I keep thinking there must something appealing about him that I’m just not seeing.

  5. Ralph commented on Nov 3

    A very interesting and perceptive insight
    on the first Bush term. Question, doesn’t
    this beg the question of Bush’s intellectual
    lack of historical perspective? And does this also not imply that Bush is a prisoner of the extreme faction of the R’s that gave him his long shot victory? David Gergen said on Lou Dobb’s show (CNN) today that in his opinion, the Bush administration is the most agenda driven presidency he has seen in his long career as an advisor to president. This tells me that we had better be prepared for a very wrenching time ahead.

  6. dsquared commented on Nov 4

    It was Le Monde that said “we are all Americans”; Chirac expressed sympathy but didn’t comeup with the phrase.

    Looking on the bright side, the first Reagan administration was a dead loss too and look how that turned out.

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