CommunityFDL Main Blog

The President’s Report Card

The country has suffered through six years of the Bush Administration, and the signs of the devastation this regime has wrought on America and the world provide the lead news stories on a daily basis. But at least until mid 2005, the traditional media too often dutifully reported whatever nonsense the Bush regime fed it, rarely bothering to ask whether any of it made any sense or whether the President’s men, or the President himself, knew what they were doing. To be sure, there had always been plenty of warning signs of incompetence and lots of evidence, for anyone paying attention, of both lying and recklessly misrepresenting both why we went to war and how well that war was going.

But then the federal government’s abysmal response to Katrina provided all the evidence anyone needed to prove that the government under Republican and Bush leadership had become incapable of meeting the most basic requirements of public safety and welfare; competent governance seemed beyond the regime’s abilities and even outside their intentions. But this revelation did not come about through persistent media effort, digging into facts and looking behind the scenes and official statements. All it took to show the problem was a television camera and a reporter standing in the midst of a flooded city and an abandoned people.

So except for showing the obvious in NOLA, not paying attention was the media’s problem; and worse, for the most part, the traditional media just didn’t seem to care enough to do their jobs, to ask the questions they should have been asking and to search out answers from sources other than the Administration flacks who were feeding them. We didn’t just have a “rubber stamp Republican Congress.” It was worse than that: we had a rubber stamp fourth estate. But that seems to be changing, and changing fast.

Almost every day we see increasing segments of the press coming down on this regime and particularly this President with stories of ineptitude, self-delusion, corruption and even accusations of near criminally negligent behavior. And they are doing this with a ferocity that I have not seen in my lifetime – and I was there for Nixon and watched Watergate hearings every day. It seems everyone is getting in on the act, though for conservative media and pundits, the motivation may be less to denigrate the regime’s ruling principles, which the conservatives still embrace, and more to distance themselves from the regime in the hope that both they and the now suspect ruling philosophy will not be thrown out with the dirty practitioners.

Yesterday’s editorials in the Washington Post and New York Times provide an astonishing index on how far the media have traveled in their disillusionment with the Republican Party, the Bush Regime, and most especially, the President himself. The WaPo, whose editorial stance has been solidly behind the President’s war on Iraq and his equally misguided “war on terror,” while inventing apologies for the unconstitutional expansions of executive power that Bush has justified as necessary to win his “wars,” yesterday turned it’s Sunday op-ed pages over to those willing to ask the question, “Is Bush the worst President Ever?” The answers appear to range from “definitely” to “probably” to “well, maybe not the worst of all time, but certainty the worst in 160 years except for Nixon,” while the best one can muster is,”well, he looks pretty awful now, but just wait, maybe history will prove he was partly right.”

And if you read one of those, such as The worst ever, you have to read the most favorable Time's on his side as well.

But all this is a preface to Frank Rich. It is hard to match the eloquent rage of Frank Rich when he’s talking about George Bush, and Sunday’s op-ed is perhaps Rich’s best at explaining why Bush's foreign policy is not only failing but putting the nation (never mind the ME) at risk.

The title itself conveys the picture: Has he started talking to the walls? The link is behind the NYT Select wall, but below are some highlights. The prominent theme is not just incompetence; the rhetoric is about mental incapacity:

As Mr. Bush has ricocheted from Vietnam to Latvia to Jordan in recent weeks, we’ve witnessed the troubling behavior of a president who isn’t merely in a state of denial but is completely untethered from reality. It’s not that he can’t handle the truth about Iraq. He doesn’t know what the truth is. . . .

Mr. Bush relentlessly refers to Iraq’s “unity government” though it is not unified and can only nominally govern. (In Henry Kissinger’s accurate recent formulation, Iraq is not even a nation “in the historic sense.”) After that pseudo-government’s prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, brushed him off in Amman, the president nonetheless declared him “the right guy for Iraq” the morning after. . . .

In truth the president is so out of it he wasn’t even meeting with the right guy. . . .

When the president persists in talking about staying until “the mission is complete” even though there is no definable military mission, let alone one that can be completed, he is indulging in pure absurdity. . . .

When news organizations, politicians and bloggers had their own civil war about the proper usage of that designation last week, it was highly instructive — but about America, not Iraq. The intensity of the squabble showed the corrosive effect the president’s subversion of language has had on our larger culture. Iraq arguably passed beyond civil war months ago into what might more accurately be termed ethnic cleansing or chaos. That we were fighting over “civil war” at this late date was a reminder that wittingly or not, we have all taken to following Mr. Bush’s lead in retreating from English as we once knew it.

It’s been a familiar pattern for the news media, politicians and the public alike in the Bush era. It took us far too long to acknowledge that the “abuses” at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere might be more accurately called torture. And that the “manipulation” of prewar intelligence might be more accurately called lying. Next up is “pullback,” the Iraq Study Group’s reported euphemism to stave off the word “retreat” (if not retreat itself). . . .

The joke, history may note, is that even as Mr. Bush deludes himself that he is bringing “democracy” to Iraq, he is flouting democracy at home. American voters could not have delivered a clearer mandate on the war than they did on Nov. 7, but apparently elections don’t register at the White House unless the voters dip their fingers in purple ink. Mr. Bush seems to think that the only decision he had to make was replacing Donald Rumsfeld and the mission of changing course would be accomplished.

In recent days, we’ve seen (and linked in the threads: keninny has more at Down WithTyranny) several other stories/op-eds that continue the themes that the President of the United States is not only stubbornly unwilling to consider changing policy, as today's NYT article suggests, but incompetent and out of touch, even delusional – and that these characteristics have become a danger to the country. I don’t think we’ve seen this ferocity, or this degree of alarmist attacks in our lifetimes, and just like Iraq, it’s hard to see a clear path out of this. Yet the Democratic Congressional oversight hearings, which promise to turn Washington into muckrake city, and embolden the media even further to do its job, have not even begun.

So fasten your seatbelts, because we are entering uncharted territory, and it probably won’t be pretty.

Hat tips to rwcole, Marion in Savannah, Valley Girl and others for all the Sunday links, to VG & the Lurking Mod for the extra help in set up, and special thanks to Christy for finding that great pic and setting this up in WordPress last night. When Jane said there was a "secret handshake" at fdl, I should have known she meant meeting Christy.

Previous post

A new perv excuse

Next post



John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley