Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The rise and fall of the Bush presidency

According to E.J. Dionne, in a provocative column in today's Post, the Bush Era is over:

The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this...

The Bush Era, if it may be called that, began on September 14, when Bush stood upon the wreckage of the World Trade Center and launched the so-called War on Terror. He "[identified] enemies and [rallied] a nation already disposed to action," and "[v]ery nearly all of us rallied behind him".

But... well, you know the rest of the story. The War on Terror metamorphosed into the War in Iraq, and that hasn't gone well. There were those excessive tax cuts "for his wealthiest supporters". There was the botched attempt to privatize social security. There was the sluggish economy. There were the massive budget deficits and a booming national debt. And Iraq kept getting worse and more Americans were dying in the streets of Baghdad and Fallujah and all around that occupied land. There was the partisanship. All that nasty partisanship from a man who claimed, arrogantly and erroneously, to be a uniter, not a divider. And then there was Katrina:

And so the Bush Era ended definitively on Sept. 2, the day Bush first toured the Gulf Coast States after Hurricane Katrina. There was no magic moment with a bullhorn. The utter failure of federal relief efforts had by then penetrated the country's consciousness. Yesterday's resignation of FEMA Director Michael Brown put an exclamation point on the failure.

The source of Bush's political success was his claim that he could protect Americans. Leadership, strength and security were Bush's calling cards. Over the past two weeks, they were lost in the surging waters of New Orleans.

Dionne is one of my favourite pundits, but I'm not sure what to make of this. I agree (mostly) with his assessment of the rise and fall of the Bush presidency. And I agree that Bush is at such a low point in the wake of Katrina that he may not be able to recover. But he has three and a half years left, and three and a half years are a long time in politics. Dionne's on to something, but it may be a bit premature to write Bush off so early in his second term. Just as Katrina brought him low by exposing the hollowness of his leadership, or the lack thereof, some as-yet-unknown event could bring him back up, if not to the level of support and popularity he enjoyed after 9/11, than at least back up to respectability.

Regardless, for those of you who dislike Bush and who have found his presidency to be something of a disaster, take comfort. The Bush era may not quite be over, but it soon will be.

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