Sunday, January 03, 2010

Fighting Over the Squandered Decade.

E J Dionne has an interesting article in today's TruthOut in which she argues that the reason the Republicans are being so obstructionist when it comes to the Obama presidency is because they are desperate to bring about a rewriting of the Bush years.

They know fine well that the election of a black, pro-abortion son of a Kenyan goat herder was only made possible because of the enormous public backlash against the policies of George W. Bush and they are anxious to cast his disgraceful presidency in a better light.

I’m afraid that the past 10 years will be seen as a time when the United States badly lost its way by using our military power carelessly, misunderstanding the real challenges to our long-term security, and pursuing domestic policies that constrained our options for the future while needlessly threatening our prosperity.

I am aware that the previous paragraph is thoroughly controversial, and that befits any description of a politically consequential decade. Much of the contention surrounding Barack Obama’s presidency is simply a continuation of our argument over the effects of George W. Bush’s time in office.

That is why Obama, despite his fervent wishes, has been unable to usher in a new period of consensus. Bush’s defenders know that Obama’s election represented a popular reaction against the consequences of the 43rd president’s time in office. Because Obama is both the anti-Bush and the leader of the post-Bush cleanup squad, his success would complete the rebuke. So the Bush camp -- Karl Rove’s regular contributions to The Wall Street Journal’s opinion pages are emblematic -- must stay on the attack.

Domestically, Obama inherited an economic catastrophe. Dealing with the wreckage required a large expenditure of public funds that increased a deficit already bloated by the previous president’s decision to fight two wars and to cut taxes at the same time. Bush’s defenders, preferring to focus attention away from this earlier period of irresponsibility, act as if the world began on Jan. 20, 2009, by way of saddling Obama with the blame for everything that now ails us. But the previous eight years cannot be wished away.

To listen to the Republicans one would be forgiven for imagining that the economic crisis - and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - all started on Obama's watch. They are simply desperate to lay the blame for Bush's failures squarely at Obama's door.

That's also why Cheney and other Republicans have jumped all over the recent thwarted terrorist attack.

They are anxious to portray Obama as being too soft when it comes to national security, to imply that only the Republicans - with their embrace of torture and their defiance of international law - have the right attitude to keep America safe.

So the last decade is going to be the subject of furious debate and revisionism.

The Republicans could only go one of two ways: they could either accept that their extremism had been rejected and adjust accordingly, or they could do what they appear to have chosen to do; attempt to insist that they were right and that the public have got this one wrong and continue to argue that torture and the policies they embraced for the best part of the last decade are the only way to keep the US safe.

It's an ugly argument and it's one that comes about because the Republicans have no fresh ideas to speak of. So they are left publicly defending an ideology which has already been rejected.

The recent economic crisis destroyed the Republican mantra of "deregulation, deregulation, deregulation", which is why their more sober thinkers have gone to ground recently. They have realised that they need to come up with slogans which have not been discredited.

But, the public face of that party is now filled with people who insist that the Bush years were a great success and that Obama is undoing the great work of the last president.

Knowing that Obama was elected to undo the mess which Bush created, they are determined to obstruct him at every turn.

They simply refuse to accept that his presidency was an abject failure. To that end we can expect autobiographies from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld which all seek to portray the Bush years as essential to American security.

As Dionne puts it:
Americans instinctively recoil at living too much in the past. Yet we have no choice but to reach a settlement about the meaning of the last 10 years. It is the only way we will successfully turn the next 10 into a decade of renewal.
The US, during the Bush years, went against the very ideals which made that nation admired throughout the world, and embraced torture and other techniques which the US had traditionally led the world in rejecting.

Bush and his supporters are insisting that they were right to do what they did. It is in America's interests that this revisionism be thoroughly rejected.

Click here for full article.

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