One of the questions hanging over the Bush presidency, recently raised by his speech claiming that he “returned to Texas with (his) values intact,” is exactly what were the values of George W., and did he live up to them?
George presented himself as a small-government Republican. If limited government then is his value, the Bush presidency flunked. The federal government expanded more under Bush than any other president, especially in the area of security.
While some of the growth was due to extraordinary circumstances after September 11, 2001, the majority of it was from militaristic enforcement of drug and immigration laws, and the result of policies like the Medicare prescription drug benefit that ended up costing much more than advertised, and is a profit windfall for drug companies. Combined with the cost of the tax cuts of 2001 and ’03, those two policies account for $5 trillion of the $9 trillion in budget deficits projected for the next decade. Bush espoused the value of limited government, but his actions proved otherwise.
George loved to talk about freedom, but his must be a narrow definition related to the economic freedom to run the country’s finances into the ground. The policies of his administration greatly limited scientific research to please his religious base and the industries looking to stifle research that threatened their ability to make a profit at any cost to the nation’s health. Ironically, as the federal government, especially the EPA, unshackles itself from Bush’s grip and enjoys new freedom to save us all from disaster, Bush touts his presidential library in Texas—the only place in the world where he is still popular except maybe Israel and Poland—as a center for promoting global health. This coming from a president whose first broken campaign promise was rejecting the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases.
Whether or not human-made gases are warming the planet, we know they harm public health, so why use doubt about global warming to obscure the public health issues? The question answers itself: Obscuring public health issues allowed polluting industries freedom from regulation and scrutiny. Oops.
George also said about a million times that he values life, but his actions and policies are responsible for more deaths and loss of quality of life than perhaps any other leader in history. Begin the count with around a million Iraqis—mostly civilians—dead from the second Gulf War, add on the 4,000 Americans dead and ten times that number damaged beyond repair and the hundred times more who returned home traumatized, and we don’t even begin to count the true cost of that unnecessary war.
Hundreds of millions of people around the world have faced a direct loss because of the financial collapse of 2008, and billions from the ensuing global recession, the losses still mounting. All of which could have been prevented through financial regulation, but no, George believes in freedom when it benefits his political supporters. Screw the rest of us.
George claimed to value personal responsibility, but he continues to fail to own his responsibility for creating one of the greatest travesties of justice of all time: the secret interrogation program. Thousands of people had their freedom taken away, were tortured obscenely and treated like slaughterhouse animals. Now we learn that the driving motive behind some of the most brutal methods might have been to prove a connection between Iraq and 9/11. We’ll never know for sure because 92 CIA interrogation tapes were illegally destroyed. I bet the reason wasn’t because the White House didn’t want the public to see the embarrassing portions where interrogators tried to prove a connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam’s high school sweetheart.
Makes one wonder if these so-called values aren’t all a contrived way to cover what Bush really thinks and believes, which seems to boil down to crass opportunism. With a new library and policy center costing $300 million opening, I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot more about the values George W. supposedly believes in.