“As for us, our eyes as yet failed for our vain help: in our watching we have watched for a nation that could not save us.” Lam 4:17
I listened to President Bush’s farewell address last night.
When I distill the speach, it comes down to a simple premise. “I vowed to defend the country against a second terrorist attack. That goal justified all the actions I took. I was successful and history will someday vindicate me because I was willing to make the hard decisions.”
I don’t buy it.
History will document that in eight short years, Bush presided over the decline of America from a pre-eminent unchallenged superpower to a bankrupt debtor nation giving way to China on the world stage.
The only hope for redemption is if a miracle happens and Iraq emerges as a transformative force for democracy and moderation in the Middle East. If that does happen, I would attribute it more to divine intervention.
The more likely scenario is a cautionary tale of how politics, ideology, and religion can create an administration so convinced of their righteous destiny that they were blind to their own shocking incompetence.
What failures he was willing to admit, he defended on the basis of good intentions.
That reflects remarkable hubris.
His administration behaved as if they knew best how to protect the American people. They insisted that they had access to information that allowed them to make better decisions than anyone else. They claimed that they were willing and able to make the difficult decisions to defend this country that others were unwilling to make. They asked for our trust with the implication that they themselves could be trusted.
But when it comes to being held accountable for the decisions that they made, they abdicate responsibility. They claim that their good intentions should absolve them of any consequences for the inability to execute the actions that they chose.
They can’t be held accountable for the phantom WMD’s because the intelligence community failed to provide good information.
They can’t be held accountable for the death and destruction caused by Katrina because state and local governments didn’t function as well as they should have.
They can’t be held accountable for the financial meltdown because CEO’s behaved irresponsibly in the unregulated market they created.
It is reasonable for the American voter to expect more of their elected officials, and in particular the expectation of competency should have been higher for the Bush administration because they claimed so much MORE unfettered power than previous Presidents.
It is reasonable to expect that Presidents would rigorously question every bit of intelligence, explore every possible alternative, and, once convinced, demand a complete battle plan that addressed the well known risks of instability and insurgency before committing our country to war.
It is reasonable to expect that our government would have good plans in place to deal with known vulnerabilities in our infrastructure (a strong hurricane striking New Orleans) and that those plans would be regularly tested and updated to reflect current capabilities. It is also reasonable to expect that when those plans are actually needed, we have enough experienced people to carry them out. Finally, it is also reasonable to expect that those plans would be sophisticated enough and the people experienced enough to escalate and expand the effort when the full scope of disaster became obvious.
It is reasonable to expect that those who are in charge of managing our financial infrastructure would regularly evaluate the risks that are introduced into that structure through government action (or inaction) regardless of their faith in a particular ideology.
It is also reasonable to expect that in an organization as large as the Federal government, there is sufficient oversight to insure that those tasked with doing a job are in fact doing it. When they are found lacking, it is reasonable to expect that an administration would hold its own accountable.
Mr. Bush and his administration failed this country at every level.
Mr. Bush’s good intentions won’t improve history’s view of his failures any more than they prevented flood waters from inundating the lower 9th ward.