I've been quiet lately, not writing much on this blog. I was tired from writing so much before the election, but then the holidays arrived as well as illnesses. It's -7 degrees right now in Chicago, and we've had snow at least once almost every week. It's hard to escape a cold in that kind of weather. And there has been so much news -- Blagojevich, Burris, City of Chicago snow removal and on. I just haven't had the energy to write. But today I read a few articles about Bush's farewell speech tonight and felt the urge to type something out.
Steve Chapman had a good column in the Chicago Tribune today. He talked about Bush's failures, ones Bush himself seems reluctant to acknowledge. Two items stuck out:
Bush represented the alleged party of small government, yet under him, federal outlays exploded. During his presidency, spending was up by 70 percent, more than double the increase under Bill Clinton. When Bush arrived, the government was running surpluses. Since then—not counting the horrendously expensive financial bailout—the national debt has nearly doubled. You can't blame Congress for all this: Bush was the first president in 176 years to go an entire term without vetoing a single piece of legislation.
Party of small government. We've heard that about the Republicans. And I've heard complaints from people I know who consider themselves Republicans that Obama and the Democrats will spend, spend, spend. But what has Bush done in these 8 years? Republicans turn a blind eye to that. We went from surpluses under Clinton to an outrageous deficit under Bush. Much of that was defense spending, but spending all the same. I suppose spending is okay when it is for the small government party's pet projects. It's fine to spend, spend, spend as long as it isn't on silly things like health care or creating jobs or keeping people in their homes.
Conservatives are supposed to believe in strict limits on government power, but Bush pushed incessantly to expand the prerogatives of the president. He asserted the right to ignore laws banning torture and restricting wiretapping. The Supreme Court found that his imprisonment of captives at Guantanamo Bay violated the Constitution by denying them the right to challenge their detention in court.
Again, this is the party that believes in strict limits on government power, and then went ahead and exerted government power. Republicans are only the party of small government and strict limits when being small and limiting themselves doesn't interfere with their own agenda. Make the argument that he was protecting America with his abuses, but be careful. If it is acceptable for a president to turn a blind eye to prisoners tortured in Guantanamo Bay in order to protect America, then why is should it not be acceptable for any leader of any country to do the same to Americans? Stick them in some prison and torture them for the supposed purpose of protecting their country. How can we as a country denounce abuses of power by leaders in other countries when our own leader has overstepped his bounds?
In another article on The Swamp, a commenter wondered if anyone would even watch Bush's farewell speech, since he is paid so little attention now. I realized that since Obama's election, no one really has paid much attention to Bush. Oh, it was funny when he had shoes thrown at him or when he was snubbed at the G20 summit, but many people's thoughts were, "When is his last day?" His 34 percent approval rating is evidence -- an approval rating that has gone up with his impending departure. Bush can say that at least he isn't as unpopular as Nixon, but that's not really saying much. I would feel sorry for Bush, for these turn of events that have caused him to be the target of flying shoes or left to be the unpopular leader in the cafeteria at lunchtime, if Bush hadn't brought this on himself and even now refuses to admit to his mistakes. Instead calling many of those mistakes "disappointments" in his last press conference.
The Time article stated that, "In the end, though, there's a difference between self-pity and self-reflection, and it's not clear that Bush has made the distinction." Therein lies the problem. It's hard to self-reflect and understand where you went wrong when you refuse to admit you were wrong. The Time article also stated that, "The difference between Bush's mistakes and his disappointments may just be that he hasn't yet taken ownership of the latter." Maybe once Bush takes ownership of the latter, he will finally understand why Americans, and the rest of the world, are so glad to see him go.