We’re not accustomed to giving President George W. Bush kudos for a job well done, but in one regard he’s exceeded all expectation: Junior has succeeded in turning half the population solidly against him.
In the last three months, Bush’s approval ratings nationwide have dipped by 10 percentage points, and a recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press shows that internationally he’s viewed with similar disdain.
His crotch-grabbing conduct in the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq has made the United States a global pariah, but it’s his cold indifference to facts on the ground that have cost him at home.
Take the economy.
Addressing voters recently in Ohio, a state brutalized by the last three years, Bush said the 6.2 percent unemployed Buckeyes are going through a “transition.” And promoting job retraining without offering a program, he added, “If you become a more productive citizen, you’ll make more money.”
But the real kicker came when he insisted that Americans are better off as a result of his intervention: “Our economy is expanding, productivity is strong, unemployment has been falling, incomes are rising — and we’re going to stay on this path of growth and prosperity in this country.”
Consider these facts:
- The workforce has lost more than 3 million jobs since he took office in 2000.
- The unemployment rate in January reached 5.6 percent.
- In February nearly 400,000 Americans gave up looking for work.
- The trade deficit in March showed another monthly high of $43.1 billion.
- The number of uninsured Americans during his tenure rose to 43.6 million and increasingly those with coverage are paying more to keep it.
Against this preponderance of evidence, Bush’s absurd insistence that the United States is on the right track suggests economic policy has become the latest of his faith-based initiatives. And recalls James Carville’s famous quip from Daddy’s only term: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
But the Bushes suffer less from idiocy than a rarefied privilege that owes no relation to shared human reality. And where this detachment once resulted in head-scratching incredulity — recall George I honestly marveling at scanners even then commonly found in grocery stores — Junior’s is rightfully viewed with contempt.
Central themes of this presidency have been sacrifice and service to national interests: rebuilding the economy, ridding the world of evil and bringing the light of democracy to darkened lands. And working men and women, soldiers and the elderly willingly pitched in, even as it became blindingly apparent that not all are expected to contribute equally.
While sending American soldiers to their deaths Bush defended a military record limited to combative stints at the barber and the dentist in the Alabama DMZ.
Next he sought to profit from images of 9⁄11 in his first round of television ads, a callous move immediately denounced by victims’ families, friends and colleagues. Now come revelations by longtime presidential advisor Richard Clarke that intransigence and disregard of facts contributed to the tragedy that day.
All the while, his corporate supporters profited from tax cuts, war contracts and legislative subsidies — and the resulting kickbacks to Bush/Cheney ’04 have made the campaign the largest payola scam in history.
For three years this plutocrat masqueraded as an ordinary guy and got away with it because terrorism, war and a failing economy loomed so large as to overwhelm anyone in office.
But as the other 50 percent see these forces for what they are — successful policies crafted to consolidate the wealth and power of an economic elite — voters will take Bush at his word. And come November they will “bring it on.”