Standing before the American Enterprise Institute, Bush made another embarrassing attempt to shore up his failed legacy, pleading futilely that he is not the 21st century's Herbert Hoover. What he did instead was solidify his standing as the most disastrous president in our history.
Presiding over the worst economic crisis in generations, the largest debt in history, two wars with no end, a nightmarish record on the environment, and a string of illegal attacks on our constitution, Bush would admit to no mistakes. Wow. Instead, he made the disingenuous claim that he did not sell his soul to be popular. Perhaps he should have, because his alternative is worse: he sold his soul to the devil of ignorant obstinacy.
He excused his failures by noting that he had endured "some tough challenges" during his presidency. Sadly, he ignores the reality that many of those challenges are a direct result of his own failed policies. He is like a guy poking himself in the eye who is amazed that he has blurred vision. He remains proud of his actions without recognizing their destructive consequences. His pride is badly misdirected to the point of being delusional.
But even worse, he failed to recognize the bankruptcy of the fiscally irresponsible Republican philosophy of "borrow and spend" and rampant deregulation of the financial markets. As a borrow-and-spend Republican, Bush claimed he was uncomfortable with his own support for government bailouts, takeovers and equity stakes in banks. He went on to say that "This is a difficult time for a free-market person." Particularly for a free-market person who caused the "difficult times" by allowing unfettered free markets to run amok.
Let's see. The Republican philosophy of deregulation and laissez-faire capitalism led to credit default swaps, subprime lending and colossally corrupt hedge funds, which brought our economy to the precipice of disaster. A $1 trillion government bailout is the Republican answer to the crisis. So now, let's be clear. The Republicans in one breath claim as a founding principle the idea that "government is the problem, not the solution," and then in the next turn to the government as the solution to the problem they created. That is breathtaking. Webster has to reprint the dictionary because we have a new definition of hypocrisy. The crisis and the solution are double, lethal blows to the party of Ronald Reagan: the intellectual bankruptcy of Republican thought created the crisis, blow one, and then the Party was forced to use the tools of government they have been campaigning against for decades, blow two, to climb out of the hole their own ideas created.
What does Bush say to all of this? After expanding the powers of the presidency well beyond constitutional limits, he has the temerity to blame his troubles on a weak Executive Branch, complaining that he does not have a line-item veto. He is "disappointed" in the politics of personal destruction, after his guru Karl Rove had John Kerry "swift boated" and John McCain accused of siring black babies out of wedlock during the Republican primary. Speaking of Karl and hypocrisy, he actually criticized Obama for not being sufficiently transparent. We could not make this stuff up.
Cheney finally owned up to his role in authorizing torture, after years of denying any involvement. He did so without even a hint of concern that he blatantly lied to the American people for his entire term in office. He lied about Valerie Plame. He lied about wiretapping. He lied about Iraq. He hides his records and secret meetings by making the weird claim he is not part of the Executive Branch. And Barack is not transparent enough! We could not possibly make this up.
The Bush administration is the Michael Phelps of the Hypocrisy Competition at the Presidential Olympics. Others have swum in these waters before, but nobody has ever achieved this level of perfection in the event. They are the Da Vinci of deceit, the Michelangelo of moral turpitude.
The rot goes deep into the federal infrastructure. A perfect example is the decay within the Interior Department as exposed by a recent report from the Interior Inspector General Earl Devaney. Julie MacDonald, recently resigned in disgrace, decimated the Endangered Species Act in her position as Deputy Assistant Secretary overseeing the Fish and Wildlife Service. She applied political pressure in seven rulings, inappropriately denying protection to endangered species. Her political interference was so blatant that her actions were eventually overruled following an internal investigation. During that investigation another 13 cases were exposed in which McDonald had interfered on political grounds. She has no training in the natural sciences. The IG report concludes that "MacDonald's zeal to advance her agenda caused considerable harm to the integrity of the Endangered Species Act [ESA] program and to the morale and reputation" of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "Her heavy-handedness has cast doubt on nearly every ESA decision issued during her tenure" from 2002 to 2007.
The MacDonald saga perfectly exemplifies Republican disdain for government, placing unqualified political hacks in key positions, and she is not alone. Remember Michael Brown at FEMA, who qualified for that position as a former Judges and Stewards Commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association? We saw the results of that after Katrina. Or how about Monica Goodling at the Department of Justice, who had virtually no prosecutorial experience, but was given the position of hiring federal prosecutors on the basis of her qualifications as a conservative Christian? We know where that led: the scandal in which nine prosecutors were fired in the worst politicization of the Justice Department since Watergate, leading to the resignation of Alberto Gonzales. The evidence of Republican scorn for government in word and action is overwhelming.
Yet these same Republicans immediately turned to government to bail them out of their own mess at the first sign of serious trouble. Hypocrisy has reached frightening new heights.
We could not make this stuff up.