Whatever crack through which defenders of George W. Bush might still pass an argument that the man is not unworthy of the presidency has just slammed shut.
We had already heard that Bush 43 had a peculiarly narrow view of presidential duties.
"In Media In Crisis"(Doukathsan), Baker quotes Herskowitz as telling him [in 1999]: "He (Bush) said he wanted to do it (invade Iraq), and the reason he wanted to do it is he had been led to understand that you could not really have a successful presidency unless you were seen as commander-in-chief, unless you were seen as waging a war."
His approach to the presidency was that it is undertaken to be a great and historic figure. That's a flawed enough perspective in itself, but to have concluded that greatness is a shoo in achieved through war, is so craven and lazy as to seem nearly insane.
Bush 43 has also already exposed a personal motive in making war that no leader more significant than a Columbian drug lord would consider.
'My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.' He said, 'If I have a chance to invade?.if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency."
What we had not yet heard was something revealed in Oliver stone's new documentary on the secret history of America for Showtime. Keith Olbermann's producers found a Stone interview with the former president of Argentina in which the keystone to the edifice of Bush's last vestige of competency is revealed.
Nestor Kirchner, former Argentine president, told Oliver Stone that in a personal session with George Bush, Bush had told him "the United States has grown based on wars".
Dick Cheney said, "Deficits don't matter," and now we know the full breadth and depth of why he said that.
Most people to the left of center will easily agree that the GOP finds a certain criminal delight in ruining government with tax cutting and debt. What we have yet to realize is that the "C" student son of George Herbert Walker Bush seems to have decided he had found the key to making economy and government killing tax cuts work for the rich and stimulate the economy at the same time.
Young W seems to have thought that wars create economic growth. WW II did just that. Couple the economic growth generated by a war with the political capital of waging and winning a cheap and easy victory over the paper tiger of the Iraq military and you would surely have done what no other Reagan ideologue could do, make Trickle Down work. It would be totally awesome, dude.
Pity Bush never told hardly anyone but carefully screened political sycophants about his grand design. His lords and masters wouldn't have cared. What he thought was never important anyway, as long as he followed orders. They ended up being very wrong about that.
The trouble with W's plan was that the Republican spin about the growth generated by WW II was wrong. The short term political assessment of seizing on public anger over 9/11 was right, but the long term political assessment was wrong. Winning short term support to force the GOP agenda set in motion the outcome of the Bush administration, two barely contained wars, a global economy on the verge of collapse and the Gulf of Mexico brimming with crude oil. And he never caught Bin Laden.
The Republican don't tax and spend anyway agenda, under W, is now put in full perspective. Reagan had been disappointed in how his Supply Side/Trickle Down voodoo turned out. W probably thought he had a totally awesome answer for the obvious economic self immolation of conservative politics. Cut taxes and start a war and the growth from the war, rather than growth from the Trickle Down that had been proven a stupidity, would make the economy hum right along and make up for the forfieted tax revenues. Everybody would be happy except for a few "expendable" troops and a million Iraqis.
One of the things W did not understand is that spending for a war is not stimulus spending unless and until it sucks up enough of the workforce to cause wages to increase. Increasing business for defense industries will employ more workers and is not without economic benefit, but war is among the least efficient means of employing more people and is the worst at creating investments on which future growth can be built. W fell into a trap of his own making. If you depend on war for growth, then you must depend on war for growth.
So the wars had to go on, not only for the specious goal of growing the economy, but for holding the public hostage to fear as well.
But W's flawed thinking didn't stop there. W failed to note, and in truth many do fail, the true basis of the post WW II economic boom. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics study "Compensation from World War II through the Great Society", January 30, 2003, average hourly earnings of production and non-supervisory workers in manufacturing more than doubled between 1940 and 1949, with the largest increases during the war years, 1940-44. The U.S. Government pulled an unintended Henry Ford, doubling the wages of workers.
There was a shallow dip in GDP post war as defense spending halted. It could have been far worse. Private capital investment picked up when demand, pent up from years of depression and war privations, coupled with doubled wages, created a burgeoning market for the products that retooling the wartime factories could fulfill. The paychecks of wartime sustained the war time industries post war time.
The WW II effect was not so much from spending as it was from the draft. The draft reduced the labor force in the United States to a point that supply and demand made wages go up. The cost is no object nature of war assured that wage demands would be met. It is in that way that spending drove the boom. Had W's war spending required a substantial raise for every single defense worker commensurate with increasing business for corporations, his plan might have worked.
W can't be faulted for not understanding economic forces when there are no Republicans that do. But despite the Orwellian warning, Bush undertook the most soulless and craven of acts to bolster his image and power and designs, attempting to create a permanent state of war for the benefit of his tax cut slavering constituency of those who need tax cuts the least. So while W is no worthy thinker, he has plenty of egotistical, self aggrandizing, weasel political doppelgangers with whom to share his humble pie earned as the worst president in U.S. history.
Obama is now stuck in a Bush created trap. War is one of the few things on which the GOP will vote to spend money. So the paltry stimulus of these wars is not as readily curtailable as it might seem. With the economy on the edge, shutting down the wars might dislocate tens of thousands at a time when we celebrate hiring of tens of thousands. And the political play of tough on terrorists is still among the centerpieces of political calculation, courtesy of W. Obama may go down because of this and he may not be the last president to fall prey to the miasma of Bush's fatally egocentric world view made our reality by the station of POTUS.