Just after the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred, George W. Bush went before the nation and made the case that he needed unprecedented authority -- budgetary and military -- to take on the threats poised at the well-being and safety of the country.
Now with the current economic crisis in the United States, Bush is yet again asking for unprecedented powers and budget.
What happened after 9/11?
We saw no-bid contracts given to firms like Halliburton. We saw $9 billion of U.S. taxpayer money "go missing" through the Coalition Provisional Authority. We saw abuses of power, the expansion of secrecy, and the promulgation of norms that seemed to be the very antithesis of what America stands for.
A nation's values and its deep DNA are really only knowable and observable during times of crisis -- when it's tough to stand up for codes that seem a heavy burden during tough times.
We are in a crisis again -- and the Bush administration is again asking Americans to forgo fundamental values.
Tonight, George Bush succeeded I think in scaring Americans that this crisis could be a systemic threat. Bush said "our entire economy is in danger."
That's the fear button. He pushed it. And he said the clock was ticking.
This seems like a bad episode of 24.
What is shocking about the presentation by Bush -- and the deal that is unfolding is that we don't see any acceptance of responsibility for the failure of his team's stewardship of the economy. We didn't hear acknowledgment that the compulsive deregulation mantra of Bush's political and economic allies created a massive bubble where lots of billionaires were created and now tens of millions of less fortunate Americans are holding the bill.
We didn't hear Bush say that it's time to reverse the tax cuts that he put in place to help those who have already benefited from the perverse finance and housing bubble that was pumped up.
We didn't hear a firm commitment from Bush to help the working families who hold these sub-prime and adjustable rate mortgages to stay in their homes and to help stabilize the lives of hard-hit Americans, their neighborhoods and their jobs. All the while, the macro players and big firms and their stakeholders are bailed out.
We probably do need to float major funds into the financial sector -- but there needs to be a quid pro quo written in to the deal, a new social contract that does away with the "winner takes all syndrome" that has helped rot out America's economic promise.
And we need to hear what comes after the bail out. This nation is heading into recession -- and is probably already there.
We need to trigger real growth in the real economy with real jobs -- and that's infrastructure.
We need a serious infrastructure commitment and a capital budget that helps make sure that some of this massive amount of money being let loose into the system actually gets some traction in rebuilding the nation's roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, and telecom infrastructure.
That was missing -- and it must be part of this debate.
-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note