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May 19, 2008
Government the Problem; Bush Made It Come True
Ronald Reagan’s gift to America was supposed to be a
renewed belief in itself. He could see better days ahead for the
republic, he told the nation. And the nation, hungry for that kind of
thing, believed him.
But there was a string attached to Reagan’s gift.
Accepting Reagan’s gift of a renewed sense of self-value required that
you also accept that government was the problem, instead of the
That legacy played out last week during an interview
George W. Bush gave the online political magazine, The Politico.
Responding to a question about why no one had seen the
president playing golf lately, Bush said that giving up golf was his way
of showing solidarity with all the mothers grieving over lost sons and
daughters in the Iraq war.
It’s difficult to imagine a worse answer to that question.
He could have alluded to physical problems, or even said that he’d spent
so much time on vacation during the early years of his presidency that
his inbox was simply too full. Instead, he chose to conflate giving up a
game with losing a loved one in a war most of us now oppose.
To make matters worse, he lied about when he arrived at
his decision. Asked about when he gave it up, he said it was the day
that Brazilian diplomat and U.N. special ambassador to Iraq Sergio
Vieira de Mello was killed in a Baghdad bombing. His handlers pulled him
off the course, and Bush said he decided that golf was no longer worth
The problem is that there were photos and video of him
playing the game two months into the future.
Probably predictably, the revelation failed to really
outrage anyone except Keith Olbermann. By now, undoubtedly most
Americans inclined to become angry at such a cheap attempt to manipulate
their emotions with such easily exposed lies have become numb to them.
They’ve been a regular component of how the Bush Administration has
This creates a very unique problem that the next president
will have to fix while also addressing many of the other failures of the
Those failures are many, including a failure to address
problems in energy and climate change, a reckless war that has
squandered the nation’s foreign credibility, a huge deficit through
ramped up spending and wartime tax cuts, millions with no access to
health care and a looming recession. A case, a good and perhaps airtight
case, can be made that George W. Bush will go down in history as the
nation’s worst president to date.
But policy failures are one thing. A failure in confidence
It’s no secret that Americans are once again losing
confidence in their nation. All three candidates still standing (well,
two remain standing, one merely insists that she’s still vertical) have
tried to tap into the trend that Americans think we’re headed in the
Restoring that confidence is going to have to be one of
the next president’s intangible goals. If, at the end of his term, the
American people don’t again think that we’re headed in the right
direction – if our national confidence is not restored – it means that
things haven’t gotten any better.
After these last seven years of constant partisan
bickering and a president who’s treated the electorate as a play thing
to cynically manipulate for his own benefit, he’ll also have to restore
the confidence of the American people in their institutions. That means
repudiating the legacy of the last guy who restored a people’s faith by
convincing them that government isn’t the problem.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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