Monday, September 21, 2009

A Cruel Hoax

Think back, not so long ago, to August of 2008, and even September. To the economic and financial meltdown. Lehman. Bear Stearns. Remember who was supposed to be the president of the U.S. at the time; that guy who had taken the oath of office, but who seemed to be, or was, just punching the clock until January 2009? Preparing (commissioning) legacy speech after legacy speech, just to have to put them all aside for some damn financial crisis? Nope, I'm not talking about Obama, or McCain, or Dick Cheney. That other guy. The one, who you could tell had no idea about how economics worked. No, not Paulson, Bernanke or Greenspan. I said president. That guy with no credibility.

Well, if you wanted to know what he was up to during that time, you might find it in Matt Latimer's Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor, the latest tell-all-tome from former member's of Bush's political team. Latimer was a speech writer for the president (and also Donald Rumsfeld), who seems to be disaffected with the whole process, although in this excerpt from GQ, it's hard to tell. Most people will probably be less interested in the lessons Latimer may have learned in the halls of power than what inhabitants of these halls had to say. So, Bush, who seemed to have no idea about his bailout plan (except, I would guess, that it was a nice, wet kiss to his friends on Wall Street), has this to say about candidate Obama:
“This is a dangerous world,” he said for no apparent reason, “and this cat isn’t remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you.” He wound himself up even more. “You think I wasn’t qualified?” he said to no one in particular. “I was qualified.”
Which goes to show that Bush probably thought the most important aspect of the presidency was bullying other countries. His domestic policy, and this almost doesn't even need to be said, was a disaster, in more ways than one. Although, of course, you don't make it too far in politics if you don't have a bit of acumen. On Palin:
“This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for,” he said. “She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let’s wait and see how she looks five days out.” It was a rare dose of reality in a White House that liked to believe every decision was great, every Republican was a genius, and McCain was the hope of the world because, well, because he chose to be a member of our party.
What probably drives much of the interest in Latimer's book, at this point, are these kinds of observations.(more are listed here). More precisely, people probably want to know what Bush was thinking as his presidency slid (even further) into self-deluded irrelevancy. If the book is anything like the excerpt, Latimer's account won't be heavy on critique, but more oriented to the story of human foibles and hubris. Which doesn't explain much about larger political trends, because the problems that Bush faced weren't external misfortunes. Many of them, especially the financial collapse and the recession, are consequences of the neoliberal ideology so predominant in Washington DC (which is why it's called the Washington Consensus), just as the failure of the war on terror can be placed on the imperialist and belligerent belief that American dominance can be asserted by brute force. The problem with what will probably be the ensuing media frenzy over Latimer's book is that its focus will be on Washingtonian intrigues and loyalties, and not on the policies and decisions that led to the conservative implosion of 2008. Instead of learning their lessons, the Republicans have been spending the last ten months rewriting history to remove the blame from their deliberate mismanagement of government. Not because I give a damn about Republicans learning their lessons, but because their errors and (more importantly) their malfeasance effect everybody else.

Update: I forgot to mention that
Speech-less: Tales of a White House Survivor comes out tomorrow.


Isis said...

D, Did you mean "who seemed to be, or was, just punching the clock up to January 2009" or is 2008 right?

Devin Zane Shaw said...

Oops. That should have been 2009.

Isis said...

ok, you had me wondering if he had actually governed for that year, and if I had missed it...

Devin Zane Shaw said...'s confusing isn't it? Too bad he can't be shuffled off into the 'forgot presidents' category.