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The Bush Legacy

Updated on December 28, 2010

Karl Rove: Re-defining The Bush Legacy

Without doubt, Karl Rove’s latest book “Courage and Consequence: My Life as a Conservative in the Fight,” represents the most serious attempt at historical revisionism in recent memory.

Apart from Vice President Dick Cheney’s feeble antics and occasional forays of grandeur, Rove’s book sought to re-cast the Bush Presidency in friendlier, albeit modestly nuanced terms.

Coming from a man who not only single-handedly orchestrated Bush’s meteoric rise to national political prominence but had an almost larger-than-life, omnipresent role in his administration that he was dubbed “Bush’s Brain,” it is a bold attempt to rationalize or reconstruct the key failures of the Bush Administration. But isn’t that in and of itself a perplexing exercise in futility?

Brilliant as Rove obviously is, could he truthfully reconcile the cruelties and absurdities of Bush’s eight-year rule?

The mishandling of pre-9/11 intelligence: Many people and institutions, including most preeminently the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, otherwise known as the 9/11 Commission, concluded that the attacks could have been prevented had the CIA and FBI acted more collaboratively, more wisely and more aggressively especially in the months leading up to the event.

The pre-emptive Iraqi war: Bush and his cohorts blinded by a righteous, self-serving ideological mission and hiding under the cloak of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and a well-oiled campaign of lies, coerced the country into a trillion-dollar military conflict that enriched their corporate friends even as it nearly bankrupted the country and caused tens of thousands to needlessly lose their lives.

The Katrina tragedy: On Bush’s watch, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the GulfCoast in August 2005 and in its wake, caused more than $100 billion in damages and left over 2000 dead. The federal government was blamed both for the levee failures (their poor design and construction by the US Army Corps of Engineers and inadequate maintenance by the local levee boards) as well as FEMA’s pitiable emergency response planning and execution all through the crisis.

The levee system calamitously failed and large swaths of cities were quickly submerged; there was un-foretold human suffering all through the coast but most notably in the city of New Orleans. Nearly five years later, tens of thousands of displaced residents from the impacted cities in Louisiana and Mississippi are still exiled or living in trailers.

The Patriot Act and the Bush Surveillance Program: Under the guise of protecting the homeland, the administration, through questionable statutory provisions and extra-legal enforcement practices, trampled on American civil liberties in a manner that could not possibly have been foreseen by the founding fathers of the republic. Law enforcement officials had free reign searching homes, business and sifting through telephone/e-mail communications, financial records and the library accounts of ordinary citizens. An elaborate warrantless wiretapping scheme whereby National Security Agency (NSA) staffers were, unbeknownst to Congress and most Department of Justice officials below the rank of Deputy Attorney-General, routinely eavesdropping on telephone conversations of average Americans, including service men and women stationed in war zones abroad, was unearthed.

A report published in July, 2009, by a team of government inspectors general not only questioned the legal basis of Bush’s surveillance program but marveled at the fact that even Attorney General John Ashcroft was not always fully aware of how massive the "unprecedented collection activities" were. The report concluded that most of the intelligence leads or domestic intercepts generated under the program did not have any connection to terrorism.

The current global economic crisis: Again, under Bush’s watch, the global financial system was literally and figurative brought to its knees by a crisis prompted by a liquidity shortfall in US banks beginning in 2007. Most economists believe that this could have been totally avoided if Bush administration officials had taken its financial regulatory duties a bit more seriously. Their lack of diligent regulatory oversight created an atmosphere that ultimately allowed the development of a retinue of dubious risk bundling practices and predatory consumer financial products.

The global economy fell into a deep, comatose slump. In the United States alone, stocks/securities precipitously dropped by nearly 50%, the housing market plummeted as millions lost their jobs (the federal unemployment rate reached double digit figures for the first time in decades), and most state/local governments became bankrupt.

Thankfully three years since the crisis and many stimulus packages/bailouts later, things appear to be leveling off; world markets are delightfully on the mend now.

Regarding Rove’s book, I would be remise not to mention one key point in it that seems to have gotten considerable media play: his claim that Bush would certainly not have gone to war with Iraq if he knew that Saddam Hussein did not have any WMDs. But Rove perceptibly fails to realize or acknowledge the widely accepted postulate that not only did Bush have enough evidence at the time to know that these weapons did not exist, he equally knew that without this trumped up charge, his use of force argument would not have gathered any traction. Administration officials chose to lie about the WMDs because they understood that their pre-conceived plans to topple Saddam rested heavily on this treachery.

Nonetheless, I am not at all persuaded that it is possible for anyone, Rove included, to successfully weave new stories or spin Bush’s aforementioned litany of woes as to cause us all to forget the desolation that his administration wrought on humanity.

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