I know, it still smarts. At 3 p.m. EST on November 2, 2004, we thought Bush was on the ropes, as did Karen Hughes, who sat the bewildered boy king down to explain they were losing. But by midnight, the awful truth came into focus: the fucker just squeaked by again — or didn’t, depending on what you think happened in Ohio. But with his second term imploding almost immediately, maybe it’s better Bush stayed around long enough for the curtain to drop on his act. Here’s a roundup of reasons to take comfort that Kerry’s not in the White House today.
Iraq. The deteriorating situation in Iraq is the inevitable outcome of a poorly conceived, incompetently executed and predictably doomed flight of foreign policy fancy. We all saw how Kerry blew a fuse — and the campaign — when forced to take a position on the war. Imagine how a President Kerry, inheriting Bush’s disaster, would have been paralyzed with the Hobson’s choice left by his predecessor. To be a “tough Democrat,” he might have disastrously committed more troops. Any withdrawal would be tarred by the right as treason and cause even more damage to the party on that old bugaboo, defense. Staying the course would be more of the same, a steady erosion of credibility on all sides. The fact is that there’s no good solution to Bush’s disaster, and that’s why it should stay his and his alone. Bush built the SS Fuck Up single-handedly, so he can sit in the bridge, snap a crisp salute and go down with it all by himself.
Bushonomics. Another bed that Bush made. This president has spent more than any other in history while slashing taxes for all his clubhouse buddies — and their buddies and their buddies’ buddies. Between massive tax cuts, two costly wars, hurricane and 9/11 relief, the usual mess of pork and a huge new entitlement program for pharmaceutical companies called the prescription drug plan, Bush triumphantly undid one of the biggest legislative successes of conservatism: Clinton’s balanced budget. In Bush’s five short years in office, total national debt grew by 40 percent — from $5.7 trillion to $8.1 trillion — and some economists now seriously worry about the country’s solvency. Soon, someone will either have to 1) raise taxes, 2) cut programs or 3) preside over the recession that will result from foreign governments refusing to bankroll our debt. He’s the Accountability President; let him bask in all the blame. Better that than we get burned picking up the pieces.
Scandals. Another silver lining in the dark clouds over Washington is that it might be a swiftly breaking storm. It’s taken less than five years for the Republican Idea to reveal itself as a grotesque falsehood. Now we’ve got great seats as a whole host of first-term crimes hatch into second-term scandals. The Plame Game, Jack Abramoff’s web of Republican intrigue, Bill Frist’s financial indiscretions, domestic spying, the cronyism exposed by Brownie’s heck of a job during Katrina — these were ineptitudes and overreaches of Nixonian dimension that, for the sake of the country, need vigorous public exposure. Had Bush simply escaped, his malfeasances would have vanished into the past. Now they’ll emerge, in all their glorious criminality, and the country will really get to see Dorian Gray’s portrait. If we’re lucky, another three years will be just enough time for the Republicans to sabotage their own chances at their “permanent majority.” As they might say down in Texas, give a guy enough rope .?.?.
Schadenfreude. It might be bad form to gloat, but watching Bush fail is at least civic-minded gloating. The parade of poor policies that was Bush’s first term was the result of a broken legislative process that wrote poor laws to please narrow constituencies. It’s an approach to government that must be discredited, so watching the Bush presidency fall apart is more than just satisfying; it’s important. Because Bush’s bad faith, G-d willing, may force the country to confront its blind trust in bad leaders, and prompt Congress to reassert its oversight role as it did after Nixon’s meltdown in the ’70s. Good governance matters, and we can’t let the reckless and corrupt simply leave their messes.