Monday, January 19, 2009

Assessing Bush: The Divider

"I just want to make sure we don't start confining ourselves to, you know, politburo members because they happen to be a member of some, you know, psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government."
--Brad Schlozman, second in command in the Civil Rights Division, in a report released last week. The report found that 2/3s of Schlozman's hires were "clearly conservative" and that he lied about hiring practices in congressional hearings.

This is the final of my four posts about the Bush administration's legacy, and I'll keep it brief. When Bush came into office in 2001, he arrived during a constitutional crisis following what many Americans (including this one) believed was a stolen election. Rather than try to repair the damage, George Bush immediately set about conducting one of the most vindictive, partisan administration in US history. He stocked his administration with political lackeys whose central qualification was loyalty. As the years played out, catastrophic failures of management mounted as quickly as reports of agency witch hunts like last week's report about the Civil Rights Division. Among the many quotes that capture this element of his presidency, "Heck of a job, Brownie" stands as a particular testament.

During his administration, his toadies doctored reports, fired apostates, and used the Justice of Department to assault political foes. The attack dogs of the campaigns were brought into governance and let loose against career federal employees. Bush administration officials tarred Democrats as enemies of the state or terrorists, and, during the dark days following 9/11, some in the administration threatened to silence those who disagreed with Bush policy. All of this was by way of establishing a dream of Karl Rove: to create a "permanent governing majority."

Tomorrow the United States will inaugurate a black liberal whose middle name is Hussein. He will govern a country with large majorities in both the House and Senate. And, perhaps most notably, the new president has made civility and bi-partisanship a centerpiece of his governing style. There can be no greater repudiation of the cancerous politics left by George Bush that America's embrace of Barack Obama.

That's change we can believe in.

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