Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Failure's no success at all
George Bush deserves an Oscar for his performance as a statesman after convincing so many people to believe his lies

o Ian Williams
o guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 14 January 2009 18.00 GMT

As disastrous a president as he has been, George Bush is certainly cleverer than most of his detractors gave him credit for. He is reminiscent of Stalin, whose defeated rivals sneered at his intellect. Like Stalin, Bush passed the ultimate Darwinian test: He held power while his detractors did not. But while researchers now reveal that Joe the Georgian had a personal library of some 20,000 well-thumbed and heavily annotated volumes, no one, despite Karl Rove's claims to the contrary, really believes that book boxes will take up much space in the moving van when the 43rd president quits the White House or sells his dude ranch in Crawford, Texas.

What did Bush do well? He epitomised the Republican party's makeover of itself as the party of the common man, even as he pursued the most unabashedly plutocratic policies in an American history replete with welfare for the wealthy.

In some measure, he was an unacknowledged acolyte of the method school of acting. Who knows, maybe even the drinking was over-enthusiastic preparation for his coming role as a son of the soil?

College friends at Harvard have told me how Bush used to chew tobacco as if it made him more Texan. But the University of Texas Law School refused to admit him on his unimpressive Yale transcripts, so he had had to use a nepotistic legacy – positive discrimination for wealthy Wasps – to get into Harvard.

So here was an Ivy League jock and wastrel born to a Waspy northeastern family with a long line of silver spoons in its ancestral mouths, passing himself off as an illiterate, verbally dyslexic rube and a self-made man at the same time. Not to mention that he passed himself off as a quasi-veteran instead of a deserter, as Dan Rather's court case against CBS is likely to reiterate this year. It is uncanny how someone with such a dubious military record spent so much time speaking on military bases or to veterans, always in some semblance of military garb. It is method acting that Stanislavsky would have applauded, although psyching yourself up with "I am a Bush" may not be as taxing a role as "I am a tree".

Of course, 4,000 dead Americans and untold thousands of dead Iraqis ago, Bush landed in full pilot's accoutrements on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to the backdrop of "Mission accomplished". This is going to be one of iconic images that will haunt his posterity, along with reading My Pet Goat on 9/11, complimenting Fema head Michael Brown for the post-Katrina debacle and dodging the shoe in Baghdad.

Of these, one cannot help think that Katrina was the turning point when Americans finally shared the perception of much of the world that their country was in the hands of an administration that was as incompetent as it was malicious.

So, at the end of a career that reduced his country to its lowest-ever standing in international public opinion polls, not to mention his own reputation domestically, what has Bush ever done for us?

Well he has brought unemployment to its highest in decades and presided over the biggest fiscal deficit in the country's history, and in the name of free enterprise and hands-off government, he will leave the government in effective ownership of much of the crumbling financial sector while giving government agents constitution-free permission to torture, imprison and spy on citizens, residents and foreigners alike. He also presided over an orgy of dollar printing that will surely hit the currency and the US economy down the line.

If we rank these as Bush's marks on history, we are left to contemplate his failures, for which even a born-again atheist is tempted to thank the Lord.

He totally failed in his plans to privatise social security, for which all of us but the Bernie Madoffs of this land should give daily thanks.

Above all, Bush failed Israel and the evangelists in their Armageddon movement. For whatever reason, he failed to back an Israeli strike on Iran by nixing the bunker buster bombs, the mid-air refuelling capability and allowing the overflight of Iraq.

So what is his greatest political achievement, putting to one side the ethical dimension and the incompetent governance thing? Surely he deserves an Oscar for his performance as a statesman, which was so convincing that most of the American media bought his lies and grovelled to him, and maybe a Golden Globe for persuading "Yo Blair" to play best supporting actor next to him for so long – even at the expense of his own career.

And his subsidiary achievement? Making Bill Clinton look good. Now that's impressive.

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