Friday, January 16, 2009

Bush's Legacy At Home: Divisiveness and Despair

Day #3 in Countdown to the Bush Termination Credit large swaths to

While campaigning for president, George W. Bush often repeated that he would seek to change the negative and partisan tone in Washington, D.C. "I'm a uniter, not a divider," Bush would say. "I refuse to play the politics of putting people into groups and pitting one group against another." A recent CNN poll found that a whopping 82 percent of Americans believe that Bush did not unite the country. In fact, Bush himself just recently admitted that he had not lived up to his "uniter, not a divider" rhetoric, saying last month that he "didn't do a very good job of it" (though he later blamed others for "needless name-calling").

POLITICIZING THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT: But over the last eight years, "pitting one group against another" is exactly the kind of politics Bush played. He and his allies exploited national issues, placed social hot-button issues in the forefront of all political discussions, viciously scapegoating gay people, immigrants and other groups. The Bushies ruthlessly attacked progressives for political gain, and politicized the federal government to serve the interests of the Republican party. Rove and the other Bushies schemed to establish a Third Reich style of Permanent Conservative Majority, deploying singularly unqualified graduates of Pat Robertson’s Regent University to scrub various agencies, most notably the Department of Justice, in Stalin-like purges of Democrats, Progressives, gay people, and often any career officers who were even “suspected” of harboring views that might be considered as standing in the way of the New Republican Majority.

The White House took a "permanent campaign approach" to governing, admitted
Bush's former press secretary Scott McClellan recently. In 2003, Bush's political guru Karl Rove or his top aide, Ken Mehlman, "visited nearly every agency to outline White House campaign priorities, review polling data and, on occasion, call attention to tight House, Senate and gubernatorial races that could be affected by regulatory action." Rove also led an unprecedented campaign to politicize the federal government to serve the interests of the Republican Party.

POLITICS TRUMPED SCIENCE, REASON: The White House also routinely favored politics over science: regarding climate change by muzzling NASA's chief global warming scientist James Hansen's climate change findings, censoring scientific evidence on global warming in an EPA report, and editing all government scientists' testimony to fit its political aims. Stem cell research? Politicize it, Ban it! Sane and scientific approaches to preventing deadly sexually transmitted diseases? Abstinence only education, no funding to any science based notions of prophylaxis. The Office of Faith Based Initiatives, the General Services Administration, the Interior Department, the Defense Department, Health and Human Services and the Office of National Drug Control Policy were also not spared of politics during the Bush years.

DIVIDING ON SOCIAL ISSUES: Shortly after taking office, Rove convinced Bush to issue an executive order that effectively ended federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research. Despite evidence showing the enormous scientific benefits to such research, Rove's move sought to appease the GOP base, rather than promote sound policy. In the run-up to the 2004 election, Rove orchestrated a campaign to significantly boost turnout of the GOP base by placing measures to ban gay marriage on the ballot in numerous battleground states. Patrick Guerriero, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans -- the GOP's largest gay group -- said at the time that Bush's call for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was part of a calculation by Rove that "4 million evangelicals stayed home in 2000. As a result, the 2004 campaign has focused on energizing the far right while ignoring mainstream Republicans."

EDUCATION REFORM: The completely duplicitous and misleadingly named “No Child Left Behind” predicated all federal public funding of education on meeting testing standards but without any adequate funding to the states to implement its many mandates. The design was clearly to PRIVATIZE education by mandating private “Charter” schools funded by portable “vouchers.” Our professional educators are worn out and resigning in ever larger numbers, completely stymied by the unfunded mandates that require them to throw traditional teaching methods out the window in favor of only “teaching to the test.”

DISMANTLING OUR CONSTITUTION: Bush used the tragedy of 9-11 to revamp the organization of security, law enforcement and intelligence communities, creating the Department of Homeland Security. The Transportation Security Administration was also born out of the wake of Sept. 11. The Patriot Act over road fundamental protections of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments of our Bill of Rights.

The War on Terror was used an excuse to curtail civil liberties. All dissent was swept aside as “unpatriotic” and the trampling of our basic core liberties became the game du jour. The result was domestic surveillance programs under the Patriot Act, the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, and FISA and warrantless wiretapping; military tribunals set up at Guantanamo; and “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding. In other legal matters, "Plamegate," the controversy over the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA officer, was tangentially related to pre-war intelligence and fueled speculation that the Bush administration doctored intelligence claims.

As Bush prepares to leave office, people the world over now look at the U.S. in a "negative way" as a country that "went ahead and sanctioned torture." (See this blog on January 15, 2009). Paralleling President Obama’s repair of our international image, the abuses of the Bush domestic agenda must be swiftly and surely repudiated. A welcome return to sanity begins 1.20.09—ALLAH BE PRAISED!

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