Wishful Thinking versus Reality

Since George Washington was sworn in as president of the United States, 42 men have held that office. I lived through the criminal administration of Richard Nixon, but I had thought the odds were good that I wouldn’t live during a incompetent president (Nixon’s unelected successor, Gerald Ford, although prone to tripping over his own feet, was a competent administrator). When I think about incompetent U.S. presidents, I think about Andrew Johnson, Warren Harding, Herbert Hoover, or other names from past generations.
I’ve however realized that I am living through the administration of who may be the most incompetent president in U.S. history. Andrew Johnson’s administration (1865-69) may have been a nadir, but the U.S. wasn’t the world’s only superpower at that time. The incompetent George W. Bush‘s United States is.
Six years into it, I cannot name anything he has competently done. Quite the contrary.

  • Almost five years since the terrorist attack on New York City, the site of the destroyed World Trade Towers is still an empty lot and no one directly involved with those attacks has subsequently been captured, prosecuted, or convicted.
  • Bush quite rightly led the United States to invade Afghanistan after that country’s government refused to prosecute or extradite the people (notably Osama bin Lauden) who openly claimed to the masterminds of the New York and Washington terrorist attacks. The U.S. military conquered most of Afghanistan (the first time anyone had successfully done that since Alexander the Great), but refused (reputably at the White House’s insistence) to send its troops into the Tora Bora Mountains where those masterminds were hiding.
  • Osama bin Lauden and the other masterminds apparently escaped into neighboring Pakistan. No one publicly knows if Bush demanded his extradition. Moreover, widespread evidence arose that the chief of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb project had been providing bomb plans and materials to North Korea, Iran, and Libya (the latter country’s dictator admitted this and turned the plans and materials over to the U.S. government). Yet Bush didn’t flinch when Pakistan’s own dictator pardoned the bomber and continued to shelter the September 11th masterminds. Bush this past week visited Pakistan and called it an “unwavering ally.” With allies like that, we’re in big trouble.
  • Bush then proclaimed a doctrine of ‘pre-emptive war’ and invaded Iraq because, according to the White House, there was ‘slam-dunk’ proof that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency said there was no such proof and asked the U.S. not to invade. But Bush did invade. There were no weapons of mass destruction, exactly as the inspectors from the U.N. and IAEA had said.
  • His vice president and other cabinet officers predicted that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators and wouldn’t need to stay in Iraq more than six months.
  • The Pentagon’s Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki told the White House that the safe occupation of Iraq would require 500,000 troops, but the Bush’s and his cabinet civilians overruled the professional soldiers and sent in only 150,000. Three years, not six months, later, U.S. troops are still bogged down in Iraq, where they were greeted not as liberators but as invaders.
  • Rather than protect Iraqi national infrastructure and cultural sites (as we did the German and Japanese immediately after World War II), the White House ordered U.S. troops to protect only Iraq’s oil facilities, and U.S. soldiers watched as Iraq’s electrical, water, sewerage, judiciary, treasury, and administrative, plus national museums and archeological sites were looted. As Bush’s war minister Donald Rumsfeld remarked — ignoring the fact that U.S. troops were now responsible for Iraqi security — “Freedom’s untidy and free people are free to commit crimes and make mistakes and do bad things.”
  • Keeping Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi bottled up and weak (including unable to build weapons of mass destruction) was costing the United States $2 billion per year when it had been enforcing the U.N.’s sanctions against him. But Bush’s invasion of Iraq has now cost the United States $250 billion, more than 2,400 American soldiers dead and more than 15,000 wounded, Iraqi civilian casualties that the U.N. estimated to number in the high tens of thousands, and a subsequent civil war in Iraq.
  • Last week, conservative columnist George Will wrote, “all three components of the ”axis of evil” — Iraq, Iran, North Korea — more dangerous than they were when that phrase was coined [by Bush] in 2002.”
  • Conservative icon William F. Buckley last week wrote that “In four years we marched from Pearl Harbor to the heart of what was left of Tokyo and Berlin. In three years we can’t yet take a cab from Baghdad to its airport without an armed guard.”
  • My young conservative friends use revisionism to justify his Iraqi invasion. Some tell me that the invasion really did stop Saddam Hussein from building weapons of mass destruction even though he wasn’t building them. That’s logically true, but as true as saying that the invasion also prevented Saddam Hussein from voluntarily abdicating power and joining the circus. Others tell me that, though there were no weapons of mass destruction, the invasion was justified by toppling Saddam Hussein. Perhaps I could accept that had not tens of thousands — far more than the dictator executed or imprisoned in the equivalent period of at time — died in the process. And if the justification is toppling a dictator, why didn’t we send the U.S. military after Castro 90 miles south of Key West. We could have toppled him in a week. Other conservatives tell me that we had to invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein might have had weapons of mass destruction. But that overlooks the question of why we didn’t instead invade North Korea, a dictatorship that boasts it does have those weapons. The fact is Bush invaded Iraq, a sovereign country that didn’t attack the U.S. and did so on a demonstrably false pretext.
  • Bush’s remarkable lack of response to Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of the city of New Orleans cannot not be called incompetent. He has since vowed to rebuild the city, but nothing has been done about that.
  • The self-styled ‘No Child Left Behind’ president has cut federal education funding.
  • The self-styled conservative president has swollen the size of the federal government to the largest in history.
  • After the budget surpluses of the Clinton administration, the tax cuts by this conservative president have created the largest budget deficits in history (only 30 percent of which is attributable to national security, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget office).
  • Do you know of anyone, outside of those less than one percent of richest Americans, who received any tax refund or tangibly lower taxes due to Bush’s three tax cuts? I don’t.
  • It’s been revealed that Bush ordered wiretapping of American’s domestic phone calls and e-mail, in open violation of laws passed by his own party due to Nixon’s abuses of such wiretapping.

How much more incompetent can he be?
I feel sorry for my conservative friends. They wish the world was certain way and ignore the facts that it’s not. they continue defending Bush because his wishful thinking is their wish, too.
But wishful thinking is not how to administer a superpower. At least, the Bush administration has competently proven that.