George W. Bush Jr. looks at his own gallery, April 2014.
“Their vacancy, their stubborn refusal to offer anything beyond the most basic signal of a famous person’s identity, is precisely what Bush will have wanted. It is futile to gaze at these paintings and discover anything of importance about Bush’s foreign policy, or even much about Bush’s post-retirement life. Or if they do, they say only this: both the painting and the policy reflect a man untroubled by outside judgment, certain beyond any doubt of his rectitude and self-worth.”
– Jason Farago, The Guardian
Democrats Malign From Obama
The mid-term elections are coming up this November 4th and the outcome will have a tremendous impact on Obama’s final two years in the White House. Republicans are poised to gain territory in the Senate and maintain the House while Democrats stand a chance of losing their majority in the Senate entirely.
Ten years ago, George W. Bush Jr. lost the benefit of his Republican legislative majority and a new campaign trend emerged: Blame Bush. I would suggest that by maligning themselves to Bush, they maligned voters. Democrats maligned themselves to Bush because it was natural: people wanted change and Bush represented the failure of the opposing party.
It was this election season in 2004 that brought Barack Obama to Washington as a newly elected Senator in the 109th Congress. Only two years later, Democrats controlled the House and the Senate. The man who ignited hope in the heart of progressive Americans, the Senator who rose to the White House halfway through his first term got there in part by blaming Bush.
He asked for hope and demanded change, but he may have at last dashed our hopes during a crucial time when the Democratic Party needs a symbiotic relationship to maintain the Senate. More desperately, Obama needs them to continue his agenda for the remainder of his second term. If Republicans gain control of Congress, it is likely that Obama’s approval rating will further slide, much like Bush Jr. in his final two years.
Candidates who sat at President Obama’s heels now brush him off. The Senate is one place where the political machine pivots toward him, and vice versa, yet fellow Democratic Partiers haven’t invited him to their campaign gigs. Illinois and Maryland candidates broke from the trend, inviting him on stage. The result: walk outs and protest.
A record low for Obama, recent poll numbers show him with a dismal 40% approval rating, much lower than George W. Bush ten years ago, although Bush would slide as low as 20% by the end. Both stand much better than Congress, whom collectively straddle 14%. The rating for Congress was 40% ten years ago. Public opinion about the Supreme Court has also been sliding. Taken together, Americans are deeply frustrated with government as a whole and Obama isn’t their greatest concern.
It has been one year since Republicans in Congress shut down the government, holding the Affordable Care Act hostage, and more. But at the end of it, virtually none of their demands were met. This so-called strategy is the best the party has done to make change and it has been totally ineffective at making America better. They have pushed gridlock in to the system in the name of change, yet they have offered nothing new to evolve it.
Worse, they masquerade this behavior as protest. Activists are neither so vein nor ineffective. Inactivity is not legislation. So it is remarkable that the Grand Old Party with a proven track record of failure and hasn’t changed since George W. Bush Jr. could possibly be taking over the Senate in this mid-term election.
Obama’s second book, Audacity of Hope relates to his own era of hyper-partisanship with both a dream and a recollection of legislators returning to the classic American bargaining process of legislation. Ironically, that era was before Civil Rights, before Obama had a chance to become a Senator.
Most of us are dissatisfied with Obama because we believe he bargained with the progressive values that we elected him to hold while Republicans have only leaned further right. We feel betrayed, but we do not always look at the whole picture to know whether it was betrayal or something else.
Former President Bill Clinton has bothered himself with the task of pointing out how tough he had it from 1992-2000. Obama, according to Clinton, has had it easier. Let us all take a moment to sympathize with Clinton. Aaaaaah… poor Clinton.
I do not agree. Obama is the first black man in the White House and has been accused by Republican leaders of being a Kenyan Islamist–we mustn’t pretend that racism is over. Secondly, partisanship is way up, and this has been statistically demonstrated not just in Washington but in American consciousness. But if you pay attention to the political dialogue, it has been nothing but a pissing match and Obama has been calm if not sickened and depressed because of it. Thirdly, Obama fights conspiracies about the death of an American Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi–a mishandling of events starting in 2011 at the urgency of then Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.
Lest we not forget that nothing is comparable to the playroom that Bush Jr. made of The White House. Total global economic collapse, not mere recession. Bush is not totally to blame for that, to be clear, but it was a rotten culture that he encouraged. Economists agree that Obama has presided over a curve notably better than most European nations in the global economic recovery.
Bush Sr. did not engage with two complete regime change missions during his single term in office, leaving the Clintons a nation in peace time. Bush Jr. did however, leaving Barack Obama the job of producing peace time. He was expected to reverse not only those deeply embedded conflicts, but also to reverse a surveillance state in the making, including torture programs at Guantanamo. This is an extraordinarily tall order if there is no continued public involvement.
The recent slump for Obama mostly has to do with aloof campaigning by Democrats in Washington. They are now multi-million dollar campaigners, not legislators, and are more disconnected from the average American than ever. Their lack of vision has fallen to blaming everyone else for socio-economic problems that they don’t personally suffer from.
Democrats maligning themselves to a sitting President whose primary enemies are theirs, whose approval rating is much higher than Congress and equal to the Supreme Court, they are doing a great disservice to their own campaign, and this is why they could lose the Senate, in the same way that Republicans lost their control over Congress ten years ago, by seeming aloof to public opinion and blaming their leadership.
What is worse about the situation today is that some voting Americans can’t even be bothered with at least the biased TV news networks. They are pummeled with hate advertising on entertainment programs instead, somehow forming opinion of their own from it.
Thanks to the emerging political-media-complex developed by billionaires and millionaires whom are not honestly concerned about economically marginalized persons acquiescing those advertisements every day, the public is being led right back down the path we emerged from ten years ago.
I have never been called for a political poll from Gallup. I read and digest the written news from credible sources as a daily practice. I have a nuanced understanding of Obama and I am getting to understand him better. From all I have gathered, the person that I can publicly observe shows subtle leadership in a very difficult, very nasty environment.
I see the top official on the American political ladder as no match against a coalition of billionaire industrialists, or for that matter, the Department of Homeland Security. Nobody in his position can avoid peril. It is either a slow and steady descent toward collapse, or it is fast and anxious. Obama has staved off more disaster than he has stirred up. For this reason, I approve of his performance. But nobody has asked me.
Approval of Barack is different when I assume he exists in a vacuum and gets to make Congress or the Supreme Court do whatever he wants. The present moment in history is late-stage capitalism in the context of a late-stage civil rights era. Barack Obama is the first Generation X President. His era is brief and looming toward the surveillance state. Considering the inevitable collapse of capitalism in the wake of climate change and non-stop terrorism, Obama is merely staving off the worst possible scenario: he can not stop it.
If I focus on one single failure of his administration, or expect him to be aligned to my personal values, then I disapprove. I know that Obama’s appointments to the FCC and FDA are blatant corporate handouts, I do not appreciate the aggressive acts toward journalists, the self-contradictory policies on immigration and the war on drugs, the continuation of spying programs, Guantanamo, the failure to impede terrorism, and the failure to criminalize economic sabotage and corporate theft.
But all of that is status quo at worst. It would be literal suicide to challenge the whole system. A politician must trade something to get something else. It is dirty to the core, always has been. If you also unravel some of the early progress Obama made, like the STOCK Act, it has been sabotaged and ripped up by Republicans in every maneuver available to them.
So much about the Bush legacy is unraveling on its own accord, in the meanwhile. The worst and perhaps the most volatile challenge to Obama’s approval is foreign policy. It is literally blowing up and few seem to recollect why.
This is not isolated to Jr. The problems we see now are actually blowback upon blowback from the Reagan administration. Bush Sr had a closer grip on Reagan than the public could see at the time. Ambit Magazine reproduced an audio tape of an historic lecture spoken by Attorney Daniel Sheehan of The Christic Institute in 1991. His legal advocacy Board took action against both the Reagan and Bush administrations, most famously uncovering the Iran-Contra Affair during the mid-1980’s.
3 Failures of the Bush Administration
Bush Jr. managed to generate dead zones, quicksand pits and political land mines for anyone that followed him. Very recent news offers a glimpse at those. Let us consider three of his cornerstone policies before bidding farewell to him for good.
The No Child Left Behind Act was fast out the gate with Mr. Bush and it passed before 9/11 during the spring of 2001. It continues to require that Federally funded public schools engage with annual reporting on standardized testing. States determine those standards, but there is Federal oversight tied to rewards and punishments. Recent controversy in Atlanta demonstrates the flaws of that law.
A group of African-American teachers from dozens of schools in Georgia are defending themselves against prison time for cheating on those standardized tests. If you boil it all down, there is no other way but the inevitability of this outcome. By punishing schools that do not meet certain standards, local legislators will naturally develop those standards to marginalize a class of people who do not perform well due to socio-economic problems that are historical to them. They fall outside of the status quo. They are black people in Georgia.
Combined with the long-known regressive tax-structure bias in most Federally funded school districts, the conditions these schools work with make it difficult to advance along standardized lines. The structure of Bush’s policy offers a framework for teachers to cheat with, and those in poor districts have every incentive to.
Iraq and Afghanistan is still happening. Obama had pledged to have all troops removed from Afghanistan by 2014, but he extended that deadline with a commitment to reduce troops until Afghan security forces were properly trained and equipped. There is more to it than that. The Taliban continues to operate and attack American training grounds. They do this precisely because we invaded and made it our business to prop up a democratically elected government whose internal security is trained by U.S. military to continue defense against our enemies (Taliban and al-Qaida).
Afghanistan could fall in the same manner that Iraq fell to The Islamic State. Jihadism is a greater force than any single government can withstand. Extreme Jihadi groups are the enemies named in our wars, and yet, regime change was the mission under Bush. He carried America in to this absurd double-war and then slapped another double-war to the balance with Iraq. It was never feasible. Given to most Republican leaders, there would be regime change in Syria too, and then we would be responsible for the girth of the Middle East, not to mention swelling the growth of terrorist networks.
An alarming revelation seems to have blown right past the public: chemical weapons built by American suppliers under Reagan & Bush were used by Iraq in a proxy war against Iran during the 1980’s. These weapons, buried in Iraq in 1991, have been partially recovered by The Islamic State. The 2003 occupation under Bush Jr. produced an opportunity for the recovery of these weapons by anyone who could get to them. The U.S. went about destroying those weapons and covered up their rediscovery, then denied health claims by soldiers who had been exposed to these weapons in order to cover up the existence of them.
There simply was a mishandling and misrepresentation of the whole mission and the whole relationship to those groups for all eight years of Bush.
NASA is an often overlooked failure of the Bush administration. When Obama took office, he offered a speech to Kennedy Center, in which he changed the priorities of the space administration and cut loose an over-budget, past-due mission that did little to evolve the space program. Bush had wanted to revive the Apollo program in every way and go back to the Moon via The Constellation, and to eventually put boots on Mars.
Instead, under Obama, there is a dynamic space program looking to the future. There have been successful, complex landings on Mars with sophisticated new rovers, developing standards for manned spaceflight. After some outsourcing to Russia, NASA has successfully launched space flights with private market vehicles for simple transport missions to the International Space Station and more. This has a mutual effect of budget reduction and market development, but ironically, Republicans denied funding for the private market program in 2014.
New plans for manned space flight to an asteroid have emerged, which has great implications on the future of our economy. NASA has published numerous reports on global climate change and has used its resources to publish useful information to the public. A recently revealed secret space mission called X-37B shows that we have continued the space shuttle program with an unmanned space plane, but for reasons not yet known and top secret.
Economically, things are improving since Bush on gross measures like GDP and job growth. Things are felt to be improving a little too much for the rich. Poverty and wage disparity has grown worse, with middle class wage stagnation against continued growth for those making more than $250,000 per year. In order for the health care law and other Obama policy changes to work, there must be a minimum wage raise tied permanently to inflation, and this is something very much accepted by economists as a good thing for all sectors, but Republicans block it. Small successes are hard to come by for progressives, but it is not Obama that is blocking them. He relies on Congress to push it through and they simply aren’t doing it.
It humbles my judgement when I remember that Obama was not elected to initiate a revolution. He was sworn into the constitution and to keep the secrets of the State preceding him. He was not elected to do anything other than improve the workings of a failing machine with an outdated framework. The wars we are living out today have mostly to do with a very old, deeply-rooted cause that the Bush family has been linked to many times. Most Americans would not approve of Obama if he began dismantling capitalism, and, judging from his books, he never had any interest in doing so. But this is the only approval rating that truly matters right now: do you approve of the performance of Capitalism? Because if we fail to criticize the system our President works with, then approving or disapproving him is meaningless.