The legacy of President George W. Bush:
George Walker Bush. 43rd president of the United States. First ever with a criminal record. Our third story tonight, his presidency: eight years in eight minutes.
Early in 2001 the U.S. fingered Al Qaeda for the bombing of the USS Cole. Bush counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke had a plan to take down Al Qaeda. Instead, by February the NSC had already discussed invading Iraq, and had a plan for post-Saddam Iraq. By March 5 Bush had a map ready for Iraqi oil exploration and a list of companies. Al Qaeda? Rice told Clarke not to give Bush a lot of long memos — “not a big reader.”
August 6, 2001, a CIA analyst briefs Bush on vacation: “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.” Bush takes no action, tells the briefer, quote, “All right, you’ve covered your ass now.” Next month Clarke requests using new predator drones to kill Bin Laden, the Pentagon and CIA say no.
September 11th: Bush remains seated for several minutes to avoid scaring school children by getting up and leaving. He then flies around the country and promises quote a full scale investigation to find “those folks who did it.”
Rumsfeld says Afghanistan “does not have enough targets, we’ve got to do Iraq.” When the CIA traps Bin Laden at Tora Bora it asks for 800 rangers to cut off his escape, Bush outsources the job to Pakistanis sympathetic to the Taliban. Bin Laden gets away.
In February General Tommy Franks tells a visiting Senator Bush is moving equipment out of Afghanistan so he can invade Iraq. One of the men who prepped Rice for her testimony that Bush did not ignore pre 9-11 warnings later explains, quote, “We cherry picked things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about Al Qaeda…they didn’t give a bleep about Al Qaeda.”
July, and Britain’s intel chief says Bush is fixing intelligence and facts around the policy to take out Saddam January ’03. Bush and Blair agree to invade in March. Mr. Bush, still telling us he has not decided, telling Blair they should paint an airplane in UN colors, fly it over Iraq, and provoke a response, a pretext for invasion.
The man who said it would take several hundred thousand troops: fired. The man who said it would cost more than a hundred billion: fired. The man who revealed Bush’s yellowcake lie: smeared, his wife’s covert status exposed. The White House liars who did it and covered it up: not fired, one convicted — Bush commutes his sentence.
Then in Iraq, “stuff happens:” Iraq’s army, disbanded. The government de-Baathified. 200,000 weapons, billions of dollars just
lost, foreign mercenaries immunized from justice. Political hacks run the Green Zone. Religious cleansing forcing one out of six Iraqis from their homes. Abu Ghraib, the insurgency, Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Other stuff does not happen: WMD, post-war planning, body armor, vehicular armor.
The payoff? Oil, and billions for Halliburton, Blackwater and other companies, while Mr. Bush denies VA healthcare to 450,000 veterans, tries to raise their healthcare fees, blocks the new G.I. Bill, and increases his own power with the USA PATRIOT Act, with the Military Commissions Act, public orders exempting himself from a thousand laws, and secretly from the Presidential Records Act, The Geneva Conventions, FISA, sparking a mass rebellion at the Justice Department.
Secret star chambers for terrorism suspects, overturned by Hamdan v Rumsfeld. Denying habeas corpus, overturned by Boumediene v Bush. 200 renditionings, sleep deprivation, abuse.
Rumsfeld warned in 2002 that he was torturing, that it would jeopardize convictions. Out of 550 at Gitmo, hundreds ultimately go free with no charges. Dozens are tortured, eight fatally — three are convicted. On U.S. soil twelve hundred immigrants rounded up without due process, without bail, without court dates, without a single charge of terrorism.
It wasn’t just Mr. Bush no longer subject to the rule of law. He slashed regulations on everyone from banks to mining companies. Appointed 98 lobbyists to oversee their own industries, weakening emission standards for mercury and 650 different toxic chemicals. Regulators shared drugs, and their beds, with industry reps. The Crandall Canyon mine owner told inspectors to “back up” because his buddy, Republican Mitch McConnell, was sleeping with their boss. McConnell’s wife is Bush Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. Her agency overruled engineer concerns about Crandall Canyon, and was found negligent after nine miners died in the collapse there.
Mr. Bush’s “hands off” as Enron blacks out California, doubling electric bills. After months of rejecting price caps Mr. Bush bows to pressure, the blackouts end.
Mr. Bush further deregulates commodity futures, midwifing the birth of unregulated oil markets which, just like Enron, jack up prices to an all time high until Congress and both presidential candidates call for regulations, and the prices fall.
Deregulating financial services and lax enforcement of remaining rules created a housing bubble, creating the mortgage crisis, creating then a credit crisis, devastating industries that rely on credit, from student loans to car dealers. Firms that had survived the Great Depression could not survive Bush. Those that did got seven hundred billion dollars. No strings, no transparency, no idea whether it worked. Unlike the auto bailout, which cut workers’ salaries. A GOP memo called it “a chance to punish unions.”
But Bush failed even when his party and his patrons did not stand to profit. Investigators blamed management cost cutting communication for missed warnings about Columbia. Bush administration convicts include sex offenders at Homeland Security, convicted liars, every kind of thief in the calendar, and if you count things that were not prosecuted, the vice president of the United States actually shot a man in the face — the man apologized.
Mr. Bush faked the truth with paid propaganda in Iraq on his education policy, tried to silence the truth about global warming, rocket fuel in our water, industry influence on energy policy. Politicized the truth of science at NASA, the EPA, the National Cancer Institute, Fish and Wildlife, and the FDA
His lies, exposed by whistleblowers from the cabinet down. “Complete B.S.,” the treasury secretary said of Mr. Bush on his tax cuts. Rice’s mushroom cloud, Powell’s mobile labs, Iraq and 9-11, Jack Abramoff, Jessica Lynch. Pat Tillman. Pat Tillman again. Pat Tillman, again. The air at Ground Zero, most responders still suffering respiratory problems. Global warming, carbon emissions, a Clear Skies initiative lowering air quality standards, the Healthy Forests initiative increasing logging, faith based initiatives, the cost of medicare reform, fired US attorneys, politically synchronized terror alerts. The surge causing insurgents to switch sides, that abortion causes breast cancer, that his first recession began under Clinton, that he did not wiretap without warrants, that we do not torture. That American citizen John Walker Lindh’s rights were not violated, that he refused the right to counsel.
“Heckuva job, Brownie!” Some survivors still in trailers, New Orleans still at just two-thirds its usual population.
The lie that no one could have predicted the economic crisis, except the economists who did. No one could have predicted 9-11, except one ass-covering CIA analyst, or thirty. No one could have predicted the levee breach, except — literally — Mr. Bill, in a PSA that aired on TV a year before Katrina.
Bush actually admitted that he lied about not firing Rumsfeld because he “did not want to tell the truth.” Look it up.
All of it, all of it and more leaving us with ten trillion in debt to pay for 31% more in discretionary spending, the Iraq War, a 1.3 trillion dollar tax cut. Median income down two thousand dollars. Three-quarters of all income gains under Bush going to the richest one percent. Unemployment up from 4.2 to 7.2 percent. The Dow, down from ten thousand five hundred eighty seven to eighty two hundred seventy seven. Six million now more in poverty. Seven million more now without health care.
Buying toxic goods from China. Deadly cribs. Outsourcing security to Dubai, still unsecure in our ports and at our nuclear plants. More dependent on foreign oil. Out of the international criminal court. Off the anti ballistic missle treaty.
Military readiness and standards down, with two unfinished wars, a nuclear North Korea, disengaged from the Palestinian problem, destabilizing eastern European diplomacy with anti missile plans and unable to keep Russia out of Georgia.
2000 miles of Appalachian streams destroyed by rubble from mountaintop mining. At his last G-8 summit, he actually bid farewell to other world leaders saying, quote, “goodbye from the world’s greatest polluter.”
Consistently undermining historic American reverence for the institutions that empower us. Education, now “academic elites,” and the law, “activist judges,” capping jury awards.
And Bin Laden? Living today unmolested in a Pakistani safe haven created by a truce endorsed and defended by George W. Bush.
And among all the gifts he gave to Bin Laden, the most awful, the most damaging not just to America, but to the American ideal, was to further Bin Laden’s goal by making us act out of fear rather than fortitude.
Leaving us with precious little to cling to tonight, save the one thing that might yet suffice:
Tomorrow’s inauguration can’t come soon enough.