The Morning Report
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005 | Americans who voted for George W. Bush five months ago because they liked his values or opposed stem-cell research or didn’t like John Kerry’s wife or any other non-political reason are seeing the consequences of their vote. Domestically and internationally the nation is in worse shape than before the election for the simple reason that the Bush Administration is not correcting problems, it is exacerbating them.
Start with the economy. There’s no way any nation – including this one favored for a half-century by the dollar-exchange system – can sustain the enormous deficits we are running without paying the piper. Under either classical or the so-called “new” economics, the day of reckoning must come, and it is here.
Under the weight of Bush’s deficits – a result of tax-cut pandering to his voters, out-of-control spending and the permanent war in Iraq – markets are sputtering. Interest rates are rising, as they must to stop the fall of the dollar and attract foreign investment to finance the deficits, and rising rates are slowing the economy. The ultimate irony is that rising rates – the Federal Reserve raised them last week for the seventh time in a year – have more than erased any benefits from the tax cuts that caused the rates to rise.
A further consequence of Bush economics: Oil prices set records as they rise to compensate for the devalued dollar. This prompts the Senate to vote to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve in a futile attempt to reduce dependence on foreign oil.
One marvels at the transition of Republicans under Bush from their traditional position of states rights, fiscal responsibility and foreign policy prudence into a party of reckless spending, over-legislating and adventuring. But don’t blame the politicians. This is what a majority of Americans voted for. Voters knew about the deficits, the dollar, the failure in Iraq, the intrusiveness of Bush politics into our lives long before the election.
They voted for Bush anyway. Kerry wasn’t quite “likeable” enough, they said, was “vague” on values and his combat medals, and his foreign-born wife was too pushy, like Hillary Clinton. Women like that are scary. We have become the ultimate irresponsible democracy, voting, not as an enlightened nation that, as J.Q. Adams put it, “commends the general cause by the countenance of her voice and the benignant sympathy of her example,” but a selfish and domineering one seeking to impose its will on anyone it can.
Witness the travesty of the Terri Schiavo situation, where Bush rushes back to Washington to sign a bill inserting Congress into a matter in which Congress has no business. Have Republicans forgotten about states’ rights? That used to be, like fiscal probity and a sound dollar, a bedrock Republican principle.
What will history conclude about a political system that sheds more tears over the life of a woman brain-dead for eight years than over 20,000 Iraqi civilians killed by its bombs and guns in an effort to make their nation into a U.S. satellite?
Witness how this administration seeks to bend the courts to its will, not just in the Schiavo case but through the Patriot Act, which is being challenged in the courts; and through attacks on states such as Oregon, where Bush is challenging the assisted suicide law passed twice by Oregonians and supported by large majorities of them.
Recognizing that in an aging nation like ours, assisted suicide will become a prime issue of our time, the Supreme Court has called on the states to become “individual laboratories” on the matter. Bush, responding to the religious bullying of his most zealous supporters, seeks to bend states’ rights to Washington’s will.
The Bush Administration is unlike any other in modern history. Prior to Bush, Republican incumbents seeking re-election since World War II – Eisenhower to Bush I – made a concerted effort to reach out to the opposition. They did this for political reasons, not altruistic ones: Reaching into the middle not only enhanced their chances of re-election but would make governing easier if they were re-elected.
Bush was re-elected by dividing the nation more severely than at anytime since the Civil War, a fact substantiated in separate polls by Pew Research, the German Marshall Fund and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. By dividing and conquering, Bush was re-elected more narrowly than any Republican since World War II, and he keeps us divided with international and domestic policy as partisan as any this country has known.
He has succeeded like no other president in dividing us not only from ourselves, but from friends and allies around the world. In nominating Paul Wolfowitz and John Bolton to high profile international jobs in his second administration, he has rewarded two of the most detested bureaucrats this nation has produced in years.
Nations get the government they deserve, goes the saying, so voters can’t complain. Until Americans insist that their nation return to the time-honored principals and traditions that made us what we were, our troubles will go on increasing.