The source of Bush’s political success was his claim that he could protect Americans. Leadership, strength and security were Bush’s calling cards. Over the past two weeks, they were lost in the surging waters of New Orleans.ADDENDUM: Think Progress offers a detailed rebuttal to right-wing myths about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Clip and save.
But the first intimations of the end of the Bush Era came months ago. The president’s post-election fixation on privatizing part of Social Security showed how out of touch he was. The more Bush discussed this boutique idea cooked up in conservative think tanks and Wall Street imaginations, the less the public liked it. The situation in Iraq deteriorated. The glorious economy Bush kept touting turned out not to be glorious for many Americans. The Census Bureau’s annual economic report, released in the midst of the Gulf disaster, found that an additional 4.1 million Americans had slipped into poverty between 2001 and 2004.
The breaking of the Bush spell opens the way for leaders of both parties to declare their independence from the recent past. It gives forces outside the White House the opportunity to shape a more appropriate national agenda--for competence and innovation in rebuilding the Katrina region and for new approaches to the problems created over the past 4 1/2 years.
The federal budget, already a mess before Katrina, is now a laughable document. Those who call for yet more tax cuts risk sounding like robots droning automated talking points programmed inside them long ago. Katrina has forced the issue of deep poverty back onto the national agenda after a long absence. Finding a way forward in--and eventually out of--Iraq will require creativity from those not implicated in the administration’s mistakes. And if ever the phrase “reinventing government” had relevance, it is now that we have observed the performance of a government that allows political hacks to push aside the professionals.
And what of Bush, who has more than three years left in his term? Paradoxically, his best hope lies in recognizing that the Bush Era, as he and we have known it, really is gone. He can decide to help us in the transition to what comes next. Or he can cling stubbornly to his past and thereby doom himself to frustrating irrelevance.
READ MORE: “Finally Fooling None of the People,” by Robert Scheer (Los Angeles Times); “Katrina, Iraq, and the End of National Greatness,” by Justin Raimondo (Antiwar.com); “George Bush, Security Risk” (PERRspectives); “Iraq, Not Katrina, May Be an Achilles Heel for Bush,” by Peter S. Canellos (The Boston Globe); “Welcome Back, Mr. President” (New Orleans Times-Picayune); “In Bush’s World, PR Equals Action,” by Simon Dumenco (AdAge).