Joint Post: Assessing the Bush Presidency. (Part I)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lately, in an effort to learn more about the US political system, I've been reading Richard Neustadt's book, Presidental Power and the Modern Presidents.  In the 9th chapter of the book Neustadt suggests 4 questions that should be asked as a means to assess the power held by a president.  Now, I'm not entirely sure what Neustadt means by assessing the power of a president but I thought it might be a fun exercise for A.M. and I to consider those questions as they apply to the current presidency.  So here we go (in this post we'll just cover the first of these questions, as we foresee that the answers are going to be rather long):

1.  What were the purposes of the president and did these purposes run with or against the grain of history; how relevant were those purposes to what would happen in his time?

That's actually kind of a hard question for us to answer.  Given that we don't have contacts within the Bush administration, not entirely sure what their purposes/goals are (fun fact: while neither A.M. nor I currently have any contacts within D.C. A.M was a Congressional intern several years ago and has met Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, and another big D.C. person who's name she can't remember).  However, it might be possible to speculate on some of the administrations goals through what they've done, state of the union addresses, and notable policy decisions.

From what's happened during the Bush presidency, it seems that one of the primary goals has to be blowing up brown people.  In the past 7 years at least 80,000 brown have been blown up as the result of actions undertaken by the current administration.  So the questions is now: how does this goal run with or against the grain of history?

Well, throughout history, at least recent history, brown people have gotten the short end of the blowing up stick.  Since the Spanish-American war the brown folks of the world have been getting their ass kicked by Americans or American trained folks (though admittedly throughout most of US history it's been South American brown folks rather than Middle-Eastern brown folks that have had the roughest time).  As for how relevant the blowing up brown people purpose is to the current geopolitical milieu, we don't really know.  I guess it would be relevant to brown people and to people who for whatever reason is against the blowing up of brown people.

That said, there seems to be other goals that must underlie the actions taken by the current Bush administration.  It seems pretty clear that the Bush administration is dead set on undoing everything that was done during the Clinton administration.  For example, it seems that the current executive has been dedicated to doing away with that leftiest of lefty institutions, the healthy economy.

Between tax cuts, deregulation, failure to respond to threats to the stability of the markets, a deficit that has too many digits for me to count (though admittedly I'm not that good of a counter), and a war that costs more per year than most countries make (including the US apparently given the growing deficit), all that progressive pinkoness that the Clinton administration left as its legacy has been done away with.  

So how does this goal of the Bush presidency fare when compared to history?  Actually this goal is relatively unique.  While a few other presidents, such as Reagan, have apparently aimed at trashing the economy, it isn't a goal that many presidents actually aim for.  And as for the relevancy of this goal.  I suppose it's one that's rather relevant.  I would have quipped that it's particularly relevant to poor folk but the way things are shaping up, we're all going to be poor folk in the neat future unless the next administration decides to have a different goal.

Let's see, I think we have space for one more goal of the US presidency.  So I think we'll go with taking away the civil liberties of US consumers/voters.  This might be our favorite goal!  With the PATRIOT Act, phone tapping, and extraordinary rendition, civil liberties haven't been undermined this badly since....  Well, since ever as far as we know.  During WWII Japanese folks did get sent to camps in Texas, Idaho, New Mexico, and Montana.  Now while that's a really egregious violation of civil liberties it was a violation that was restricted to a fairly small portion of the population.  The PATRIOT Act applies to just about everyone in this country, so they're not really comparable.

So now we come to the part of the question about relevancy.  So is the undermining of civil liberties relevant?  We think we'll go with a yes.  I think the weakening of civil liberties is something that should concern just about anybody (even you folks who think that the loss of privacy rights shouldn't bother anyone who isn't a terrorist) given that it is civil liberties that are the basis for healthy democracy.

So on that note, we'll wrap this up this question and leave it up to you to comment.  We'll post the next part sometime in the near future.


blogarama - the blog directory