March 18, 2008 — That idiotic “what, me worry?” look just never leaves the man’s visage. Once again, there was our president, presiding over disasters in part of his making and totally on his watch, grinning with an aplomb that suggested a serious disconnect between his worldview and existing reality. Be it in his announcement that Iraq was being secured on a day when bombs ripped through that sad land or posed between his Treasury secretary and the Federal Reserve chairman to applaud the government’s bailout of a failed bank, George Bush was the only one inexplicably smiling.
Failure suits him. It is a stance he learned well while presiding over one failed Texas business deal after another, and it served him splendidly as he claimed the title of president of the United States after losing the popular, and maybe even the electoral, vote. It carried him through the most ignominious chapter of U.S. foreign policy, from the lies about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to an unprecedented presidential defense of torture.
The totally unwarranted assurance was there this week as the once proud dollar fell into the toilet and the debacle of Iraq and Bush’s other failed Mideast policies pushed oil prices to record highs. The Europeans, who didn’t support the U.S. imperial intervention, are doing much better, not having to pay for guarding besieged oil pipelines while U.S. taxpayers are saddled with trillions in future debt, not to mention 4,000 U.S. military deaths and 30,000 U.S. injuries in a war the administration had promised would be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues. Even in Baghdad last week, there wasn’t enough oil to keep the lights on for more than a few hours.
But the president is happy because his legacy issue, the war on terror, is intact. No matter that this week the Pentagon was forced to release a report conducted over the last five years that concluded, after surveying 600,000 official Iraqi documents captured by U.S. forces, that there is “no smoking gun” establishing any connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. The report was so embarrassing that we taxpayers, who paid for it, were not going to be told of its existence, even though the explosive conclusions were totally declassified, until ABC News forced its posting online.
The network reported that the Pentagon had canceled plans to issue a press release or make it available by e-mail or otherwise online because, as one Pentagon official put it, the study is “too politically sensitive.” Damned right it is—Bush squandered U.S. treasure and lives in an effort that had nothing to do with the infamous attack on America. As for the real war on terror against the real al-Qaida, those folks are very much on the rebound, just where they were before the 9/11 attack, building their bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Meanwhile, back on the home front, Wall Street is crumbling, not because of planes crashing into buildings but because the outrageous knaves of finance, freed from the most minimal requirements of public accountability, have been permitted to destroy America’s reputation in the world for financial probity.
In the name of ending what were claimed to be onerous regulations imposed after the Great Depression, this administration accelerated a bipartisan pattern of allowing Wall Street to betray investors with impunity while abandoning the federal government’s obligation, once accepted equally by conservatives and liberals, to ensure our national solvency. This tendency, under way for decades to give the bankers what they wanted—codified in the Financial Services Modernization Act, which was signed into law by Bill Clinton and which permitted banks, stock brokers and insurance companies to merge—was exacerbated by Bush’s appointment of rapacious corporate foxes to watch the corporate henhouse.
They will take care of their own, which is why Bush was smiling, happily posed in that photo op between Henry Paulson Jr. and Ben Bernanke announcing the Bear Stearns bailout, made possible only by the federal government using your tax dollars to pick up the bad debt of the banks. Tape that picture to your wall to remind you, when you open a credit card bill with a 30 percent interest rate—not the 2 percent the Fed will charge banks—or see the increase in your adjustable rate mortgage, of just what your government will do for the really big guys that it will never do for regular folks.
In the years to come, as millions lose their retirement income and homes, we will have occasion to remember Georgie Porgie, who kissed the taxpayers and made them cry before he ran away.