Interpreting the actions of this administration requires an understand of two conditions:
1) Bush was elected by big corporation interests and the country is being run for their benefit.
2) Bush has no interest other than politics and his decisions, when not a response to his corporate sponsors, are always political.
Bush showed a bit of independent activism in his first eight months, then came the war. The only outside interest shown since 9/11 was when the Enron revelations threatened his sponsoring corporate chieftains. Enron demonstrated how the management of many publicly held companies had become corrupted by an orgy of bonuses and options. Corporate heads needed to cut short the resulting reform movement. They awakened Bush from his war fixation and distaste for new proposals. He announced support for, first a limited restriction on the ability to cash in shares received in 401K plans, and, second, against a plan to penalize management that makes off with huge option awards only to see their stock crash. Bush’s efforts are an attempt to limit reform to something his mentors can swallow, although they have already reneged on the company stock holding time limitation. The Enron situation has the potential to correct the accounting problem and the excessive option awards that led to the cheating. Bush is trying to short circuit reform by putting soft proposals on the table.
Next came tariffs on steel. This issue has been around for a long time. No president, not even Reagan, did anything because the dumping charges are empty. The war allowed the steel industry to place itself in the position of a needed national interest. The modern portion of our steel industry, so-called mini-mills using largely scrap, have been expanding year after year, and the efficient ones are profitable. Tariffs are terrible economic policy and worse for international relations. The whole structure of world trade, the foundation of a world of understanding interaction, has been undermined. Why did he do it? The only possible answer, other than responding to corporate sponsors, is politics – a hope of buying union votes. The champion of free trade suddenly turned to tariffs, at another loss of credibility and deepening distrust abroad.
The decision was typically pragmatic relative to his corporate sponsors. It was blatantly protectionist, and a setback for both free trade and foreign relations, but it met the urging of his backers. The movement to foreign factories, or just buying from foreign sources, has been further encouraged. Steel users are far more important to our economy than the industry itself, but they failed to mount a strong counterattack. The key issue, though, appears to be politics, the hope of picking up votes in steel making states.
We could see more tariffs, as Bush has revealed his willingness to sell out free market principles for votesf. Foreign competitive pressures are growing in many American industries, and Bush responds to the requests of his corporate buddies. Normally a president trying to lead an international war would avoid moves that harm allies and cast us in the worst possible light (remember the ABM treaty, unnecessarily given up for an anti-missile research program that was going to be worked on regardless).
Other than intervening to help his sponsors, since 9/11 Bush has been interested only in sounding off with tough guy bully talk, building the worst foreign relations in American history, if a strangely based popularity in his own country. His talent for cheerleadering, first seen at Andover, is being applied on a national scale. In the meantime, he has nothing to offer, no recession fighting plan, no domestic anti-terrorist program, no oil dependency program, no nothing, just as would be expected of a far righter who thinks government, other than defense, is bad. A normal president would have seen recession fighting as his job, but Bush used it only for political advantage. He is so detached from anything other than his little war that he seems to be wound up daily by his handler, Karen Hughes, and sent out like a toy soldier to make ha daily speech, saying nothing except how brave we are, what cowards everyone else is, and what a great leader he is. At first it was the same speech, now he has about three variations. This man started running for reelection the day after inauguration and the pace picked up once he had an issue as a guide. Anyone getting in the way is termed unpatriotic.
Bush became a popular hero because of the war, but the image is built on a strange foundation. His transformation from a smirking, shallow man interested only in helping his rich friends and big corporations into a great wartime leader is based on his single minded purpose in defeating terrorism. Now his lack of knowledge and interest in affairs of state, his child-like attitudes toward difficulties, his very simplicity, comes in handy. Bush seems resolute and engaged because of his extraordinarily narrow attention span. The focus on getting the evil doers is cast as great leadership, the empty braggadocio as inspiring. The almost daily round of flag waving speeches goes smoothly because he has the three variations down pat. The goofy-friendly manner is most unpresidential, but seems to make him liked. Reagan was a bit that way and got away with his cowboy act, but on him it seemed sincere, and he expressed himself in an intelligent witty manner. Bush overdoes the cornpone and nothing intelligent ever leaves his lips. The war made Bush seem more knowledgeable, but whenever caught in an unprepared situation, he comes across as dumb as ever. His lack of curiosity and thoughtfulness is covered up by flag waving. His handlers won’t let him near an open press conference because extemporaneously his still comes across as uninformed and bumbling. It isn’t the messed up grammar, it is what he says. What appears to be purposeful is a narrow minded inability to think about consequences. Though he is currently viewed as unbeatablke for re-election, the American people can’t continue to fall for this act, they are not that dumb.
It is important to remember that his popularity is based on the war, but this was never was a real war. How can the most powerful nation on earth fight a war against maybe 10,000 semi-beggars spread out over thousands of miles. Afghanistan did give us the sole concentration and the leader, but we bungled the job (while the generals and the administration have been strutting about their great victory). We popped off a lot of toys, but the only accomplishment was to driver the hidden enemy more underground and probably increase his numbers. in the worldThe phony war is not going nearly as well as we are told. Everyone but the generals knew bin Laden and most of his followers would get out through Pakistan and might have been cut off (apparently we overestimated them and failed to consider they would move on to fight another day). The U.S. has never shown much flanking ability (good in Iraq and Inchon, otherwise almost always straight frontal assault).
From a post Afghanistan point of view, the impossibility of invading other countries is becoming clearer. Now Bush is stuck with a phony over-propagandized war and no place to go. The weird combination of bombast, bombs, and stupidity leaves us not trusted by the rest of the world. Foreigners see Bush as a combination bully-idiot-kid with a lot of scary toys to play with.
Bush has to keep going because of the initial failure and the promise of a long war, but mainly because of politics. Despite the propaganda from the White House and the Pentagon, fighting a phantom enemy will inevitably degenerate into ineffective flailing. Since he needs to keep the war going at all costs for political purposes, it has been expanded to a war against “weapons of mass destruction”. Iraq is the target, for lack of a terrorist one, but the rest of the world recognizes that Iraq has little relationship to terrorism and they are offended at aggressively invading any sovereign nation. They have seen this before, from the Romans, to Napoleon, to Hitler. As a result, Bush has failed to land Turkey as his mercenary ally and staging base. Apparently the right wing saw Turkey as buyable in exchange for Iraq’s oil fields, but Iraq means Kurds and the Turks already have a serious internal problem with their own Kurds. They disappointed Bush in saying no. Europe has turned him down. It looks as if we have to put in our own troops, but there is no chance of the kind of strong coalition of 1990-91. Then we were repelling the aggressor, now we are the aggressor. Europe has long memories of aggressors. Neighboring countries have refused to serve as staging areas. Renewed fighting in Afghanistan is a great break, as would be another terrorist attack (for him politically). Politically he has to go for Iraq as the only alternative in maintaining his popularity, and enough foreign nations will be dragged along to cover up, at least in this country, the resulting bitterness against us. But the move against Iraq would probably harm the war against terrorism by being distracting and building hatred against us.
Among the many dumb decisions resulting from these policies is the proposed increased in the defense budget. Bush used the “war” to try and foist off a major increase in defense expenditures. The circumstances of this war make it clear that heavy weapons are a thing of the past. The only conclusion I can draw is that the warmongers want to take in China, probably because they are a growing economic threat. But the lack of need for the new heavy equipment is going to make for a hard fight in congress. You don’t need big weapons to fight a small guerrilla war.
Bush has missed his period of great popularity to get through needed programs, of which internal defense against terrorism and a long term oil program are merely the most obvious. The reason is that he totally lacks genuine leadership, he ever avoids it because he has no understanding of the problems and holds the right wing position that governmental action is always negative. Bush showed once again that he has no interest in the general good, but will respond to special corporate interests.
Certainly Bush has political talent, probably because that is his only interest, but his utter lack of engagement in national policy has led to a failure to use his popularity. The he internal defense program against terrorism is wallowing in ridiculous militia carrying unloaded rifles in airports and color coding. There is no program of any sort, like cleaning up the mess in the immigration agency, or tightening borders, or planning for another Oklahoma City like bombing (a more likely next step rather rather a jetliner bomb). 9/11 made clear that we must eliminate dependence on Moslem oil. Bush could get Alaska approved for his oil buddies, but it has to be part of a long term program to eliminate middle east oil through alternative means. Instead, Bush pushes the oil company line and pretends that Alaska would make us self-sufficient. Since the oil buddies do not want a plan for seriously cutting oil usage, we are unlikely to hear anything from Bush, though the need is so obvious perhaps even he will get the message.
Thoughtless policy and an ineffective war have to be covered up. The means are flag waving, propaganda, and a blanket of non-information. This is the most secretive administration in history. What have they got to hide? Why is so little being discussed about the cause of Moslem hatred and how to meet it? Instead, Bush strikes out like a spoiled kid and makes the problem worse. We are sending terrorists under cover, but the resentments that brought on terrorism are growing deeper and more widespread. You can’t bomb this kind of fervor away, it must be dealt with intelligently.
We are fighting a guerrilla war and guerrilla wars are always embarrassing for the ruler-invader. Guerrilla wars are about harassing the bully boy. The Bushies can’t see that it is this is the kind of war. Smash ’em with overwhelming power has always failed in guerrilla wars. We must deal with the underlying problems, for our present policy will only create more guerrillas. The battles go to the invader, the war goes to the home team. We played the invader with overwhelming force once before, and lost that one. We won’t lose this one on the battlefield, but we are likely to lose by increasing hatred the point where terrorism becomes a greater threat. Bush can get all the support he needs against terrorism, but when it comes to invading countries just because we don’t like then ,it is another matter. There is little evidence he understands the distinction. The war on terrorism isn’t a big weapon war. It takes intelligence and working with the home country. The threats and stupid diplomatic moves harm the effort.
The manifestation of the corporate culture in the administration is a don’t give a damn attitude about anyone else. Arrogance was always Bush’s worst problem. You can see this same quality in Ashcroft and Rumsfeld. The right is pillaging Powell because he talks reason and is not sufficiently macho. The results are bad tax policy and hopeless foreign policy. Bush is ruled by hard line right wingers who are dogmatic in doing things their way and to hell with the cost. His skill is in appearing to be a non-dogmatic good guy, but the actions say otherwise.