As the administration of George W. Bush at long last comes to a close, the historical record of his presidency will begin to take shape. And like everything else that touches this president, the outlines of his legacy will be distorted by his accomplices and apologists. They will seek to recast in the public mind an accounting that bears little resemblance to reality. It will not be a remembering of the Bush era, but a dismembering, a mutilation of facts and consequences.
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In pursuit of that goal, a coven of Bush minions has already convened to forge a counterfeit version of recent events. This faction of falsifiers includes the most notorious of Bush's inner circle. Amongst the notables who have converged to sanitize and canonize the outgoing misleader are:
- Karl Rove - Also known as the Architect or Bush's Brain. Rove was the source of some of the most insidious propaganda emanating from the Bush White House.
- Margaret Spellings - A Bush crony from the Texas clan. As Secretary of Education, with no experience in teaching or administration, she presided over millions of children being left behind.
- Mark McKinnon - The Bush media advisor who received a recess appoint to the Broadcasting Board of Governors. His role as an advocate of fake news reports makes him an obvious choice to help fictionalize the Bush years.
- Karen Hughes - A long-time PR flack for Bush whose work with the White House Iraq Group was instrumental in developing the lies used to sell war to the American people.
- Alberto Gonzales - The Former Attorney General. A natural choice for historical recollections when, during testimony before Congress, he couldn't seem to recall anything about his own tenure at the Justice Department.
The determination of this group to whitewash Bush's reign or error will no doubt be intense. But so will be the level of difficulty. Bush is skipping out of Washington with the lowest approval rating of any president for as long as such ratings have been measured. Even worse, with regard to forming a legacy, is that majorities of historians rank Bush as the "worst president ever," an awesome achievement considering competition from the likes of James Buchanon, Herbert Hoover, and Richard Nixon. The comments of one historian in the survey summarize the situation nicely:
"No individual president can compare to the second Bush. Glib, contemptuous, ignorant, incurious, a dupe of anyone who humors his deluded belief in his heroic self, he has bankrupted the country with his disastrous war and his tax breaks for the rich, trampled on the Bill of Rights, appointed foxes in every henhouse, compounded the terrorist threat, turned a blind eye to torture and corruption and a looming ecological disaster, and squandered the rest of the world's goodwill. In short, no other president's faults have had so deleterious an effect on not only the country but the world at large."
It will be interesting to see how the defenders of the Bush legacy respond to that. Karl Rove has already provided a preview of how the history manglers are going to proceed. And he is not shy about disseminating nonsense. He asserts that no one will regard the decision to take out Saddam Hussein as a mistake or that the broader war on terrorism was a miscalculation. Rove may have a point there, except for the fact that most Americans already regard the Iraq war as a mistake, and the broader war on terrorism has been miserably miscalculated, as evidenced by the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the recent bombings in Mumbai. However, some of what Rove says is disturbingly plausible:
"No administration in the foreseeable future is going to go in and say, 'You know what, we're repealing the Patriot Act. You know what, we're throwing out that terrorist surveillance program.'"
If Rove is right about this, than the American experiment was a failure. This is why it is imperative for Bush to be reprimanded by the law for his transgressions against the American people, the Constitution, and the world. If the Obama administration fails to undo these legislative and executive atrocities, then an abhorrent precedent will be set for decades to come. Americans may forever lose the freedoms for which Bush says the terrorists hate us. Maybe that's his secret plan. If terrorists truly do hate us for our freedoms, then if you take them away the terrorists will no longer hate us - or hurt us. Safe at last. But Rove isn't through prognasticating:
"We are better off for having woken up to the fact that we were in a war, and, mark my words, no president in the foreseeable future is going to step back from the tenets of the Bush philosophy, which are: better to fight them over there than to fight them here, and we will not wait until dangers fully materialize before we strike."
The tenets of the Bush philosophy are nothing less than the grotesque advocacy of superiority and aggression. The phrase "fight them over there" is an overt declaration that non-American lives have less value and are expendable in the war on terror. Rove is making the argument that, while it is Americans who are fighting terrorists, it is everyone else who should suffer the consequences. And Bush's doctrine of preventative war is not a policy of striking before "dangers fully materialize." It is a policy of striking whether or not danger even exists. It is a policy of striking at shadows and illusions, except with real victims. Rove seems to have forgotten that no WMDs were ever found in Iraq. It's too bad that thousands of Americans and more than a million Iraqis had to die in the interim. More likely, however, Bush's philosophy is just a policy of manufacturing false justifications for attacking economic and ideological adversaries.
In the passage of time it is going to be important to preserve honest representations of the past. We must foil the legacy perverters in their attempts to fictionalize history. This means vigilance over the sort of odious assemblies described above, as well as over the media that has already been infiltrated by these and other revisionist historians.
If we are not vigilant, our legacy will be that we misunderestimated their strategery and we will forever dismember what actually happened in the dark days of Bush. And thus we will be condemned to repeat it.