Go on. Admit it. You never thought this would end, did you? You never thought they'd actually leave, huh? With only days remaining, you still have nagging doubts, don't you?
Finally. Mercifully. Astonishingly. Incredibly. The insane adventure in national suicide known as the Bush administration is at last coming to an end.
This was a ride that beggars belief. Even after McCarthy and Nixon and Reagan and Gingrich, nothing prepared us for the last eight years, and I for one have difficulty finding the words that could begin to do justice to describing this historical folly of epic proportions.
The list of self-inflicted wounds is endless: running from the fiscal irresponsibility, the lies about war, the incompetent execution of every policy, the extreme recklessness of environmental catastrophe, the economic meltdown, and turning one of the most admired countries in the world into one of the most reviled.
It is a breathtaking record. It really is. Indeed, one might argue in complete seriousness that it would be far easier to list the one or two exceptions to a blanket rule of disaster than to catalogue the endless list of travesties. It would certainly take a lot less time to specify any successes than to climb the mountain of wholesale failures. In short, it literally involves almost no exaggeration to describe this adventure in catastrophic governance by means of a simple covering adage: If there was a way the Bush administration could have diminished America, it did.
Given this endless chronicle of national implosion, I won't try -- for the umpteenth time -- to catalogue the crimes and catastrophes here, despite the fact that this week offers a good opportunity for summing up our world of hurt. There are too many, and they are too well known. Except for those that are not, of course, of which I expect there is a huge quantity. [...]
Most people have completely failed to perceive the magnitude of the Bush crime, because they see it as limited to "merely" dumb policies, poorly implemented, by incompetent stewards of government. Would that that were so. We'd be so much better off as a country and as a world had it been only that. [...]
This president -- and indeed the entire movement of regressive politics these last three decades (which I refer to as Reaganism-Bushism) -- can only be properly understood as class warfare. Its purpose was never to make America a better place. Indeed, if we define America as a country belonging to its 300 million inhabitants, then the purpose was actually precisely the opposite. The mission of this ideology was in fact to diminish, if not impoverish, the vast bulk of these citizens so that the already massively wealthy among them could become obscenely wealthy. [...]
In short, if you merely hate the Bush administration for driving the country into penury, making us hated around the world, bringing on a global economic crisis, ignoring when not exacerbating a looming environmental catastrophe of planetary proportions, killing a million Iraqis on the basis of a host of lies, letting New Orleans drown, trying to wreck Social Security, sleeping through (at best) the worst terrorist attack on our shores, allowing -- when not assisting -- the Middle East in going up in flames, or dividing our country internally -- if that's "all" you've got against these guys, then you have no idea how bad it really is.
Because how bad it really is can be found in the same place where one sees the difference between first-degree murder and involuntary manslaughter. The latter is a crime of ineptitude, the former one of intent. If you are fooled into thinking -- as I suspect that most Americans have been -- that the Bush administration was just a bunch of bungling ideologues who governed like Keystone Kops, then you will have been duped by the crime of the century. For at bottom these were kleptocrats, pure and simple. They came to steal, not to serve, and -- with the chief exception of their foiled Social Security raid -- they accomplished their mission rather handily. This was class warfare, and we lost badly. [...]
This has been, indeed, the crime of the century, and my only hope at this point is that it will ultimately be recognized as such. Right now, we are far from that. Most Americans abhor the Bush administration to the point where quite a large percentage would probably be willing to call it the worst in American history. But that fails completely to do it justice, because it still misses the crucial question of intention. The difference between the perception of the Bush administration and the true reality of its mission accomplished is the difference between a well-intentioned bungler and a vicious, though friendly, predator. [...]
Maybe the one thing I got out of the horror of the last eight years was a lesson in political culture. I learned that he who goes looking for rational thought or dialogue among the ranks of the regressives will come home a confused, addled and empty-handed fellow. That's what I was half a decade ago when that revelation whacked me across the forehead. I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I couldn't believe that most of my fellow citizens could believe what we were witnessing.