Thursday, November 04, 2004

George W. Bush, 1946-2018 

We did mention we were looking to the future, didn't we? Zembla's most eminent prognosticator Greil Marcus says the sooth, courtesy of Zemblan patriot K.Z.:
Policy Review, October 5, 2018--George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, died today at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. He was 72. The cause of death was announced as heart failure.

Mr. Bush's always controversial presidency left behind a changed nation and a changed world. Taking office in 2001 after a disputed election settled only by a 5-4 decision by a bitterly divided Supreme Court, and decisively reelected in 2004, President Bush led the United States into four wars, oversaw the dismantling of Social Security and Medicare, and enforced a drastic shrinking of elementary, secondary, and collegiate education. He spearheaded the transformation of President Bill Clinton's budget surpluses of 1999 and 2000 into permanent deficits of more than a trillion dollars a year, thus profoundly reducing the amount of capital available to address the needs of the vast majority of citizens and inhibiting the creation of new jobs with any promise of advancement or financial security, while at the same time pursuing tax reductions that increased the differences between the income and assets of, in his own terminology, "owners" and "pre-owners" of "the American ownership society" to extremes almost beyond measure. When he left office, taxation of personal and corporate incomes, while still legally extant, had been effectively replaced by a new payroll tax, so that almost all investment, inheritance, and interest income was left tax-free. "Those with the greatest stake in America," President Bush often said throughout his second term, "have the greatest stake in defending it. Thus we as a nation must do all that we can to ensure that the commitment of those with the greatest stake to the rest of us, a commitment on which our freedom and security rests, only grows greater."

Adding to Mr. Bush's statutory and administrative economic policies were a series of decisions by the "Bush Court," as the Supreme Court was known after 2005, when in that year Mr. Bush replaced three retiring members with very conservative justices (a fourth was replaced in 2006), depriving government regulation of corporations and the environment of any legal basis--decisions which many analysts considered more significant than the repudiation by the Bush Court of previous decisions upholding a woman's right to privacy in the matter of abortion and certain applications of affirmative action. Even with the Bush Court seated, however, the Republican-controlled Congress that Mr. Bush enjoyed throughout his presidency repeatedly passed legislation removing issue after issue from the purview of the state and federal courts, including questions of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble, and the right to trial by jury. Despite these prohibitions of judicial review, the government, under Mr. Bush, did not press for any legislation curtailing what had previously been referred to as "First Amendment freedoms," but simply refrained from challenging such legislation passed by many states, rather filing supportive briefs before the Supreme Court when such measures were contested. Ultimately the reversal of the series of 20th-century Supreme Court decisions subjecting the states to the Bill of Rights, long-sought by certain conservatives, was achieved not de jure but de facto. "The press is legally free," the former New York Times columnist Frank Rich put it in 2007, writing in his online journal Thatsrichbrother.com. "It merely refrains from practicing freedom." Some said the same of the nation as a whole; others said the country was freer than it had ever been . . . .

Mr. Bush's Republican Party had, during his time in office, so effectively marginalized the opposition Democratic Party that it all but ceased to function in many states. After the suspension of the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate, the remaining 45 Democratic senators were unable to block any of Mr. Bush's appointments to the federal courts or the executive branch of government. The Republicans had so successfully supported Mr. Bush as an infallible and irreplaceable leader that he came to seem, in fact, irreplaceable. There was no figure in the party who did not appear diminished as soon as his or her name was mentioned alongside of his, and the notion of any ordinary Republican actually succeeding Mr. Bush became, in the words of William Kristol, editor of the conservative journal the Daily Standard, "unthinkable." Thus was the strategy devised to introduce a constitutional amendment to remove the requirement in Article 1 that no one could be elected president were he or she not native born, supposedly to permit the presidential candidacy of the native-born Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger, the enormously popular and skillful governor of California and the one Republican other than Mr. Bush who did sometimes appear larger than life. It later transpired that the amendment was a ruse: When Democrats attempted to "poison" the amendment by proposing that all restrictions on who might become president be removed (the requirement that a president be at least 35 years old, the two-term limit), the Republicans immediately acquiesced, and as a result of the passage of the 28th Amendment in 2006 and its ratification by the states the next year, in 2008 Mr. Bush announced his candidacy for a third term. He was overwhelmingly defeated that November by former President Bill Clinton.

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