Good riddance

George W. Bush’s farewell tour has been just as pathetic as his actual presidency. In several days, we’ll finally be able to turn the page on one of the worst presidencies in American history.

As I’ve said repeatedly for the past 6 years, Bush’s failures have little to do with ideology and instead can be traced to his utter lack of competence. He screwed up practically everything he touched.

The Republican Party helped him along. Most Republicans are so consumed with partisan bitterness that George W. Bush still gets an approval rating in the 70 percent range with Republicans. Republicans also went along with massive spending and deficits and an ill-conceived war that has crippled our nation.

I’m very optimistic about Barack Obama’s ability to chart a new path for our country that will return us to peace and prosperity. Many Americans share this optimism according to the polls. Obama’s leadership skills have been on display throughout the transition, and thus far he’s been impressive.

I expect Obama and his team to hit the ground running on Wednesday. They face huge challenges, and yet they will not shrink from doing big things like health care reform and transitioning to a green economy.

  

Worst Justice Department . . . ever

More news from the farce called the Bush Administration. An internal investigation by the DOJ’s inspector general concludes the following with respect to former Justice Department official Bradley Schlozman:

The evidence in our investigation showed that Schlozman, first as a Deputy Assistant Attorney General and subsequently as Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Acting Assistant Attorney General, considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys and in other personnel actions affecting career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division. In doing so, he violated federal law – the Civil Service Reform Act – and Department policy that prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on political and ideological affiliations, and committed misconduct. The evidence also showed that Division managers failed to exercise sufficient oversight to ensure that Schlozman did not engage in inappropriate hiring and personnel practices.
Moreover, Schlozman made false statements about whether he considered political and ideological affiliations when he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the Committee. Schlozman is no longer employed by the Department and, therefore, is not subject to disciplinary action by the Department. We recommend, however, that, if criminal prosecution is declined these findings be considered if Schlozman seeks federal employment in the future. We believe that his violations of the merit system principles set forth in the Civil Service Reform Act, federal regulations, and Department policy, and his subsequent false statements to Congress render him unsuitable for federal service.

Bush’s Justice Department has decided, however, NOT to prosecute Mr. Schlozman. What a shock.

Schlozman’s emails showed his utter contempt for anyone he deemed to be a “liberal,” and how he consistently hired conservatives for posts where it was illegal to use politics as a criteria. Oh, and he also lied to Congress about it.


  

The Bush Legacy – interesting stats

Here are some statistics worth notng as we prepare to say good riddance to one of the worst presidents in American history:

UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
Then: 4.2% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 2001)
Now: 6.7% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, November 2008)

DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL AVERAGE
Then: 10,587 (close of Friday, Jan. 19, 2001)
Now: 9,015 (close of Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2009)

FAMILIES LIVING IN POVERTY
Then: 6.4 million (Census numbers for 2000)
Now: 7.6 million (Census numbers for 2007 — most recent numbers available)

AMERICANS WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE
Then: 39.8 million (Census numbers for 2000)
Now: 45.7 million (Census numbers for 2007 — most recent available)

U.S. BUDGET
Then: +236.2 billion (2000, Congressional Budget Office)
Now: -$1.2 trillion (projected figure for 2009, Congressional Budget Office)

Hat tip: Joe Sudbay

  

Incompetent management

Incompetence will be the hallmark of the Bush presidency.

Many have tried to blame the mortgage meltdwn on efforts started in the 1990s to encourage banks to make home loans to poor people. This ignores, however, the responsibility of the current administration to do its job of providing regulatory oversight.

It was apparant to many experts and ordinary citizens in 2005 that the housing bubble and easy loan standards could lead to disaster. We now know that the Bush administration was warned about this, and that regulations were proposed that wuld have eased the crisis. Naturally, the Bush administration dithered and left us with this mess.

The Bush administration backed off proposed crackdowns on no-money-down, interest-only mortgages years before the economy collapsed, buckling to pressure from some of the same banks that have now failed. It ignored remarkably prescient warnings that foretold the financial meltdown, according to an Associated Press review of regulatory documents.

“Expect fallout, expect foreclosures, expect horror stories,” California mortgage lender Paris Welch wrote to U.S. regulators in January 2006, about one year before the housing implosion cost her a job.

Bowing to aggressive lobbying, along with assurances from banks that the troubled mortgages were OK, regulators delayed action for nearly one year. By the time new rules were released late in 2006, the toughest of the proposed provisions were gone and the meltdown was under way.

“These mortgages have been considered more safe and sound for portfolio lenders than many fixed rate mortgages,” David Schneider, home loan president of Washington Mutual, told federal regulators in early 2006. Two years later, WaMu became the largest bank failure in U.S. history.

The administration’s blind eye to the impending crisis is emblematic of a philosophy that trusted market forces and discounted the need for government intervention in the economy. Its belief ironically has ushered in the most massive government intervention since the 1930s.

Many people share the blame for this crisis, but in the end we need a president and an administration that can act when problems arise. This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. It’s a matter of competence.

With the Bush administration, the pattern was clear. With Katrina, the Iraq War and the mortgage crisis, we see a president and an administration that consistently made matters worse. Good riddance.

  

Excellent article on the situation in Georgia

Michael Dobbs reviews the current situation in Georgia, explaining how there is plenty of blame to go around. The Georgian president made a terrible mistake, and Putin engineered a disproportionate response.

The Bush administration has been sending mixed messages to its Georgian friends. U.S. officials insist that they did not give the green light to Saakashvili for his attack on South Ossetia. At the same time, however, the United States has championed NATO membership for Georgia, sent military advisers to bolster the Georgian army and demanded the restoration of Georgian territorial integrity. American support might well have emboldened Saakashvili as he was considering how to respond to the “provocations” from South Ossetia.

Now the United States has ended up in a situation in the Caucasus where the Georgian tail was wagging the NATO dog. We were unable to control Saakashvili or to lend him effective assistance when his country was invaded. One lesson is that we need to be very careful in extending NATO membership, or even the promise of membership, to countries that we have neither the will nor the ability to defend.

In the meantime, American leaders have paid little attention to Russian diplomatic concerns, both inside the former borders of the Soviet Union and farther abroad. The Bush administration unilaterally abrogated the 1972 anti-missile defense treaty and ignored Putin when he objected to Kosovo independence on the grounds that it would set a dangerous precedent. It is difficult to explain why Kosovo should have the right to unilaterally declare its independence from Serbia, while the same right should be denied to places such as South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The bottom line is that the United States is overextended militarily, diplomatically and economically. Even hawks such as Vice President Cheney, who have been vociferously denouncing Putin’s actions in Georgia, have no stomach for a military conflict with Moscow. The United States is bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan and needs Russian support in the coming trial of strength with Iran over its nuclear ambitions.

Instead of speaking softly and wielding a big stick, as Teddy Roosevelt recommended, the American policeman has been loudly lecturing the rest of the world while waving an increasingly unimpressive baton. The events of the past few days serve as a reminder that our ideological ambitions have greatly exceeded our military reach, particularly in areas such as the Caucasus, which is of only peripheral importance to the United States but of vital interest to Russia.

  

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