If your business was teetering on the brink of failure and needed three-quarters of a trillion dollars to keep it afloat, would George Bush be your choice to pitch the deal to a skeptical bank board? Well, that is what Americans saw last night. George W. Bush, the C student from Yale and graduate of the Harvard Business School who has overseen nothing but business failures across his career, made his first speech to the nation in a year to try and persuade Americans to support his administration's bailout plan for the financial markets crisis that happened on his watch, but for which he refuses to accept responsibility. If Americans buy his latest stunt, we will fall for anything.
Here is why I am not impressed.
For starters, President Bush doesn't have much credibility anymore, if he ever deserved any before the financial markets mess occurred. This is the same fellow who insisted seven years ago that we invade Iraq following 9/11. Bush told us the war in Iraq would be paid for by oil revenue from Iraq. Bush and his vice president said that Saddam Hussein was partially responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bush said that there was no insurgency in Iraq. Bush said that the American economy was not headed into recession as little as a year ago. Aside from John "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" McCain, can you name a less credible person in the country on the nation's economy or any other subject of public policy than George "the Decider in Chief" Bush?
So why did President Bush address the nation last night? Consider the following likely reasons, but don't expect anyone to admit them.
The Bush Administration went to the last player on its bench. The star players (Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke) cannot convince to Congress to make a $700 billion grant to the financial market that caused this mess on Bush's watch. Vice President Dick Cheney and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten can't browbeat Republicans in Congress to go along. Even Senator John McCain is telling people that the $700 billion grant stinks. When everyone else strikes out, the team has to send in the worse player even though it knows he can't play worth a hoot. After all, would you really send George Bush to make a $700 billion sales call if there was anyone else in the world to do it?
The legacy thing. Let's see, George Bush can't point to his success in international affairs as the crowning point for his presidency. He can't point to his national security prowess--remember that he decided to remain on vacation in Texas after receiving a national security briefing with the headline stating that Osama bin Laden was determined to strike the United States only weeks before 9/11. Mr. Bush can't point to his success as a war-time president, having started a war against an essentially defenseless Iraq for discredited reasons, mis-managed it, and prevented the U.S. military from pursuing and eliminating bin Laden. Bush can't point to his successful handling of domestic affairs, having let New Orleans drown. He can't point to his success with the U.S. Supreme Court because the Court has struck down his attempt to deny due process to the people caught up by his post 9/11 dragnet. The Bush Administration is running out of time, has run out of international allies, and has practically been abandoned even by Republicans in Congress. The financial markets bailout appears to be a last ditch try to restore some stature to a presidency that is widely viewed as a bad joke. Bush came out last night trying to put a dignified finish to a misbegotten presidency that worsened with age.
To play on American fears and sympathy. Would the the Bush Administration resort to fear-mongering and sympathy appeals in the interest of bad policy? Has it happened before? Hmmm. Do you remember Bush telling the nation in a State of the Union address about nuclear material from Niger that Saddam Hussein was supposedly trying to acquire? Do you remember the USA PATRIOT Act and claims about needing to suppress civil liberties, snoop on libraries and electronic communications, and spy on our phone conversations to avoid having a "mushroom cloud" over some American city? Do you remember repeated appeals to fund the misadventure in Iraq by pleas to "support the troops" even while the Administration was denying wounded troops decent facilities, needed mental health care for post traumatic stress disorder, and forcing our fighters to scrounge for metal to protect their vehicles from improvised electronic devises (IEDs)? History clearly shows that Mr. Bush has neither shame nor regret about playing on our fears and appealing to our emotions.
George Bush, the last player off the bench because he is the worse player on the team, came out last night to do what he has always done--try to scare and bully Americans into giving him his way so he can leave office claiming credit for something else the rest of us must endure. Last night, George Bush told us to give him $700 billion to save us from his trillion dollar mess. If the American public falls for this ploy, we need more than fresh money to fix our woes. When you trust the person whose policies helped wreck several of your cars after a career of other wrecks to oversee the auto recovery and repair industry and then give him a $700 billion dollar grant to do it, you need a guardian.
Heaven help us!