President Bush came back from Asia and it may as well have been South America, for all the respect he got. Sorry ‘bout that, Dubya, but the rest of the world sees you falling apart at home and it makes them bold. They were bold in South America and you came away with nothing. Now they are bold in Japan and Korea, China and Mongolia and you’ve come home with nothing from that trip as well.
There’s still a terrorist game out there, but it’s suddenly being played on Asia’s and the Middle East’s terms because no one need play the ‘reacting to Bush’ game now that it’s no longer being played in America. Not even in his own party. He’s slipped on the kennel floor and all the hounds are having at him while he’s down.
Which is strange and not so strange at the same time
In the middle of Bill Clinton’s worst times, when Monica was all that held any newspaper’s interest in America, I remember Vaclav Havel and Nelson Mandela standing on either side of him at a press conference. The world’s two leading moral forces, unwilling to back away from a man in whom they had confidence. Not only confidence, but respect. Clinton had come to that international reputation the hard way, by listening to the world and doing the best he could with it. And his policy wasn’t always great and it wasn’t always successful but it was a listener’s response and it was coalition politics.
That makes Clinton a remembered man, one who is not yet done with the world stage.
George Bush has swaggered and threatened and presumed himself to have a mandate that was not there. His politics was unilateral and represented the closed circuitry of not a half dozen people who fed on his natural comfort with isolation. His ‘mandate’ was fear-based. Fear in his home country of possible terrorist attack and fear worldwide of how this man was abusing the full might of the world’s sole remaining superpower. Dubja thought he was spending his political capital and the truth was that account had insufficient funds. More than anything else, what we are now watching is a foreclosed presidency. Chapter 11 in a White House that told itself anything goes and believed it.
That will make Bush a forgotten man who will withdraw from the world stage behind dark glasses, his hoped-for legacy consigned to the dustbin of history.
The tragedy for the nation is that it has exhausted its political integrity in both major parties. The collapse of the Twin Towers was allowed by Democrats as well as Republicans to presage a foundering of American will, confidence, reputation, internal freedoms and international power. We allowed deliberation to be hijacked in the name of expedience, lashing out instead of tying down, bullying away a shocked world’s goodwill. Our vulnerabilities have been exposed for ourselves and the world to see and perhaps not a moment too soon.
We are not a nation of George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. We are a nation of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Rather than self-righteous, we are self-righting. Our errors and abuses are not pointed out by others, they are exposed within our own system of self-government and, when exposed, the guilty parties made to pay. Even when they are titans of industry or politicians at the peak of power and prestige. Even, sometimes, when they are president.
What other nation on the face of the earth can make that claim?