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“A Pretty Good Year In A Pretty Bad Century”: A High Point In A Century Marred By The Disastrous Bush Presidency

Imagine the 21st century as a Broadway show. We’re not talking “Hamilton” material. Actually, it’s pretty much a flop. If it were a Broadway show, it would have closed by now.

A year-end 2015 album picture, taken in Paris, showing solemn world leaders gathered to march in mournful defiance of the Islamic state group’s November terrorist attack arrested my attention. There was Germany’s Angela Merkel. There was France’s Francois Hollande. And even Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. But not the American president, Barack Obama. And that seemed strange.

Whatever. But the picture wept. The Islamic State group was our own scary gift to the world, after all, wrapped up during our long war in Iraq; and the tag definitely has George W. Bush’s name on it. Obama has yet to fully face this unforeseen consequence of war, bound to shadow his last year in office. To his credit, he recognizes the futility of going to war once again.

So let’s skip the year in review and go straight to the century in review. It’s a good time to look back over our collective shoulder.

A full 15 years have ended in a pretty pass. At home, we are a nation more roiled by race and police brutality than ever since the 1960s civil rights movement, even with a black president. Income inequality is a plague on our houses. And we are seriously looking at an abrasive reality show host as our next Republican presidential nominee. I mean seriously, folks. Some pundits who urged us onto the Iraq War blithely assert Donald Trump will never win the primary. I don’t put my faith in those wise men. I foresee leading Democratic contender Hillary Clinton facing Trump in the general election.

We’ve seen roughly half and half in Republican and Democratic control this century. Eight years of George W. Bush as president – defined by Sept. 11 and a couple wars – followed by seven years of Barack Obama – defined by picking up the pieces and trying to make peace. A huge economic downturn was also passed along directly from Bush to Obama. The euphoria at Obama’s inauguration lasted about a day in the frigid winter air.

Obama surely deserved better than what he got, but presidents don’t pick their predecessors. Bush had staked all on avenging the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and invested in becoming a “war president.” A Special Forces lightning-like attack on Osama bin Laden, the mastermind, would have been the wiser course of action, as commander-in-chief Obama showed much later. For on 9/11, there was no army against us, just 19 hijackers: Fifteen men from Saudi Arabia, zero from Iraq.

Bush’s slothful insult toward a storied city felled by a hurricane – tipping Air Force One’s wings over New Orleans in 2005 – was the tipping point of his presidency. Suddenly, the dots of his incompetence connected and his approval rating, too, was felled and never got back up again.

Everything that came out of the Bush years – false premises for declaring war, looting antiquities, the Patriot Act, torture, Guantanamo, mass surveillance on citizens, thousands of military and civilian casualties – tarnishes what we are supposed to stand for. In the end, the Islamic State group is the last cosmic slice of “just desserts” for an absolutely meaningless war. Few who thanked soldiers for their service in airports could fully embrace or explain what it was for. Next time, people, get a draft. It’s much harder to go to war with a draft.

As the new century dawned, the omens were plainly ominous. Bush’s victory over Al Gore in late 2000 called into question whether a Supreme Court 5-4 decision is a fair election. It was hard to tell from the timid press coverage, but Gore clearly won the popular vote. Just think how different the last 15 years would have been if the outcome had gone the other way. The peace and prosperity of the Bill Clinton years seem like a dream.

Obama has done much repair work, especially on the economy and foreign policy. In fact, between the Iran deal and the recent Paris Agreement on global warming, the seventh has been his best year in office. In fact, 2015 has been the best year since this century began. But he’s not the best morale-booster. That’s just not his way.

In singing “Amazing Grace” solo at the funeral service of nine murdered black church parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, the president showed amazing grace that moved the nation. For that June day, he became consoler-in-chief. Whether he’ll reach out to the American people to conduct heartfelt dialogues on race in 2016, somehow I doubt it, unless another catalyst arises. An eloquent writer on race in his memoir, Obama seldom put it on the front burner in the White House. But with or without him, it’s a burning subject.

2016, here we come into the maelstrom, a divided country swept by cross-currents. With Clinton in the election cycle, gender may soon join race as a force awakening in the national conversation. Iowa and New Hampshire voters, as usual, will be treated like they know so much. Both are overwhelmingly white states with rural swaths. They do not speak for flash points of violence and pain: Ferguson, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; nor Charleston, South Carolina.

But we can take heart: 2015 was a pretty good year in a pretty bad century, so far.

 

By: Jamie Stiehm, U. S. News and World Report, December 29, 2015

December 31, 2015 - Posted by | 2015, 21st Century, Bush-Cheney Administration | , , , , , , , ,

8 Comments »

  1. Keith – President Obama’s supporters are not disappointed with him. They
    understand what he has been facing since his first day in office. They
    understand the Republicans working 24/7 to obstruct everything he
    proposes.
    You also wrote: “We are all to blame” I have never appreciated someone
    speaking for me and when you say “we” it is all inclusive and not entirely
    factual.

    Like

    Comment by lrfalstad | January 2, 2016 | Reply

    • Amen to that!

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by raemd95 | January 3, 2016 | Reply

      • You are totally correct. I should not speak in all inclusive manner. I think he has done a good job and history will remember him well. I also find that folks in the opposing party have stymied him whenever they could, as they are playing a zero-sum game that he must lose on an issue and they must win. This lack of collaboration from the GOP has been highly frustrating and collaboration has become a bad word, which is unfortunate. With that said, I feel he could have done a better job in some areas around transparency, governance over drones and the trade off between security and freedom.

        Warren Buffett has said Obama is the best editor of information he has ever met, which is high praise. With those against him, I wish he could use his powers of persuasion to educate the masses more than he has as the US could be a better informed citizenry, in my view. I fully recognize this as an uphill struggle with so much misinformation being disguised as news, but one that is needed. That is what I think. I appreciate your correcting my holistic comment.

        Like

        Comment by Keith | January 4, 2016

  2. You wrote: “With Clinton in the election cycle, gender may soon join race
    as a force awakening in the national conversation.”
    Let’s hope that this is not a “gender based” election! There is too much at
    stake!

    Like

    Comment by lrfalstad | January 2, 2016 | Reply

  3. Our President has done much better than his critics contend, but not as good as his supporters have hoped. The economy, climate change actions, opening relations with Cuba / Iran, have all been positives this year. Adding to the excellent performance of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and pretty good performance of the ACA, he should be commended.

    Yet, he is uniquely positioned to address our racial tensions and increasing poverty. We need him to be the lightning rod for needed changes and dialogue. And, others need to join this conversation as leaders and not to blame. We are all to blame to let this happen. We all must help fix it.

    Like

    Comment by Keith | December 31, 2015 | Reply

    • There must be resolve from other leaders, especially, Congress, Governors and state and local officials.Families need to chime in as well. This is one area that can only be addressed through the will and hearts and minds of all of us.

      Like

      Comment by raemd95 | December 31, 2015 | Reply

      • Agreed. I think inviting the governors up to discuss ways to break down barriers highlighting some successes (SC with the reaction to Charleston shooting, e.g.) would be a good move.

        Like

        Comment by Keith | December 31, 2015

  4. Reblogged this on Bell Book Candle.

    Like

    Comment by walthe310 | December 31, 2015 | Reply


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