As Republicans gather in New York City, the Bush campaign will undergo a drastic makeover, camouflaging gutter tactics with a veneer of moderation calculated to help the President win another four-year term. But the hard truth of this campaign is that George W. Bush, while attempting to impose an extremist right-wing agenda on this country and the world, has compiled a record of staggering failure.
The debacle in Iraq has already claimed close to 1,000 American and 12,000 Iraqi lives. Far from making America safer or the Middle East more democratic, it has turned out to be what this magazine warned it would be: a reckless abuse of power that has damaged US security, destabilized the region and undercut America’s position in the world. The high cost of the war is evident not just in the number of deaths but also in burgeoning federal budget deficits (the war has cost more than $125 billion) and in the record gasoline prices Americans now pay. It is also evident in the reported swelling of the ranks of Al Qaeda-inspired groups and in the rising hatred of America reflected in public opinion polls showing that even among traditional allies like Jordan and Egypt, as much as 95 percent of the population view the United States with disfavor. Meanwhile, the war has diverted resources from urgent international problems ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the widening AIDS pandemic.
And there’s no end in sight. The US occupation grinds on with both Bush and his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, ignoring the only intelligent alternative: a phased US withdrawal. Iraqi opposition to the occupation remains fierce–expressed even by Iraqi soccer players at the Olympics–while the country’s appointed leaders display authoritarian tendencies that undermine the democracy Bush and his aides claim is being built.
If the war were Bush’s only failure, it would be enough to require his departure. But it is not. By withdrawing the United States from international treaties and conventions, mishandling crises in the Middle East and North Korea and diverting resources from the pursuit of Al Qaeda, Bush has left America more isolated and less secure. And the detention camps made infamous by the crimes of Abu Ghraib have stripped America of the pride we once had in our country and the role it played, however imperfectly, as a champion of human rights, economic opportunity and the rule of law.
At home, Bush’s failures are equally manifest. He has amassed the worst jobs record of any President since the Great Depression, the worst budget deficits ever and the most precipitous decline in America’s fiscal position–from $5 trillion in projected surplus to $4 trillion in projected deficit. Bush’s Administration responds to a corporate crime wave with calls for less regulation, embraces the flight of jobs abroad as good for the economy and exacerbates, with top-end tax cuts, the greatest inequality since the Gilded Age.