Monday, January 19, 2009

Parting Shots from Newspapers Around the World

Rancor for President almost universal

On the eve of his departure, newspapers across the world are letting loose in editorials on the man seen as responsible for diminishing America's standing in the world: President George W. Bush.

Papers in Canada and France say he's the worst president ever. An outlet in Scotland says Bush drove the world to the brink of economic collapse. A pan-Arabic newspaper penned a headline, "The Joke's On Us."

"Goodbye to the worst president ever," declared the Toronto Sun's editorial page. "Bush was an unmitigated disaster, failing on the big issues from the invasion of Iraq to global warming, Hurricane Katrina and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

A Reuters summary of more than a dozen newspapers spanning the globe found an almost universal lugubriousness about the havoc they felt Bush had caused to the world. "The United States was once the symbol of justice in the world but that has been damaged by Bush," wrote Austria's Wiener Zeitung. "A web of manipulation has cost America $900 billion and the lives of 4,000 soldiers -- along with at least 500,000 Iraqis."

Perhaps the most original, however, was Pan-Arab al-Hayat newspaper, which "recalled his controversial election win in Florida and how he once nearly choked on a pretzel, watching television."

"Perhaps we could say that fate, which let the American people down first in Florida and then with the issue of the pretzel in the president's throat, ultimately helped them by making sure the president would spend half his time on vacation," wrote the paper's editorial writers. "Indeed, he would have caused twice the damage if he had been more active and focused."

Not everyone wrote badly of Bush. Most complementary, according to Reuters, was the Jerusalem Post, which remarked that Bush had been the best friend to Israel in 60 years.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Froomkin's Bush Verdict

President Bush famously asserts that history's verdict on his presidency won't come until he's long dead. But far from waiting until his corpse is cold, the verdict is largely in before he's even left the building.

Some things just aren't gonna change, no matter how much time passes. Here is Bush's legacy, in part:

He took the nation to a war of choice under false pretenses -- and left troops in harm's way on two fields of battle. He embraced torture as an interrogation tactic and turned the world's champion of human dignity into an outlaw nation and international pariah. He watched with detachment as a major American city went under water. He was ostensibly at the helm as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression took hold. He went from being the most popular to the most disappointing president, having squandered a unique opportunity to unite the country and even the world behind a shared agenda after Sept. 11. He set a new precedent for avoiding the general public in favor of screened audiences and seemed to occupy an alternate reality. He took his own political party from seeming permanent majority status to where it is today. And he deliberately politicized the federal government, circumvented the traditional policymaking process, ignored expert advice and suppressed dissent, leaving behind a broken government.

Bush's great hope is that Iraq in the years to come will emerge as a thriving pro-Western democracy -- and offer some vindication for the misbegotten war that will always be associated with his name. (He has already done a masterful job of spinning his troop "surge" as a profound success -- instead of a maneuver that has simply postponed the nearly inevitable paroxysms to come.) But even if he does ultimately have something to show for our incredible -- and profoundly mismanaged -- investment of blood and capital, it will never be enough.

The coming years may shed some light on the great ongoing mysteries of Bush's presidency-- How did he make his most important decisions? Was it really him making the calls? -- but it's unlikely that will reflect well on him. We may never know the full extent of the extreme measures he and Vice President Cheney took in their pursuit of the war on terror. But at some point we should know enough to judge if those measures actually made us safer -- or, more likely, not.

Indeed, if history is at all kind to Bush, it may end up giving him a backhanded compliment -- for having created such a hunger for an anti-Bush and for a restoration of pre-Bush American values, that he paved the way for the election of an African-American president with the potential to heal the divisions that Bush exacerbated, and clean up the messes he made.

"Departing Bush at 34 percent in final Gallup approval poll"

President George W. Bush's approval rating in the final USA Today/Gallup performance poll of his presidency is up "a shade" at 34 percent, the polling firm reports.

Bush "joins Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman as presidents since the end of World War II whose final job approval ratings in office registered in the low 30s," says Gallup. Bush's disapproval rating in the same final survey reached 61 percent.

At noon on January 20, Bush hands successor Barack Obama two unfinished wars and a worldwide economic meltdown and leaves historians the job of judging his tumultuous eight-year presidency.

The 43rd US president also bequeaths the controversial tactics of the global "war on terror" that he credits for protecting the United States after the September 11, 2001 attack -- the worst strike ever on US soil.

The vastly unpopular Bush, 62, will also leave behind the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a Middle East still in flames, uneasy relations with Russia, and, his supporters say, vastly improved ties with Brazil, China, and India.

Aides point to his overhaul of US aid overseas, including an unprecedented increase in assistance to help Africa battle deadly diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS, and cite efforts to spread democracy worldwide among his successes.

His high points included a defiant vow in the still-smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center to punish Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terrorists at a time when he enjoyed staggeringly high popularity with the US public.

His low points included the failure of the government response to killer Hurricane Katrina, which drowned New Orleans and helped send his job approval to lows not seen in at least a generation.

On the economic front, Bush boasts of more than 50 months of uninterrupted growth and has rejected any responsibility for a US housing crisis that has contaminated the financial sector worldwide over the past year.

In 2008, the US economy shed more jobs than at any time since 1945.

Still, Bush said with one week before Obama takes over, "I'm better than fine. I am proud of the accomplishments of this administration.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Surveying the Wreckage

Here’s some numbers from NBC News on the Bush Legacy:


And more:


And this doesn’t really take into account how he’s devastated the American geopolitical situation, made tackling climate change incredibly more difficult, or the fact that he’s responsible for a humanitarian tragedy in Iraq that’s created millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Unemployment up by 2.5%, Dow Jones down by 15%, consumer confidence down 67% (to a record low), 1.2 million more families in poverty (increase of 19%), 6 million more Americans without health insurance (15% increase), Federal budget went from a 236 billion surplus in 2000 to a 1.2 trillion projected deficit in 2009.

A disaster by any stretch of the imagination.

Bush Leaves 1.2 Trillion Dollar Federal Deficit

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. budget deficit will swell to a record $1.186 trillion in fiscal 2009, congressional forecasters said on Wednesday, the result of an economic recession that has cut tax receipts and caused massive government bailouts of banks and automakers.

The out-of-control deficit picture by the Congressional Budget Office illustrates the daunting economic challenges President-elect Barack Obama faces when he takes office on January 20.


The actual budget gaps for both years may be significantly greater as Washington prepares to pass the gigantic economic stimulus bill by mid-February.

The CBO report shattered President George W. Bush's pledge that the government would balance its budget by 2012. Instead, CBO sees significant deficits at least through 2019.

The recession, which began in December 2007, has brought major job losses and slashed consumer spending and tax revenues. Unhappy and anxious voters elected Obama to the White House and gave Democrats larger majorities in Congress.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

U.S.-installed Iraqi ex-PM says Bush "utter failure"

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Former U.S.-installed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has denounced the policies of President George W. Bush as an "utter failure" that gave rise to the sectarian venom that ravaged his country.

In an interview published on Saturday in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Allawi found fault with American management of Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 as well as the government of present Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Allawi ruled Iraq for almost a year after U.S. occupation officials handed power to him in 2004 as prime minister of an interim government. He was selected by a council hand-picked by Washington after the 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"Yes, Bush's policies failed utterly," said Allawi, describing the U.S. administration that once backed him. "Utter failure. Failure of U.S. domestic and foreign policy, including fighting terrorism and economic policy."

"His insistence on names like 'democracy' and 'open elections', without giving attention to political stability, was a big mistake. It cast shadows on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Egypt, and I believe this will be remembered in history as President Bush's policy," he said.