Black Face (or, “Identity Politics Is For Suckers”) — Part 3: Obama’s Putrid Predecessor

OBAMA’S PUTRID PREDECESSOR

While regular readers of this blog understand that I am highly critical of the current administration, I don’t mind conceding that, in many ways, President Obama has provided a vitally needed breath of fresh air from his putrid predecessor.

George W. Bush in the Oval Office was the embodiment of elitist indifference, an unprincipled, boorish, and petty man (arrested adolescent, really) whose catastrophic eight-year tenure resolved in massive, firmament-collapsing debacles at home and abroad, with the nation’s economy and markets in free fall, two calamitous wars stagnating and adrift, and global respect for America in the trash bin… alongside the Constitution, right where Bush, Cheney, and the bipartisan consensus had placed it.

Not only was this election-snatching legacy president, “Dubya,” an incompetent goof-off with respect to everything except politics (his one forte), he was a relentless demagogue who blithely allowed his proxies to lower standards of civility in America. It became standard practice during his time at the helm of our national politics for Republicans to question the patriotism of journalists, critics, and political opponents, alike (obviously, this brand of negative attack remains in vogue, with “secret Muslim” whispers about the President yet lingering in conservative forums; and with Democrats happy to join Republicans in demonizing journalists and whistleblowers as “terrorists” and “spies” — ah, demagoguery, your allure is undeniable!).

In this regard, President Obama represents some actual improvement over his predecessor. By and large, he has not used the presidential podium for demagoguery as Bush did. It’s not his style (and hallelujah for that). Yes, Obama has continued to use secrecy and leaks in as brazenly political and outrageous a fashion as his predecessor, but at least he’s not constantly insinuating that his political opponents are “giving ammunition to America’s enemies” …and for that we can all be grateful.

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In short, despite the breathtaking continuity of policy from one administration to the next, I realize that Barack Obama is not identical to George W. Bush. I understand that the personality and style differences between the two men are, in fact, enormous — and that those differences, while seemingly superficial, actually amount to something quite appreciable and valuable: after eight long years of extravagant greed, ineptitude, and savagery, Americans can once again trust that there are at least semi-responsible, somewhat capable human beings in the nation’s capital, individuals with at least a little regard for the common welfare (and that’s an improvement for which President Obama deserves some credit).

Most Americans now realize that our last president, the wretched Mr. Bush, was an unmitigated disaster. Like his role model, President Reagan, Bush was also recklessly profligate, growing the national debt by $5 trillion, in fact nearly doubling it. When Bush and the Republicans controlled all three branches of government, there was truly the sense that Phaeton was in his father’s chariot, the reins flapping about in the wind as the craft careened out of control. The idea that someone responsible was in charge was unthinkable in those heady, terrifying times.

So although I am bitterly disappointed in the policies of the Obama administration, let it be said for the record that I remember how I felt when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were at the nation’s helm…  and it wasn’t a good feeling. Back then, it required considerable effort and empathy to not see Bush and Cheney as outright monsters, for it seemed that there were truly no depths to which they wouldn’t sink. In addition to all the spying and torturing he was up to, Dubya was an unscrupulous Chief Executive who turned law enforcement into a partisan farce, itself criminal. The story of Karl Rove’s takeover of the Department of Justice was dramatically underreported by the corporate media, despite the seriousness of the threat to our democracy (bear in mind, however, that this is the same media that barely blinked when Bush intentionally targeted journalists with deadly force in Afghanistan and Iraq, murdering three men outright).

NEXT: Part 4 – A Win-Win for the Right

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