FRANK P. BELCASTRO Dubuque, Iowa
The members of the Bush Administration may have been the most disastrous dreamers, the most reckless gamblers, and the most vigorous imperial hucksters and grifters in our history. Selling was their passion. And they were classic American salesmen – if you’re talking about Hussein’s mushroom clouds rising over American cities, or a full-scale reordering of the Middle East to our taste, or simply eternal global dominance.
When historians look back, it will be far clearer that the “commander-in-chief” of a “wartime” country and his top officials were focused, first and foremost, on selling the American people a bill of goods. From a White House where “victory strategies” meant purely for domestic consumption poured out, to the Pentagon where bevies of generals, admirals, and other high officers were constantly being mustered, not to lead armies but to lead public opinion, their selling focus was total.
They headed a government that couldn’t shoot straight or plan ahead or do anything halfway effectively, an administration that emphasized “defense” – or “homeland security” as it came to be called in their years – above all else; yet they were caught utterly, embarrassingly unready for 19 terrorists with box cutters, a hurricane named Katrina, and an arcane set of Wall Street derivatives heading south.
But Bush won’t suffer. He will have his new house in Dallas and his more than $200 million presidential “library” at Southern Methodist University; and then there’s always that 20% of America who think his presidency was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Bush will take to the talk circuit to talk to the 20%. As the president himself put it enthusiastically, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.”
This is how a media-built-hollow-man-turned-president fails upward. Every disaster leaves him better off.