Tuesday, July 15, 2008

President Bush Past the Expiration Date

It was bad enough when, under the pretext of snuffing out weapons of mass destruction, President George W. Bush thrust the United States into a war in Iraq that now appears virtually intractable.

It became worse when, with no plan beyond the site of the air carrier deck, Mr. Bush declared "mission accomplished" when the mission clearly was nowhere near accomplished, no matter how inadequately the Bush Administration had set forth a mission statement.

It became worse yet when the Administration, the Administration that, upon taking control of the White House, announced that "the grownups" were in charge, outed an active CIA operative over a petty squabble with the operative's spouse.

Yes, as far back as 2003, the United States' predicament with the current occupant of the White House was dire. But Mr. Bush's Tuesday press conference--his first since April as he attempts to stay out of the news and out of the minds and hearts of voters--sent a signal to all Americans that the days of 2002 were indeed heady compared to the days of 2008. And, more significantly, the press conference serves as exhibit A as to why the United States ought to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow for mid-term removal of Presidents.

Lame duck presidents are something up with which Americans have had to put since the passage of the twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution in 1951. That Amendment stipulates that "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." The twenty-second Amendment was passed in response to the four-term presidency of FDR, who was so riddled with complications from polio that he was barely able to finish out a third term, let alone make much of a go of his fourth term.

Though the twenty-second Amendment clearly was an attempt to rid the U.S. system of an echo of a monarchical system, it had the unfortunate lasting detriment of imposing upon the U.S. electorate what has come charitably to be known as the "lame duck" presidency for any President elected to a second term. This has been particularly true of second-term Presidents in a divided system.

Since the passage of the twenty-second Amendment, five U.S. Presidents have been elected to a second term after serving one full term. Of the five, four finished their second term, with all four facing a congress controlled by the opposing party in their final term in office.

Until George W. Bush stepped back into the White House for a second term, a case could be made that, despite factors working against them, all three previous "lame duck" Presidents at least managed some progress, with Eisenhower, facing Soviet aggression and inheriting a military-industrial complex that he failed to conquer, arguably having the least amount of success.

Despite Eisenhower's difficulties, the former WWII General nevertheless stands, along with Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as among the most popular Presidents in U.S. history at the time of leaving office. Unfortunately, for reasons that history will support, the current Bush President cannot and will not be able to make the same statement.

Poor policy and lack of forthrightness with the American public notwithstanding, Mr. Bush's second-term offers a vivid portrayal of why the U.S. system requires amending. For not only is Mr. Bush the principal behind numerous failed policies of action and inaction, he is also now challenging what is plain for all to see. Such stubbornness has made any traction on the myriad difficult issues facing the United States virtually impossible. Mr. Bush's Tuesday press conference, merely belies such intractability.

Attempting to allay public concerns about what appears to be a quickly degenerating U.S. economic condition, Bush began by recounting a tale that may or may not actually have occurred. ""I happened to witness a bank run in Midland, Texas, one time," Bush told reporters. "I'll never forget the guy standing in the bank lobby, saying, 'Your deposits are good. We got you insured. You don't have to worry about it if you got less than $100,000 in the bank.' The problem was, people didn't hear."

That statement typifies the daftness that appears to run rampant in the current White House. Taking Mr. Bush's own story at his word leaves us with no useful parable. Regardless of whether people heard what the Midland banker was saying, the bank's accounts were insured by the FDIC for accounts up to (rather than less than, as Mr. Bush suggested) $100,000. For the vast majority of Americans, that is the concern.

Clearly, Mr. Bush's concern rests with the proprietors of the bank who brought the bank close enough to the precipice of ruin to induce a run. The bank's failures are apparently lost on Mr. Bush, however, as he laments the downfall of Indymac rather than the significant inconvenience to Indymac's customers and the loss of savings for those with greater than $100,000 invested with Indymac who receive assurances from Indymac just three days prior to the bank's failure that the bank was in good shape.

Also lost on Mr. Bush is what his current proposal to bail out Fannie May and Freddie Mac entails. Mr. Bush contends that the floating of sweetheart Federal Reserve Loans to the two mortgage houses and the federal government's purchase of substantial stock interest in Fannie May and Freddie Mac do not constitute a government bailout of the lenders as both would remain "publicly held" entities. That's not even double-speak, it's simply obtuse.

Mr. Bush cannot call the Government's measures a "bail-out," of course, because, in the Republican lexicon, bail-outs are what Democrats provide. Republicans, meanwhile, let the chaff fall from the wheat--or so we are led to believe.

After more inane comments, Bush took to the stump to chide Democrats for their partisanship, blaming nearly all of the country's current problems on Democrats and accepting none of the blame at his doorstep or at the doorstep of the Republican Party that has controlled the federal government for six of the past eight years.

For a President that once took a shine to President Harry Truman's pronouncement that the buck stops with the President, this President clearly is more talk than action. And that, along with Mr. Bush's virtual inability to garner support or momentum for any meaningful program, calls for a change in command. Unfortunately, the current system requires us to languish under what is surely the lamest of lame ducks in the modern U.S. presidency.

Next: Is Hillary Still Stumping?

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