July 02, 2008


Bottom Ten

The 10 Most Awesomely Bad Moments of the
Bush Presidency

By Brad Reed at Sadly, No!

10: Bush Gets Re-elected

Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" who promised to be a "uniter, not a divider" who would run a center-right administration like his father did. By 2004, the myth of Bush the Uniter had been demolished by his exploiting the 9/11 terror attacks for political gain, by dropping poison pills into bills to make Democrats vote against their own proposals, and by supporting needless and divisive initiatives such as a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. On top of this, the Bush re-election crew ran one of the nastiest and most negative campaigns in recent memory.

9: Alberto Gonzales' Congressional Testimony

One of the Bush administration's favorite pastimes over the past eight years has been gleefully urinating in the faces of the other two branches of government. This tendency is best exemplified by Ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer questions under oath about whether a group of eight federal prosecutors had been fired for partisan reasons. Gonzales responded to questions by answering "I don't recall" a total of 64 times.

Although several GOP senators called on Gonzales to resign in the wake of his testimony, Bush said Gonzales' performance had "increased my confidence in his ability to do the job" and that he would stay on as attorney general.

8: North Korea Conducts a Nuclear Test

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, Bush stated forthrightly that "the United States will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons." And to show how serious he was, Bush decided to invade Iraq, a country whose vast stockpile contained precisely zero weapons of mass destruction.

But while Bush was busy freedomizing the Iraqis, North Korea - a country best known for being home of the world's worst government - steadily built up its nuclear capabilities and eventually conducted a nuclear test in October 2006. Naturally, Condi Rice declared that the test was actually a significant win for Bush administration policy, thus proving once again that down isn't just up for the Bush administration, but sometimes sideways as well.

7: Colin Powell's Bogus WMD Presentation at the U.N.

In February 2003, Powell gave a presentation before the U.N. Security Council that was instrumental in convincing both the American public and large swaths of the international community that Saddam Hussein had large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction that posed an immediate threat to global security. During his speech, Powell told scary tales of mobile biological weapons labs, chemical weapons stockpiles and aluminum tubes that could be used in a nuclear weapons program. All of these claims turned out not only to be wrong, but based on sourcing that even Powell acknowledged was "deliberately misleading" in some cases.

And what's more, Powell knew how shaky a lot of the intelligence was before he made his infamous presentation to the United Nations. Years after feeding bogus intel to the Security Council, Powell said his performance was a "painful" "blot" on his record. I'm sure that's a fine comfort to the hundreds of thousands of people who died needlessly as a result of Powell's Security Council boo-boo.

6: The Terri Schiavo Affair

In what will no doubt go down in history as one of the craziest things our federal government has ever done, the U.S. House and Senate both passed an emergency law to save the life of a woman who had been near-brain dead for more than a decade. The case of Terri Schiavo, who collapsed in her home and who later lost oxygen to her brain after her doctors misdiagnosed the cause of her collapse, was undoubtedly tragic for everyone involved; it was also undoubtedly none of the federal government's business.

After numerous state courts had sided with then-husband and guardian Michael Schiavo and ruled that Terri's condition was irreversible and that her feeding tube could be removed to end her life, the Christian Right launched into an epic freak-out the likes of which America has not seen since 17th Century Salem. After much Tasmanian devil-style screeching and hollering from the GOP base, the Republican Congress passed a bill transferring jurisdiction of the Schiavo case to federal court. Bush, who seemingly never misses an opportunity to take a naked ride on the crazy train, interrupted one of his frequent Texas vacations to sign the damn thing into law.

Ah, if only he'd been this swift and alert when Hurricane Katrina hit (see #4 below).

5: Bush and Condi's Excellent Gaza Adventure

The trouble began when Bush started stamping his feet and throwing a hissy fit about having elections in the Palestinian territories. Essentially, Bush's desire to be seen as a "freedom president" meant forcing various swarthy third-worlders to vote in elections that would presumably result in U.S.-friendly regimes around the world. After Hamas predictably defeated Fatah in the elections, Bush decided he didn't like democracy in the Middle East so much after all, and he had Condi Rice tell Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas that "America expected him to dissolve the Haniyeh government as soon as possible and hold fresh elections." Apparently, Condi believed that having an American-backed leader dissolve a democratically elected government would warm the Palestinians' hearts to American aims. Long story short: The U.S. government decides to bolster Fatah by sending them a bunch of arms. Word of these shipments leaks to a Jordanian newspaper. All hell breaks loose; Hamas defeats Fatah and proceeds to use the American-supplied arms it confiscated from Fatah against Israel. The entire ordeal was an amazing illustration of the administration's complete inability to anticipate entirely predictable outcomes.

4: "Brownie, You're Doing a Heckuva Job"

Yes, we're getting into Bush's real crowning achievements here. The Think Progress blog has done an admirable job of chronicling the entire affair.

3: Abu Ghraib

In its May 10, 2004 issue the New Yorker magazine published an explosive report by renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh detailing the systematic torture of prisoners by U.S. military personnel at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Administration apologists used two distinctly different strategies to push back against the inevitable bad press that ensued: One was to condemn the guilty parties but refer to them merely as "a few bad apples" who weren't reflective of American policy; the other was to dismiss the entire scandal as "an out-of-control fraternity prank."

But it turned out, of course, that the crimes committed at Abu Ghraib weren't merely the work of a few rogue soldiers. Indeed, it turns out that the tactics employed in the infamous Iraqi dungeon were first taken out for a test spin at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And where did they get the idea to use these techniques? Why, from senior Bush administration officials, of course, with the full approval of Bush himself! As ABC News reported earlier this year, "the high-level discussions about these 'enhanced interrogation techniques' were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed."

Amazingly, the Bush administration tried to justify its decisions by claiming that even waterboarding was perfectly legal and did not constitute torture. Despite the fact that, you know, it was deemed illegal 40 years ago by U.S. generals in Vietnam.

This particular scandal was so bad that even the John Birch Society concluded that the administration and its flunkies were war criminals.

2: 9/11

The terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, was one of the most terrifying and traumatic moments in American history. But while the loss of life on that day was indeed a major tragedy for all Americans, what happened afterward was in many ways more disturbing: In essence, the politicization of 9/11 caused us to lose our collective minds for a long period of time.

By the time the 2002 midterm elections rolled around, Bush and his GOP minions were milking 9/11 to get as many votes as they could. When Senate Democrats tried to extend union rights for workers in the newly created Department of Homeland Security, for instance, Bush issued a pissy veto threat, and then-spokesman Ari Fleischer described the Dems' proposal as "a step backward, not forward, in protecting the country." And that's just a mild example. There are many other choice GOP attacks that accused Democrats of helping al Qaeda win by not kissing Bush's ass with the sufficient level of enthusiasm.

The Republicans' "The Democrats Want to Help al Qaeda Kill You" gambit worked for two consecutive elections before finally running out of gas in 2006. But even so, the ability of one political party to garner votes simply by yelling about treason incessantly is incredibly depressing.

And the No. 1 Most Awesomely Bad Moment of the Bush Presidency:

"Mission Accomplished"

A lot has been written about Bush's aircraft carrier stunt over the past few years, and with good reason. After all, no other incident better illustrates how Bush's presidency was built entirely on hubristic arrogance, shameless propaganda and a destructive disregard for reality. In what Noam Chomsky correctly called "the opening of the year 2004 election campaign," George W. Bush delivered a so-called "victory speech" for the Iraq War after landing on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln aboard an S-3B Viking jet dressed in full flyboy gear.

Bush's posturing as a war hero was, of course, laughable. During the Vietnam War, Bush used his family connections to obtain a gentleman draft dodger's assignment flying planes in Alabama for the Air National Guard -- a cushy assignment that he didn't even do very well. But no matter! As long as he gave off an aura of steely resolve, and as long as he wore a ridiculous outfit to emphasize his "manly characteristic," our ever-watchful pundit corps endlessly praised him as the gin-you-wine article.

A sample of the atrocities, painstakingly compiled by Media Matters:

"(T)hat's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star. A guy who is a jet pilot. Has been in the past when he was younger, obviously. What does that image mean to the American people, a guy who can actually get into a supersonic plane and actually fly in an unpressurized cabin like an actual jet pilot?" -- Chris Matthews

"A little bit of history and a lot of drama today when President Bush became the first commander in chief to make a tail-hook landing on an aircraft carrier. A one-time Fighter Dog himself in the Air National Guard, the president flew in the co-pilot seat with a trip to the USS Abraham Lincoln." -- Wolf Blitzer

"And two immutable truths about the president that the Democrats can't change: He's a youthful guy. He looked terrific and full of energy in a flight suit. He is a former pilot, so it's not a foreign art farm -- art form to him. Not all presidents could have pulled this scene off today." -- Brian Williams

And in the time since Bush performed this grotesque PR stunt, roughly 4,000 troops have been killed in action along with tens of thousands of Iraqis, with nary a WMD in sight to justify the carnage. Heck of a job, all around.


Brad's full article, compiled painstakingly over the course of two months, is at Alternet, and includes a beefy list of also-rans for those incredulous that the Plame affair or warrantless wiretapping didn't sink as low as these. And Brad, I'll keep some Arrogant Bastards cold for you because after all we still have more than half a year to go.

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God! There is way more than ten! Don't get me jacked up!
BTW- I'm putting you on notice: blogroll me or I am hunting you down! I know who you are and can take you down!
You are now permanently blogrolled. However, for our own protection your comment has been forwarded to the proper authorities for sykeeatrik review.
That's an excellent piece. And it's painfully true that it's difficult to pin Bush's assholedness down to just 10 things, but there's only so much space on the Intertoobs.

I'm up in the air about #1 though. I think Katrina and Terri Schiavo are pretty damned close.
All very worthy of the top 10 worst moments but the Colin Powell UN speech was the one that stung the most. I always had time for the man up to that day and it just seemed such a crushing let down to hear him speak the way he did.
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