Saturday, January 3, 2009

bush's success

I’ve tended to be critical of George W. Bush. But I am willing to give him credit for a success.

He is responsible for the creation of at least 100 new jobs. In Turkey:

Dec. 19 (Bloomberg) -- The shoe hurled at President George W. Bush has sent sales soaring at the Turkish maker as orders pour in from Iraq, the U.S. and Iran.

The brown, thick-soled “Model 271” may soon be renamed “The Bush Shoe” or “Bye-Bye Bush,” Ramazan Baydan, who owns the Istanbul-based producer Baydan Ayakkabicilik San. & Tic., said in a telephone interview today.

“We’ve been selling these shoes for years but, thanks to Bush, orders are flying in like crazy,” he said. “We’ve even hired an agency to look at television advertising.”

Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi hurled a pair at Bush at a news conference in Baghdad on Dec. 14. Both shoes missed the president after he ducked. The journalist was jailed and is seeking a pardon from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

aydan has received orders for 300,000 pairs of the shoes since the attack, more than four times the number his company sold each year since the model was introduced in 1999. The company plans to employ 100 more staff to meet demand, he said.

The shoe-throwing story is a bit old. But I have the feeling it will endure – as, perhaps, the final image of the Bush presidency.

(You can have your own go at it here. Try it. It’s very satisfying.)

It was brought to my mind today by this story:

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. …

Maliki's government was characterized by "weak performance, erected upon political quotas, major government corruption and infiltrated state agencies," he said. "Four years passed ... and they can't build the police, army, national institutions."

… "I did not imagine the political process would eat itself from inside or that it would abandon the rule of law and establish political sectarianism."

Utter failure.” And this is from Bush’s own hand-picked (former) Iraqi Prime Minister.

There is already a formal “Bush Legacy Project” underway being orchestrated by (who else) Karl Rove. The idea is to try to shape the historical narrative in a manner favorable to Bush. Good luck with that one.

And the Republican attempt to blame Obama for everything bad in the country has already begun, even before he takes office.

Timothy Egan had a good column on this (“The Pre-Blame Game”) in the New York Times:

In the icy last days of a year that can’t pass fast enough, the departing president is looking for shelter from the storm of his hubris, while the incoming one is trying to keep that same load from burying him.

Soon enough, the mess will be all Barack Obama’s. But in the holiday interregnum, the winter air is thick with excuses at the White House no-regret fest. The president has given 10 exit interviews, spinning an unnecessary war, the shredding of the Bill of Rights and an epic run of economic negligence as bold action taken with Churchillian fortitude.

No doubt the Weather Channel is waiting in the wings for his revision of Hurricane Katrina. A little polishing of history is natural for a valedictory. And if President Bush had just gone off to quiet moral smugness at Crawford, where he has spent 485 days during his presidency, we could be done with him. But nooooo!

The ineptitude-by-design that led to war in Iraq? He blamed it on bad intelligence, much of it from “prior to my arrival in Washington.”

The economic meltdown? History will prove that it came from many decisions “that took place over a decade or so, before I arrived.”

With the secondary players, it’s no better. Under Christopher Cox’s tenure at the Securities and Exchange Commission, both the legal thievery behind the collapse of Wall Street and the biggest Ponzi scheme in history went undetected. But Cox will not carry any part of that weight.

Dick Cheney, at least, is willing to defend the delusions that inspired his dark overlordship. Echoing Richard Nixon, he told Fox News that “as a general proposition,” if the president decides to do something in war it’s legal. Nuke the world, for example. He then alluded to Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus and Franklin Roosevelt’s internment of Japanese-Americans as cover.

Cheney implied that waterboarding is not torture, despite the fact that such practice can be prosecuted as a war crime in most civilized countries. And in a lesson that made many a parent cringe, he said it was O.K. during a righteous hissy fit to tell someone to go, um, stuff themselves. …

Down the road, Iraq may fall back into the chaos of sectarian violence, and if that happens, Bush will wash his hands of it. That’s the premise of a new book, “Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies,” by Peter W. Galbraith.

“The pretense that the surge is a success and that therefore the United States is winning the Iraq war,” he writes, “is the opening salvo in a coming blame game as to who lost Iraq.”

On the incoming tide, Obama is trying to keep the last eight years at arm’s length. Two wars, two million lost jobs in 2008, the worst unemployment in 15 years, a budget deficit that could reach a trillion dollars — all of that is an inherited burden, Obama says.

But to hear some Republicans tell it, the bad times are Obama’s fault. On the day after the election, Rush Limbaugh said, “The game has begun.” He meant the blame game, and it took less than 24 hours for him to get started.

“We now have the largest market plunge after an election in history,” he said on Nov. 6. “Thank you, man-child Barack Obama.”

His colleague in intellectual dishonesty, “the deeply unsubtle Sean Hannity,” as The Economist called him, picked up the talking points on the “Obama recession”— his words, more than a month ago.

The new president has a strong wind at his back precisely because the desire for a fresh start is so great. A USA Today/Gallup poll just found that Obama is the first president-elect since Dwight Eisenhower to be picked by Americans as the most admired man in the world. A more fascinating measurement is the number of Republicans who disapprove of Obama’s public performance — it’s dropped by half since the election.

Much of this good will may not last until Groundhog Day. But as 2008 slips away with Bush fogging up history’s rearview mirror, Obama does have a clean slate.

He will make mistakes, plenty of them. He will disappoint, numerous times. He will say one thing, and do another. Expectations are unbearably high.

For just a few more weeks, though, he deserves none of the pre-emptive blame his less reasonable critics are trying to assign to him. The act of becoming was the more enjoyable part of success, Ernest Hemingway once said. Obama, facing a year of peril at all levels, may reach the same conclusion.

BTW, Egan is a Seattle-based New York Times correspondent and has won the National Book Award the Pulitzer Prize. I have read two of his five books, which I highly recommend: Lasso the Wind and The Good Rain.


Looks like, once again, I was only a few hours ahead of a much better Frank Rich piece that hits on some of the same themes:

… The one indisputable talent of his White House was its ability to create and sell propaganda both to the public and the press. Now that bag of tricks is empty as well. Bush’s first and last photo-ops in Iraq could serve as bookends to his entire tenure. On Thanksgiving weekend 2003, even as the Iraqi insurgency was spiraling, his secret trip to the war zone was a P.R. slam-dunk. The photo of the beaming commander in chief bearing a supersized decorative turkey for the troops was designed to make every front page and newscast in the country, and it did. Five years later, in what was intended as a farewell victory lap to show off Iraq’s improved post-surge security, Bush was reduced to ducking shoes. …

Bush is equally blind to the collapse of his propaganda machinery. Almost poignantly, he keeps trying to hawk his goods in these final days, like a salesman who hasn’t been told by the home office that his product has been discontinued. Though no one is listening, he has given more exit interviews than either Clinton or Reagan did. Along with old cronies like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, he has also embarked on a Bush “legacy project,” as Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard described it on CNN. …

Read the whole thing. It’s a good one.

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