In American history, the years 2000 to 2009 represents among the worst decades ever. The 1860’s with the Civil War, and the 1960’s with Vietnam and the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK and Malcolm X, may rank worse. But only slightly.
Things might have been different had Bill Clinton been able to keep his zipper zipped. Gore would have been president, meaning no George Bush and no war in Iraq. Zipper aside, Clinton left us with peace, prosperity and the greatest surplus of all-time.
Bush quickly turned those record surpluses into record deficits and led us into two wars, one unnecessary and the other horribly mismanaged. Oh, yes, W also left us with the worst economy since the Great Depression.
The perfect storm of Bush’s “selection” to the presidency may have begun with Katherine Harris, Florida’s secretary of state. In 2000 she helped purge voter rolls of felons so wantonly that if one had a name similar to a felon’s you could lose your voting privilege.
It’s universally acknowledged that most of those disenfranchised would have voted for Gore. Ms. Harris was, after all, co-chair of Bush’s Florida campaign. (Slight conflict?)
Harris was rewarded with a congressional seat that she held for two terms, but she had her eyes on a bigger prize, the U.S. Senate. In 2006 she spent her $10,000,000 inheritance in a scandal-ridden campaign (allegedly playing footsie with a male reporter) that left her defeated and disgraced.
But invading Iraq may have begun in 1997, courtesy of my favorite neo-con think tank, PNAC, Project for New American Century. (How’s that for an imperialistic-sounding name?)
When PNAC outlined their global ambitions for America they wrote that what was needed was a “new Pearl Harbor.” On 9/11, it arrived. Legislation, that right-wingers had only dreamed of since FDR, was suddenly achievable. But many crucial 9/11 questions were unanswered.
Why were warnings from FBI agents in the field, ignored? Why didn’t NORAD scramble planes? How were biographies of the terrorists in newspapers within 24 hours? How did World Trade Center Building #7 implode when never before had a steel high-rise turned to dust? Why did Bush sit with “My Pet Goat” for seven minutes after being told “the country was under attack?” Why did Andrew Card not wait for W’s response?
Facts be damned, Bush wanted Saddam. When terrorism czar Richard Clarke assured him that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, Bush exhorted, “Look again!”
We now know that the buildup to the war was predicated upon faulty intelligence and lies, many supplied by $350,000-a-month CIA employee, fugitive Ahmad Chalabi. To this day Bush denies knowing Chalabi very well, much like he did with Enron’s Ken Lay.
The Bush administration manipulated the lies into a war that many historians predict will be our worst foreign policy blunder ever. However, despite the tragic loss of life and treasure, the war generously benefited Haliburton, Blackwater, Exxon and British Petroleum. (The latter two receiving lucrative Iraq oil refinery contracts.)
Some have theorized that Bush lost support for the war with his callous inaction during Katrina. While dead bodies floated in New Orleans, Bush was in Arizona, eating birthday cake at a John McCain fundraiser. (And Condi was reportedly at Bloomingdale’s buying shoes.)
Corruption and greed were rampant throughout the decade. Former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan called the GOP-run Congress (2000-2006) “The most corrupt in 50 years.”
The Wall Street collapse exemplified run-away greed, and with virtually no consequences. Fortunately, Bernie Madoff will die in jail.
The decade was marked by the “ends justify the means,” witness water boarding and torture, both of which may be war crimes. Another example was the Bush administration’s blatant destruction of a CIA front company, Brewster-Jennings with the outing of Valerie Plame, a covert CIA agent, during a time of war. While it appeared treasonous, Karl Rove commented that Plame was “fair game.” But even the Mafia doesn’t go after wives.
Virtually every aspect of American life suffered during this past decade. Unions and the middle class shrunk dramatically, while the gap between rich and poor had never been greater. Statistics on education, healthcare, quality of life, and the environment, were far worse than anticipated.
Environmentally, Bush considered global warming merely “a theory.” (Much like gravity?) And Sarah Palin stated that blaming man for polluting the environment is “ignoring God’s plan.” Palin believes that man and the dinosaur co-existed. (Which I suppose makes “The Flintstones” a documentary?)
For a majority of the country, the decade ended with a lone bright spot, the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president. And yet many of us are still waiting for the promised change.
In the final analysis, maybe the best thing that can be said about this past decade is that … it’s finally over.
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com