PortFolio Weekly

PortFolio Weekly
February 7, 2006

Pigs at the Trough

by Jim Newsom

When our grandchildren or our grandchildren’s grandchildren study this time in American history, how do you think it will be portrayed? Do you suppose that anyone in power today ever stops to think about that, about the legacy their actions will leave behind?

Lyndon Johnson hoped his legacy would be the war on poverty, the triumph of the civil rights movement, the “Great Society.” Instead, the story of his presidency is marred by his stubborn refusal to cut his losses in Vietnam and get out, by his fear of going down in history as the first American president to lose a war. It’s a tragic tale, but at least he had a plan for leaving his mark as a great president. He would have made it on the strength of his domestic agenda, but he had that foreign-misadventure Achilles heel. As a result, history considers his term-and-a-half to have been a failure.

Richard Nixon had his shot at greatness: the opening up of relations with China and the arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union. But he was afflicted with a personal paranoia and distrust that led to the Watergate debacle and an unconstitutional overreaching of executive power. He resigned in disgrace, one step ahead of impeachment.

George W. Bush didn’t come into office with the grandiose vision of such predecessors. In fact, he seems to be oblivious to the judgment of history and apparently doesn’t care what kind of world he leaves his own grandchildren.

This first Chief Executive of the 21st century has managed to blend the worst traits of the Johnson and Nixon administrations with the corruption of Warren G. Harding’s scandal-ridden reign and the paralyzing incompetence of Herbert Hoover to produce what is possibly the lousiest presidency in our history. Worse than that, the Bush brigade may be presiding over the end of the American era, accelerating its decline through horrid social and economic policies, a misbegotten and ill-conceived foreign escapade, and the undoing of seventy years of progress toward a more just and caring society.

These guys really don’t give a damn what they leave behind, as long as their cronies profit handsomely and the extreme right religious fundamentalists are partially mollified. The pigs are at the trough, and Bush, Cheney, Rove and company are serving up a feast.

When LBJ failed to fashion a satisfactory resolution to the war in Vietnam, a Democratic Congress, an engaged public and an independent press stood up to him and forced him not to seek reelection. When Nixon’s perverse madness was revealed, a Democratic Congress, an engaged public and an independent press drove the impeachment process that forced him to resign.

Today, much of the public is working too many hours or is too distracted by the latest edition of Survivor or the current crop of American Idol wannabes to pay much attention to the details of their government’s behavior; the press is owned by large corporations fearful of crossing the powers-that-be; Congress is in the hands of radical Republicans sucking on the teat of big business and big lobbyists. Where the Nixon unraveling proved that our system does work, the current situation leads us to wonder whether we actually have any checks and balances left, and if we are still a government of laws.

While we ponder these concerns, Halliburton, the company whose former CEO is now Vice President of the United States, just announced a profit of $2.4 billion in 2005 on revenues of $21 billion, thanks in part to no-bid contracts it was awarded for work in Iraq.

The Bush administration is stonewalling investigations into its response to Hurricane Katrina, its conduct of the war in Iraq and its connections with lobbyist extraordinaire Jack Abramoff. The president signed John McCain’s “torture ban” by adding an asterisk indicating that he doesn’t really have to abide by it if he doesn’t want to. His apologists claim he can disobey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because it’s “old law.”

The Medicare prescription drug plan was conceived and composed by lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry. The administration’s energy policy was formulated by a secret assembly of oil industry insiders. Health Savings Accounts, the centerpiece of the Bush plan to shift the financial burden of medical coverage from employers to employees, are noteworthy for the fee income they will generate for banks and insurance companies.

It’s a bit overwhelming. When the swine are oinking in a pen of new mud, the stench is overpowering, the noise is deafening and the slop is putrid. Welcome to Republican America, circa 2006.

copyright © 2006 Port Folio Weekly. Used by Permission.