Wednesday, September 14, 2005

End of Bush Era?

The world is indeed fast, especially with today’s internet and blogs. As Post Katrina politics unfold in last few days, it started to resonate in my mind that probably we are seeing the end of one eventful political chapter in contemporary America. Politics is nothing but the ability to set the ‘agenda’. President Bush lost that ability, at least temporarily, in the Katrina aftermath and the next logical Eureka moment is ‘my God, are we saying Bush is done?’ While I was trying to organize my thoughts in order to present this thread on my blog, I came across the EJ Dionee column in So the world is indeed fast. Dionee has rightly attempted to articulate a thought which must have been on the minds of many people like me.

To be sure, I am not confidently claiming that it is ‘game over’ for President Bush. What will happen is the chorus of this line of thought will increase in intensity in next few days, weeks and months probably and then as usual there will be the backlash from Bush, his backers and Republicans. Then inevitably there will be many occasions, made only for a President (like second Supreme Court nomination, Foreign trips and visits by foreign leaders, photo ops for Commander in Chief, etc.); some different issue will be on newspapers and this talk of ‘end of Bush era’ will go into the background. Nevertheless, I think there is some juice in this epiphany and it is worth exploring what it is.

It is unlikely to be full end of President Bush driven politics; but what Katrina showed is glimpses of what America will be when President Bush is the prime subject of History Industry. So the issue is not whether the Bush era is over or not; but the lightening which flashed rays on what would it look like when he is not around. It is a peek into the future about what America will be facing when President Bush is no more in the political equation.

Politics is nothing but the wrong headed gossip about raw power when it is not at works to solve our collective problems. Presidents, Congress, Governors all are there because we as a collective species face certain challenges which make sense to address at collective level only. Again the primacy is of ‘problems we face’ and the various solutions tried or proposed. ‘Leadership calls’ are essentially judgments about risk perceptions and risk evaluations of available solutions on the table. The way we humans are set on this planet, we do not have the luxury of infinite resources to deal with all these challenges we face. Invariably we have to make compromises and sacrifices. Did I say the word ‘sacrifice’? That is the word, as has been criticized so often to Bush Administration; is not in the dictionary of President Bush. What it means he and his administration have been trying to run our affairs and provide the leadership as if it does not cost to solve these problems. But at the root, the leadership is the focal point of attempting to distribute ‘pain’ (pain of adjustment in response to the changing environment) as much uniformly as possible among various sections of a society. Otherwise we all know the rudderless leadership of Congress in bringing the bacon home years after year in the pork barrel politics. ‘No pain redistribution’ is the fundamental missing link in the Bush Administration. The Katrina response finally brought that point home in full gore and people have given up expecting this ‘fairness of pain’ from him; some receive more than others….. The Presidency is gone on wind at that point.

The reason President Bush’s Social Security plan did not jell well with public is – public accepts there is a problem; but President Bush never proposed any ‘fair’ solution where everyone could chip in. He never bothered to address fair worries of poor commoners when they question ‘but what happens to Uncle Sam with the deficit of over Trillion Dollars’. What use is of the promise that I can invest $5,000 per year the way I want if I am not sure in the first place that I could earn any money and whether those Dollars would have any purchasing power left when the backbone underwriter of Greenback - Uncle Sam - has become bankrupt?

President Bush never cared about the unity which is forged when every common little person feels that ‘I have done this little bit of sacrifice for my country and I am proud for that’. I guess it is way too out of fashion for this bunch of Republicans. Can we say he is insensitive to common people, their feelings and their inherent decent urge to come together to face this brutal Life? One wonders whether it is the same country where once upon a time her President said ‘ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for you country’. (How come my father had this quote framed in his office back then in a Timbuktu town of poor India?) No wonder President Bush does not have any capital left to rein in or to exhort people away from the ever spiraling cost of relief work. Here he goes, loosing one more battle to set an agenda to set limits on government doles.

And when one thinks about all these lost abilities of this administration to solve our genuine problems (it does not matter how many seats Republicans win due to shenanigans and spin techniques of Karl Rove), one comes to quick realization that to get out of this morass, it is of lesser matter to criticize to President Bush. The problems on hand, the bull work to be done, require solutions which will be formulated on a political canvass which does not have the words ‘President Bush’. Further, the natural seasons of electoral rhythm of American politics will surely dim President Bush’s light come next November and by then the swagger will be with the leading lights of ‘presidential primary stealers’ of both parties. But beyond the cyclical nature; Katrina indicates that some fundamental rapture has occurred with this Presidency and suddenly with little notice, this presidency got pushed forcefully towards that vast, desolate, barren spaces of History.

As President Bush finally accepts the fault of Katrina relief work in the grand tradition of presidential leadership, ironically it does give the sense termination. Such honest talk of course bestows admiration and sense of gentleness towards President Bush, but it also indulges commoner to start thinking about the life when he will not be around.

Beyond some point, no amount of browbeating on this administration will solve our problems, will address our true needs. So for the aspiring politicians, Democrats and Republicans alike, as Dionee has said it rightly; the earlier they start talking without any reference to President Bush; it is better for their ambitions and even better for we American people.

Umesh Patil
San Jose, CA
September 13, 2005.

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