The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
Presidential Patrimony
Thursday, April 27th, 2006
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?
With fewer than a thousand days left in his presidency, what will be the legacy of Mr. Bush?  The president himself, in his customary forceful and plainspoken way, has already told us. “History?  I don’t know.  We’ll all be dead.”*

“We’ll all be dead.”  The inheritance Mr. Bush bequeaths us resides in those four words.  Not that he will necessarily kill us all, though he has hastened thousands of our fellow citizens to early graves.  “We’ll all be dead” is the president’s valedictory because it captures as nothing else will the directness and boldness, the elegant linearity, the rich simplicity of his administration.  Like other great men in history, and one thinks of Rousseau’s “Man is born free but is everywhere in chains,” or Jesus’ “The truth shall make you free,” or Napoleon’s “Not tonight, Josephine,” Mr. Bush has expressed his own ethos in a single potent phrase.

Evidence is all around us that we’ve already come into our Bush patrimony. FEMA, for example.  It was an effective, efficient, invaluable government agency when President Clinton left office, responsible for greatly mitigating the effects of disasters and for saving many lives.  After a term and a half of President Bush, FEMA is a broken reed.  Riddled with incompetence and corruption, in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina the agency demonstrated a  remarkable capacity for making a catastrophic situation significantly worse.  What to do?  Here’s where we see the Bush legacy in action.  Don’t bother cleaning house or reforming;  that’s the sissified, pre-Bush approach.  Instead, be bold, be forceful, be direct:  abolish FEMA entirely.  And that’s precisely what a congressional commission has just recommended.

Public schools?  Though ailing since long before Mr. Bush’s presidency, our education system is now so dysfunctional that a third of all high school students drop out.  For some large minority groups, the dropout rate is more than fifty percent.  Pour resources into fixing the system?  Design an inner-city Marshall plan to build decent housing, provide health and child care and employment, thus helping the hardest-hit students stay in school?  Absolutely not.  If a school isn’t working properly, close it down.  That’s the Bush legacy, and that’s exactly what we’re doing, from Maine to Southern California.

There’s evidence that the Bush legacy is already operating on an individual level.  Suppose you’re a young woman determined to win a big advance with a best-selling novel.  Sweat over a keyboard for months, maybe years, carefully writing and rewriting every word, only to endure dozens of rejections when the manuscript is finally done? Hopelessly old fashioned.  Instead, stitch together your opus from the fabric of already proven bestsellers, freely borrowing ideas, plots, whole passages of prose.  Then sell the result to a book packager.  That’s the Bushian way to go about it, and that’s what young Kaavya Viswanathan just did with her first novel, earning a half-million dollar advance and a movie contract for her pains.

Why waste time on a sensible federal budget when it’s so much quicker to bankrupt the nation?  Why bother safeguarding the environment when it’s so much easier to hasten its destruction?  Why preserve good relations with the nations of the world, when it’s so much less effort to alienate them?  Why labor to uphold the basic principles of law, fairness, and decency on which the nation was founded, when it’s so much less work to throw people in jail without evidence, trial, or humane treatment?

We’ll all be dead:  the Bush legacy.  At the rate we’re going, the president’s words may prove a self-fulfilling prophecy long before we’re ready.


©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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