Editorials on the legacy of George W. Bush are coming in from around the world, and the general assessment is, not surprisingly, poor.

Some might argue that bad times are best forgotten, and the era of Bush should be allowed to move past us quietly and politely. No "I told you so" from those who opposed Bush from day one. I don't agree. The tenure of George W. Bush as US President was a categorical disaster in virtually ever sector of American life that he and his apparatchiks touched. Our public education system has been lobotomized by Bush's fundamental suspicion of anything too highfalutin, too intellectual. Our system of scientific research has been politicized as never before, up to and including falsification of government science reports to make results conform to the ruling ideology. Climate change scientists were silenced, their data doctored by political sensors. How is that qualitatively different from the Soviet Union mandating farmers use only Lysenko's mad methods? Bush supported teaching creationism in science classes, or at least to teach about a scientific controversy over the fact of evolution that does not and has not existed since the 1860s. Bush demanded young people not be told the basic facts about their own sexuality - condemning who knows how many of them to death or tragedy - based on the sexual constraints of folk laws from Asia Minor in the Bronze Age.

It's not possible to list with brevity all the damage Bush and company did. An unprovoked war for oil. An abandoned war against our true aggressors... who remain free. Lying to the nation about rationales supporting our war of conquest. Secret prisons. Torture. Assertion of executive transcendence above any laws seen as obstacles to whatever momentary whims the executive has, at any moment. Leaving an American city to drown, unnoticed. Pandering to a parasitic banking and finance sector while it eats the floor from under us. Telling uninsured kids to, basically, drop dead.

Why should we be quick to forgive and forget that? What is gained by willfully dismissing the hideous damage done to our society by those in power? When an abomination like the last eight years occurs, it would seem more prudent to try and prevent it from ever happening again. A good way to do that is to examine what was done and how, and burn it into our minds for all time. We should devise for ourselves some useful historical safety tips for future reference, such as; "Avoid electing stupid, erratic, stubborn people to public office," as well as "Attempt to solve problems using facts, and listen to experts who know many facts". One might also wish to include "Attack only your attackers".

Little rules of thumb like that could have avoided this entire mess in the first place. At what point, exactly, did it become generally preferable to avoid expertise in favor of ignorance? Folk aphorisms and quaint language are taken by millions of people in this country as demonstrable evidence that a candidate is capable of public office. Politicians have to connect with the common man, whatever that means, and must never display a skill or talent that exceeds the modal average performance of the population as a whole. Being good at something makes you an elitist. With an attitude like that afloat in popular culture it's not surprising that people elect idiots, criminals and zealots.

When we can absorb the lessons of history and use them to our advantage, we display intelligence. Using intelligence guided by sound, rational ethics we can do anything we want as a society, accomplish any goal so long as it can be accomplished. But the moment we start relying on fakery and superstition, we lose the keen edge of ingenuity and creativity that has always been our hallmark as a society. Without the correct facts - without clear, rational justifications for our laws and conduct - we become weak and slow. Other nations won't wait on us to catch up. The better we remember how to avoid pitfalls like appeals to fear, appeals to blind patriotism, or appeals to the righteousness of unquestioned authority, the better we can resist in future when the same kinds of people come back for another go.

Those of us who always opposed the policies of Bush and his kind shouldn't be shy about saying that, about saying "I told you so". The lesson needs to be learned that whatever party occupies the highest seats of power in our nation, we still have a Constitution to follow and we still need to have decisions on our part made ethically and based on the best evidence. When stupidity trumps reason people die, and the bigger the stupidity the higher the body count.

Never again.

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Comment by Clarence Dember on January 19, 2009 at 7:29pm
I agree. There is too much at stake to whim our way to outcomes going forward. A strange pattern has unfolded historically in recent times.
It is interesting to note when ever a law iliterate person is elected president, the policy necessarily veers to the most bellicose range of options. This would be due to the lack of understanding of points of law which have lead to attempts by presidents to receivea "line item veto" with which to parse the craft of the legislature- (not his job) as well as questionable prisons (Guantonimo, Abu Grabe) and a less empirical approach to the available options in any field of management envolving the President.
When an attorney is elected president, the opposite happens.



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