The June edition of Harper’s Magazine arrived a few days ago. Already, it’s looking a bit dog-eared.
Harper’s has been published for a long time. Since June, 1850 in fact. It is a wonderfully eclectic magazine of fine writing, arts reviews, poems, quotations, politics, and recent findings in science. I really look forward to reading each issue, and the latest does not disappoint.
The cover article for June is titled “Undoing Bush – How to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect.” Eleven journalists and thinkers survey the damage, and try to find a way forward. The introduction begins:
George W. Bush has done more to transform the nation than any American president since Franklin D. Roosevelt. Indeed, he may well be the perfect anti-Roosevelt. He has taken a prosperous nation and mired it in war, replaced our national composure with terror, and left behind him a legacy of damage so profound that repairing it will likely be the work of generations.
Here are some short excerpts from each of the contributors:
The Constitution by David Cole
For a short parlor game, challenge your friends to name a constitutional right that Bush has not sought to undermine. After the right to bear arms and the guarantee against the quartering of soldiers, the game will be over. Those who prefer a longer game can reverse the exercise, but be prepared for an extended and dispiriting evening.
The Courts by Dahlia Lithwick
A 2006 study by People for the American Way found Bush-appointed judges spearheading efforts to limit the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, restrict the application of the Family and Medical Leave Act, and limit access to the courts for wronged plaintiffs… And a 2006 study by Robert Carp at the University of Houston found that Bush-appointed judges were even less sympathetic in civil rights cases than judges appointed by Ronald Reagan and Bush the elder.
Civil Service by Ken Silverstein
The number of presidential appointees.. has grown from roughly 600 during the Kennedy Administration to 3,000 today—even as the overall size of the civil service has remained roughly the same… Where the Bush Administration has undeniably broken new ground is in its insistence that ideological purity and devotion to the president himself serve as a litmus test for appointees, and the rigor with which it has chosen and vetted candidates on only these grounds.
The Environment by Bill McKibben
One of the best things about the departure of the Bush Administration will be the end of headache-creating cognitive dissonance. It has taken over institutions ostensibly devoted to defending the natural world—the Departments of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, the COuncil on Environmental Quality—and turned them into organizations devoted to environmental degradation.
Science by Chris Mooney
[U]nder the Bush Administration we have seen scientists suppressed, scientific reports forcefully edited or censored, scientific advisory committees politically tilted, and widespread distortion and misrepresentation of scientific knowledge. The resulting “war on science” has delivered a severe blow to morale at the taxpayer-funded government agencies whose job it is to use such knowledge to serve and protect us.
The Economy by Dean Baker
Two economic calamities have occurred on George W. Bush’s watch… [The trade deficit] in 2006 grew to more than $760 billion, or nearly 6 percent of GDP. This, in turn, has been the major factor contributing to the loss since 2001 of 3 million manufacturing jobs, or more than a sixth of the entire sector.
The other economic disaster under Bush has been the unchecked growth of the housing bubble… By 2006, prices were 73 percent higher than their pre-bubble values, for a total of more than $8 billion in unsustainable wealth.
The Marketplace of Ideas by Jack Hitt
The Bush strategy basically takes any argument that does not comport with the forward momentum of the Bush agenda and, by means of numerous tactics, seeks to tamp down, crush, sideline, segregate, circumscribe, cordon off, isolate, maroon, raze, shunt aside, eschew, or quarantine that idea.
Intelligence by James Bamford
By far the most significant intelligence error of the Bush Administration has been the decision, contrary to established American policy and common sense, to treat terrorism not as a crime, to be solved by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, but as an existential military threat, to be confronted with tanks and Marines.
The Miltary by Edward N. Luttwak
It has always been the case that failed wars damage armies and sometimes breaks them. So it is with Iraq, unless remedies intervene soon enough. The Washington Post reported this March that “senior U.S. military and government officials” fear “it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials have called a ‘death spiral,’ in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops, and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.”
Diplomacy bu Anne-Marie Slaughter
The paradox of American foreign policy today is that the United States, though more powerful than ever, has rarely been so lost in the world and never more reviled. Majorities of Turks, Moroccans, Jordanians, and Pakistanis believe the entire U.S. campaign against Islamic terrorism is in fact meant to secure oil or even to achieve world domination. Further, majorities in all those countries, as well as France, Germany, and Russia, say that the Iraq war has made them less confident that the United States wants to promote liberty or democracy abroad.
The National Character by Earl Shorris
Speaking of the fear that emerged in the wake of September 11, 2001, Shorris writes:
It is not power but fear that corrupts—if not absolutely then deeply, beyond the barrier of reason. The wound of fear has produced six of the worst years in American history, worse even than the Civil War, for there is no Abraham Lincoln to guide the moral character of the country, nor is there a foreseeable end to this war: we can no longer be certain even of its geographical or political limits. We are a fearful nation now, led by fearful people. That is the problem we must try to resolve.
There are eleven articles in total. All contributors suggest some kind of remedial action—none thinks it will be easy.