On Jan. 20, 2009, George W. Bush road into the sunset after a disastrous presidency aided by a cabal of neoconservatives who had led the nation into a war under false pretenses and left the economy in its worst state since the Great Depression.
With the election of America’s first black president, Barack Obama, America breathed a sigh of relief. Most Americans believed that the neoconservative era had been forever vanquished and the lessons learned from the Iraq War would allow pragmatism to return to the White House.
Just eight years later, the election of Donald Trump is set to make that feel like a distant memory.
As President-elect Trump gathers his transition team and his cabinet takes shape, its resemblance to the Bush administration is giving many Americans that queasy feeling once again.
The Bush administration by most measures was one the most disastrous teams ever assembled, but Trump is on an ultrasonic trajectory to top him.
The warning signs were already apparent during the campaign.
His pick for vice president alone was an alarming sign of things to come. The former Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, might look and talk like the affable used-car salesman down the road, but his views on issues such as abortion and immigration are deeply troubling.
As the Huffington Post reported, Pence signed the most abortion-restrictive regulations in the country, which required that aborted fetal tissue be buried or cremated. As a congressman, he opposed federal funding that would support treatment for people suffering from HIV and AIDS and, according to Politico, is an advocate of using tax dollars for “conversion therapy” of homosexuals.
Even more frighteningly, he recently told ABC that he would model his vice presidency after President Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney.
Cheney is widely considered to have played the role of de facto president. That Pence is looking to emulate a man who had a penchant for “regime change” and vocally endorsed “enhanced interrogation techniques,” is concerning to say the least. But coupling that with Trump’s pick for national security advisor, Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, it’s downright terrifying.
The former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency was fired from the role for being too hawkish. In addition to his proclivity for war, Flynn holds extreme views regarding Islam. In a speech earlier this year, he called Islam “a cancer” and “a political ideology… It definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion.”
Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL: please forward this to others: the truth fears no questions... https://t.co/NLIfKFD9lU— General Flynn (@GenFlynn) February 27, 2016
Trump’s selection of Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo to head the CIA is another appointment from the neoconservative pool. An open adherent of torture practices used in the “war on terror,” Pompeo is living proof that Trump wasn’t kidding when he said he would support “waterboarding and much worse.”
As member of the House intelligence committee, Pompeo also was a key proponent of the National Security Agency’s systematic abuse of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against illegal searches and seizures that was exposed by Edward Snowden.
Another relic of the Bush administration, John Bolton, is under consideration as Trump’s secretary of state. Though it’s possible that his name has been floated as a red herring, given Trump’s earlier appointments it does not inspire a lot of confidence.
Bolton as America’s chief diplomat is like considering Dalai Lama for secretary of defense. As Undersecretary of State for the Bush administration, he was one of the key architects of the war in Iraq. Bolton was later made US ambassador to the United Nations as a recess appointment despite his disdain for the world body and has spent the last few years calling for an invasion of Iran.
Steve Bannon as chief strategist is another frightening pick. Though he would not be a fair comparison to Bush’s Karl Rove whose genius lay in exploiting social fault lines as a political strategy, Bannon is a different animal altogether given his white supremacist, anti-Semitic, and sexist worldview.
Then there are the Republican troglodytes in Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and Jeff Sessions, who’d attach themselves to a genocidal plague if it could get them in positions of power that they were never able to achieve on their own.
Even Mitt Romney, who had endeared many of his detractors by staunchly calling out Trump during his campaign, lost all his integrity when he caved in this weekend and met with the president-elect for a possible secretary of state appointment.
As Trump continues to roll out his team, there are few names, if any, that don’t inspire fear in the hearts Americans and people all over the world.
In his victory speech, Trump promised that he would be “president for all Americans.” For a man whose electoral strategy was to divide and conquer, those words were rife with hypocrisy yet hopeful to those looking for some semblance of a silver lining.
Bush had run under a similar mantra of “compassionate conservatism,” but his presidency gave rise to what the Washington Post called, “a period of previously unmatched partisanship in our politics.”
Both came from wealthy elite backgrounds yet marketed themselves as populist champions for the working class. And, Trump, like Bush, lost the popular vote.
So if you thought the Bush years were bad, prepare for Bush on steroids.
It’s going to be a bumpy four years.
Banner photo: Reuters composite