Monday, July 25, 2016

You read it first in The Spy, W. edition

At the dawn of the new millennium, America stood unchallenged as the greatest military and economic power in the history of the world: the Cold War had ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the economy had created vast, albeit somewhat overheated, prosperity and technological advances, such as the one you are using now to read these words, that transformed life on earth, and the fiscal strength of the United States Government, thanks to modest tax increases on the richest and spending restraint, had created surpluses that were on track to eliminate the entire national debt.

Nine years later, America lies in ruins. Thousands died from a predicted and preventable attack by a handful of fanatic extremists armed with nothing more than credit cards and box cutters. One of its greatest cultural treasures was destroyed by a foreseen natural disaster and remains in large part an uninhabitable wasteland. Its riches were squandered by a brutal and counterproductive war of choice and the failure to regulate the inevitable and controllable excesses of capitalism. Its government finds itself trillions in debt, with trillions more needed to prevent a second Great Depression. 

Catastrophe on this scale is beyond the power of any single person, no matter how powerful or evil. Yet one reckless individual bears responsibility in large measure for the consequences of all, and the perpetration of most, of these disasters. That man is the departing President of the United States, George W. Bush.

The Massachusetts Spy, January 20, 2009

Readers of the presidential historian Jean Edward Smith’s mammoth new biography, “Bush,” will surely be cured of this political amnesia. Smith — who has written biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower — is unsparing in his verdict on our 43rd president. “Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush,” Smith writes in the first sentence of the preface. And then he gets harsh.

The New York Times Book Review, July 24, 2016

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