OK, calm down, I told myself. It's only four years. This country is tough, and strong. How much damage can he do in four years?
The answer, it turned out, was: a lot.
George W. Bush wasn't responsible for the events of September 11, 2001. But he was responsible for defending our nation from precisely that sort of attack - and he failed, miserably. His response to those events combined the appropriate and justified direct action against the terrorist group that had conducted the attack and the nation that had sheltered them with a long-planned assault on another nation which, while ruled by a corrupt and evil despot, was in no way involved in the attack.
The ongoing wars in the Middle East and their side effects produced a climate of fear in the United States that, bewilderingly, helped carry the man who had failed so shockingly in both the prevention of the attacks and the subsequent response into a second term in a slightly-less-invalid election in 2004.
George W. Bush wasn't responsible for Hurricane Katrina and what it did to New Orleans in 2005. But he was responsible for the failures of Federal agencies charged with preparing for and responding to just such an event. "You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie," he said, as the corpses rotted on the front porches and in the waterways that had once been streets and in the stairwells of the hospital that had been left to fend for itself.
George W. Bush wasn't responsible for the collapse of the U.S. economy. Waitaminute - yes he was. In part. He shares responsibility with a great many others, but part of that responsibility still rests with him.
Now, with less than 76 days to go, how much more damage can George W. Bush do?
The answer, once again, is: a lot.
A Last Push To Deregulate
White House to Ease Many Rules
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 31, 2008; A01
The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.
The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.
Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.
Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis.
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The location that formerly was the site of the twin towers of the World Trade Center is still a construction site in its infancy more than seven years after the attacks. The war in Afghanistan is in its eighth year, and the war in Iraq is in its sixth, and Osama bin Laden, the man behind the attacks, remains free. New Orleans is still in the midst of a recovery operation. The U.S. economy is a shambles, and is expected to remain that way for at least the next few years.
And now this. Now I understand the message Grover Norquist was sending us: Regulations are evil. We will free this nation from that evil as a parting gift to the next President. No need to thank us.
Take a good look at President-Elect Barack Obama's hair now. Once he begins to deal with the smoking ruin left by the Bush Administration, I expect it will not stay such a dark color for long.