So I read in the Washington Post today what are the Bush team "lessons learned" from the last year. Before we look at those lessons, let's look at the the instructional material they had to work with.
- Spectacular failure in the effort to privatize social security
- Shocking incompetence responding to a natural disaster, Katrina, for which we had ample warning - after four years of justifying everything on the basis of making us safer
- An exploding deficit and an out of control budget
- A popularity rating so low that a rise to 47% is cause for celebration
- An economy that looks good on paper (the wealthy's tax returns that is) but hasn't translated into wage stability or increases
- The continued presence of over 160,000 American troops in Iraq, with no end in sight, a rising death toll, and Congress restless to finally exercise a bit of oversight
- The beginnings of a real anti-war movement, growing loss of support for the war in Iraq (a clear majority of Americans), and the call for troop withdrawal from a career Marine, Rep. Murtha
- The 9/11 commission assessment that we are no more prepared today than we were prior to 9/11 to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack
- A continuing investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent which just might result in the indictment of Bush's own deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove
- Indictment of the Vice President's chief of staff for perjury, lieing to the FBI, and obstruction of justice
- The disclosure that the adminstration/Pentagon/CIA is running secret prisons in other countries where prisoners are held secretly and interrogated, some say tortured
- The reality that the administration didn't have the muscle necessary to prevent the McCain anti-torture amendment from passing
- The constant barrage of questions here at home and across the world, asking about US treatment of detainees
- The revelation that Bush authorized, unilaterally and in secret, the wire tapping of US citizens with no warrant or court review
- The appellate court's rejection of their position on Jose Padilla and their efforts to hold him without charges as an enemy combatant and to try him in a military court where he would not receive the rights constitutionally granted to American citizens
- The loss of support from the religious right that forced Bush to withdraw Harriet Mires' nomination to the Supreme Court
- The inability to get Congress to renew the Patriot Act
Now that's largely off the top of my head. No doubt, I missed a few major and untold minor problems that the adminstration faced in 2005. So what have they learned? According to the Washington Post, it's this:
- Big initiatives like privatizing social security can't be done during a time of war
Nice, the way they make this about the war and not about the complete dishonesty of declaring a financial crisis and then proposing a wholesale restructuring of the program such that it doesn't deal with the alleged financial crisis. No surprise that they failed to mention the total unity of the Democrats in Congress or that the expensive 50+ city campaign for privatization was dished only to approved insiders. They might have learned that preaching to the choir is no way to convince the country to risk its most successful social program. Or that the American people are smarter than they think. Or that big initiatives require bi-partisan support.
- It's not enough to offer assurances of victory in Iraq. The American people actually want a true accounting of how things are going and a real plan for winning.
And yet, we still don't have a plan beyond "as they stand up, we'll stand down". We got one speech with "things haven't gone as smoothly as we hoped" type of language, but still no-one has been held accountable for the grave mistakes made and still we deplete our armed services who fight and sometimes die without the equipment they need to do so as safely as possible. Here are some good Iraq related lessons: Equip the troops. Don't lie to the American people. Take responsibility and hold people accountable. Don't say support the troops and then blame commanders for how the war is going, the troop levels, or the slow pace of training Iraqis. Learn to question your idealogical conventional wisdom, especially if it leads you to risking American lives. Learn the value of internal debate and engage in it. Oh - and stop taking five week vacations when our military is fighting a war and you're the commander in chief - it just doesn't look good. There's so many more lessons to be learned - but I'll leave them to the Juan Cole's among us to point out.
- Anger at Bush subsides somewhat when he takes responsibility.
Now that's a good lesson. BUT, it's not enough to say your responsible, you actually have to be responsible. Firing Michael Brown at FEMA was a good start. But that's not enough, especially with the recent reports that the Dept. Homeland Security is disfunctional at best and may impede our ability to respond to a domestic crisis.
- You can't do anything dramatic unless you have 60 votes.
The right way to say this is: "If you're going to make major and substantive changes in the way the government operates and interacts with its citizens, the changes must be bipartisan."
These are the four lessons identified in the WaPo article that the Bush administrion has learned. That's it. And that's not enough. Not given the wealth of material they had to use as a basis for learning their lessons. If they were a class in school, they'd be given a "not proficient" mark and deemed to be part of the failing population of what might be a failing school.
So lit's time for a bit of remediation - what "lessons learned" did they miss?
Cross posted at DailyKos.