George W. Bush: Man of the Year
December 31 2003
As Person of the Year, 2003, Time has chosen
the American Soldier, a decision with which no patriot will quarrel.
Whatever one believed about the necessity, wisdom or justice of the Iraq
war, the American soldier did his duty and did it admirably well.
But if the old standards had prevailed at Time – What man had the
greatest impact on world affairs, for good or ill, in 2003? – the Man of
the Year would have to have been George W. Bush. He dominated both
national and world events.
Ignoring the U.N., "Old Europe," and the Arab and Islamic world, Bush
invaded Iraq and occupied Baghdad in three weeks. In December, Saddam
Hussein was pulled out of a rat hole and Col. Gadhafi said he had seen
quite enough and was swearing off weapons of mass destruction.
By the third quarter, Bush's widely criticized tax cuts had suddenly
generated growth of 8.2 percent, and he enacted the largest entitlement
program since the salad days of the Great Society, $400 billion for
prescription drugs for seniors.
By year's end, Bush was on course for the re-election his father was
denied. His approval numbers were in the 60s, he faced no primary
opponent, and he could anticipate a fall election against an angry
liberal who was being daily carved up by his Democratic rivals.
Yet, like Richard Nixon, George Bush appears to have positioned himself
for re-election – by shucking off conservative principle.
Consider: Just as Nixon ran huge back-to-back deficits in 1971 and 1972
and had his friend Arthur Burns gun the money supply at the Fed, Bush's
deficits in 2003 and 2004 will be the largest in peacetime history, and
he has Greenspan holding interest rates at 1 percent.
Nixon cut the dollar loose from gold and saw it sink. Under Bush, the
dollar has lost half its value against gold and the euro.
Nixon completed the Great Society, whose foundation had been laid by LBJ.
And the immigration, education, entitlement and social-spending programs
either created or enlarged by GWB call to mind the guns-and-butter days
Only the Bush tax cuts remind one of Ronald Reagan.
By 1972, Nixon policies may fairly have been described as Big
Government, deficit-spending and detentist, the very antithesis of the
conservatism that Barry Goldwater had preached in 1964. And for Barry's
"Why Not Victory?" Nixon had substituted "peace with honor."
Indeed, by February 1972, Nixon, the old anti-communist warrior, was
walking up the Great Wall of China. In June, he was in Moscow for the
signing of SALT I and the baptism of detente. Before Election Day, Henry
Kissinger had declared "peace is at hand" in South Vietnam.
By Jan. 1, 1973, Nixon had redefined what it meant to be a Republican.
Though he and Spiro T. Agnew had run a conservative campaign against
George McGovern on the social issues of amnesty for draft-dodgers,
abortion and busing for racial balance, Nixon had not conducted anything
resembling a conservative administration. Sen. Hugh Scott counseled GOP
liberal colleagues to ignore the fire-and-brimstone speeches of Nixon
Said Scott, "They get the rhetoric, and we get the action."
And so it has gone under George W. Bush. His enlargement of the
Department of Education, an agency Republicans once pledged in their
platforms to abolish, was carried out in collusion with Teddy Kennedy.
His embrace of "diversity" at the University of Michigan calls to mind
Nixon's support of quotas in the Philadelphia Plan put together by Labor
Secretary George Shultz.
Where Nixon did fitfully fight Democratic excesses in spending, by
impounding funds, Bush has tanked totally. He has not vetoed a single
bill. He is presiding over a budget deficit of $500 billion and a
merchandise trade deficit of $500 billion. We are borrowing 10 percent
of GDP to finance consumption. This is unsustainable. The only question
is when our foreign creditors will decide to close the lending window
and call in the loans.
Moreover, Bush is presiding over a structural crisis in the economy
Nixon never knew – 40 straight months of lost manufacturing jobs and the
monthly attrition of white-collar and information-technology jobs to
It was early in Nixon's second term that the roof fell in, and his great
initiatives – peace with honor in Vietnam and detente – turned rancid.
Hanoi, seeing Congress cut support to Saigon, prepared a final
onslaught. Leonid Brezhnev, seeing Nixon weakened by Watergate, began
cheating on arms control and preparing to intervene on the side of Egypt
in the Yom Kippur War. Nixon had to call a nuclear alert to deter his
partner in detente.
For Bush's foreign policy, too, a testing time is coming. Even before
his re-election, his Bush Doctrine is being defied by a Kim Jong Il, who
appears hell-bent on forcing Bush to eat his words about "axis-of-evil"
nations never being permitted to possess nuclear weapons. And six months
after "Mission Accomplished," the bloodletting in the Sunni Triangle
Prediction: Bush is headed for a banquet year in 2004, but the bill will
be coming in – big-time, as Dick Cheney would say – in 2005.
© 2003 Creators
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