By Jack Neworth
Without question, 2000 to 2009 represents one of the worst decades in our history. The 1860s with the Civil War, and the 1960s, with Vietnam and the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X, may rank higher. But only slightly.
In 2001 Bill Clinton left office with the nation at peace and with the greatest surplus in American history. George W. Bush soon turned those record surpluses into record deficits and led us into two wars, one unnecessary and the other so mismanaged that, eight years later, we’re still mired down. Most importantly, Bush left us with the worst economy since the Great Depression. (He was an excellent jogger, however.)
How did it begin? Prior to the 2000 election, Katherine Harris, Florida’s Secretary of State, purged voter rolls of felons so wantonly that if you had a name similar to a felon, you could lose your voting privilege. It’s generally acknowledged that most of those wrongly disenfranchised would have voted for Gore. Then again, Ms. Harris was the Chairperson for the “Florida for Bush Campaign.” (No conflict there?)
Afterwards, Harris was rewarded with a congressional seat that she held for two terms. But in 2006 she had her eyes on the U.S. Senate, spending her $10,000,000 inheritance in a scandal-ridden campaign (caught playing footsie with a young reporter) that left her in disgrace.
The real beginning may go back to 1997 when the neo-conservative think tank, PNAC (Project for New American Century) outlined their global goals for America. What was needed, they said, was a “new Pearl Harbor.” On 9/11, it arrived. Legislation, that conservatives had only dreamed of since FDR, was suddenly achievable. But many questions were unanswered.
Why were warnings from FBI agents in the field ignored? For 90 minutes, why didn’t Norad scramble intercept planes? How were biographies of the terrorists in the newspapers within 24 hours? How did WTC Building #7 implode when never before had a steel high-rise turned to dust? After being told by Andrew Card that “the country was under attack,” why did Bush sit there for 7 minutes? Why did Card not wait for Bush’s response?
Bush was determined to blame 9/11 0n Iraq, facts be damned. When terrorism czar Richard Clarke told him that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, Bush jammed a finger in Clarke’s chest, “Look again.”
The buildup to the war was filled with faulty intelligence and bald-faced lies, many supplied by fugitive from justice, Ahmad Chalabi. (On the CIA payroll at $350,000 monthly.) To this day Bush denies knowing Chalabi very well, much like he did with Enron’s Ken Lay.
The Bush administration artfully manipulated the lies into a war that many historians feel is our worst foreign policy blunder ever. However, despite the tragic loss of life and treasure, the war generously benefited Haliburton, Blackwater, Exxon and British Petroleum. (The latter two receiving lucrative Iraq oil refinery contracts.)
Some have theorized that Bush lost support for the war with his callous inaction during Katrina. While dead bodies floated in the streets of New Orleans, Bush was in Arizona, eating birthday cake and playing air-guitar at a John McCain fundraiser. (Condi was reportedly at Bloomingdale’s buying shoes.)
Corruption and greed were rampant throughout the decade. Former Republican presidential candidate, Pat Buchanan, called the GOP-run Congress (2000-2006) “the most corrupt in fifty years.”
The Wall Street collapse exemplified runaway greed, and with virtually no consequences. At least Bernie Madoff will die in jail.
The decade was marked by the “ends justify the means,” exemplified by waterboarding and torture, both of which may ultimately be judged as war crimes. And don’t forget the Bush administration’s wanton destruction of a CIA front company, Brewster-Jennings, with their outing of a covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, all during a time of war. To me it seems treasonous that senior White House advisor, Karl Rove, commented that Plame was “fair game.” And yet even the Mafia doesn’t go after wives.
During the decade, virtually every aspect of American life suffered. The middle class shrunk dramatically while the gap between wealthy and poor was never wider. Statistics on education, healthcare, quality of life, and the environment were far worse than anticipated.
As for the environment, Bush considered global warming merely “a theory.” (Much like gravity?) And Sarah Palin said that to blame man for polluting the environment was to “ignore God’s plan.” Then again, Palin believes the earth is 6,000 years old and that man and dinosaur co-existed. (Which makes “The Flintstones” a documentary?)
For many, the decade ended with a lone bright spot, the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president. And yet many are still waiting for the promised change.
In the final analysis, maybe the best thing that can be said about the 00’s decade, is that it’s over.