Yet even as Bush’s failures come into sharper focus
– from Iraq to Katrina to U.S. port security to the exploding national
debt – the trickier question is whether the American people can act with
the unity and foresight to implement a solution.
At this critical time, the greatest obstacle may be
an unwillingness to consider “unthinkable” options that might actually
offer the best hope.
So, at this third anniversary of Bush’s ruinous
invasion of Iraq – with more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers and tens of
thousands of Iraqis dead – there is reason to look at three alternative
scenarios for the future, from one that might be best for America
(though the most fanciful) to what could lie ahead if events continue as
they are (the most likely).
Option One: The Agnew-Nixon Solution.
From Bush’s rookie failure to cut short his
month-long vacation after receiving the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence
warning about Osama bin-Laden “determined to strike inside the U.S.”
through his inability today to stabilize Iraq, Bush has proven that the
U.S. Supreme Court’s interference in Election 2000 was a grave historic
If the Supreme Court had simply opted for the
principled solution – to grant enough time for a full and fair recount
of all legal Florida votes – Florida would have landed narrowly in Vice
President Al Gore’s column,
as later unofficial tabulations found. Gore, the candidate who also
won the national popular vote, would have become President.
Instead, five Republican justices – Scalia, Thomas,
Rehnquist, Kennedy and O’Connor – put partisanship ahead of legal
principles to install Bush in the White House. With that decision on
Dec. 12, 2000, American history took a dark turn.
Since then, if the past five years have shown
anything, it is that Gore’s seasoning and priorities were a much better
fit for the complex challenges facing the United States than were Bush’s
inexperience, rashness and unilateralist tendencies.
While the nerdy Gore might not have made an ideal
President, he was possibly the best qualified American to face the
nation’s pressing threats, including global warming, the need for
alternative fuels, worldwide economic competition and Islamic terrorism.
He had experience working with other nations to address complex
international problems and with balancing the federal budget.
At the time of Election 2000, the federal
government was running surpluses and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan
Greenspan was fretting about difficulties that might arise from paying
off the federal debt entirely. That was one problem that George
W. Bush did solve, as the federal debt now is hitting record highs, with
the debt limit rising $3 trillion on Bush’s watch to a total of $9
Bush’s government borrowing has become a ticking time bomb
inside the U.S. economy as foreigners from China to the United Arab
Emirates grow more and more leery about buying up the huge American
debt. Combined with Bush’s appetite for costly foreign military
adventures, the fiscal explosion could come earlier rather than later.
Fixing a Mistake
So, Option One would be a national recognition of
the Supreme Court’s historic mistake in 2000 and an adoption of a
bipartisan strategy to rectify it – putting the United States back on
the course that the American voters chose five years ago. This option
also could open the door to genuine bipartisanship, possibly even a
Responsible Republicans would join with Democrats
in telling Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that their patriotic duty
now is to admit their many mistakes and do what’s best for the country –
a sequential resignation, as occurred in Richard Nixon’s second term
when Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned and was replaced by Gerald
Ford, who then became President upon Nixon’s resignation.
Only this time, the goal of bipartisanship would be
best served by having Cheney replaced by Democrat Gore, who could then
take over the Presidency upon Bush’s resignation. Gore could reach out
to pragmatic Republicans, the likes of Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana or
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, for a Vice President.
This new unity government could then make the hard
decisions to extricate U.S. troops from the Iraq quagmire, fashion a
smarter counter-terrorism strategy and start rebuilding American
credibility in the world. Gore also could apply his depth of knowledge
about global warming and alternative fuels to chart a course toward
Option One’s bipartisanship could reach into
Congress, too, where budget realism could overcome Bush’s radical
anti-tax ideology. To protect the future strength of the dollar and the
health of the U.S. economy, Bush’s far-as-the-eye-can-see deficits would
be reined in and federal spending would be focused carefully on top
In short, the shock therapy of an Agnew-Nixon
solution would stop the political drift that is now pulling the nation
into some very dangerous waters.
That said, today’s political reality – especially
the deeply angry right-wing political/media infrastructure – makes
Option One virtually “unthinkable,” even fanciful. George W. Bush and
his dead-enders would never admit they’ve made mistakes, let alone
relinquish power to a Democrat. Which brings us to Option Two.
Option Two: Throw the Bums Out
Option Two would be a full-scale political battle
for the nation’s future and for its soul.
With Bush and Cheney dug in – and conceivably
lashing out with more military operations abroad, such as a military
assault on Iran – the American voters would have to intervene via
Election 2006 putting in a Democratic House and/or a Democratic Senate
that would confront Bush.
A House Judiciary Committee under the chairmanship
of Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, would demand documents about Bush’s
secret policies and investigate Bush’s various abuses of power –
policies of torture, warrantless wiretaps, detentions without trials and
But Bush, who believes he holds “plenary” – or
unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief, would surely refuse to
cooperate, forcing Congress to subpoena records and eventually consider
holding the Executive in contempt. [For more on Bush’s claims to power,
see Consortiumnews.com’s “The
End of Unalienable Rights.”]
The intensity of the political battle would deepen
with the nation split into two warring camps: on one side, Americans
demanding that Bush be held accountable under the laws and the U.S.
Constitution – and on the other, Bush loyalists calling his critics
Bush’s megalomania, as a modern-day emperor who
rages when aides bring him bad news, would prevent meaningful
compromise. If Congress stuck to its guns and pressed for impeachment, a
full-scale constitutional crisis would ensue.
There’s also the question of what Bush would do if
he were faced with impeachment in the House and conviction in the
Senate. Would he go – as Richard Nixon finally did, waving his
V-for-victory salute and flying into political exile – or would Bush
resist with whatever forces remained at his disposal?
Option Three: Capitulation to the Leader
Most likely, however, the implausibility of Option
One and the dangers of Option Two would lead Americans to settle on a
passive Option Three, in which Bush continues as President for the next
three years, even as he consolidates his authoritarian powers and leads
the United States deeper into the neoconservative delusions of
Without a pushback from Congress, Bush is sure to
press his theories of the “unitary executive” domestically and his
strategy of “preemptive wars” internationally. For instance, despite the
Iraq disaster, Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the doctrine of
“preemption” in his new national security strategy paper issued March
Rather than showing signs of regret for invading
Iraq over bogus weapons of mass destruction, Bush simply issued a new
warning – against Iran, identifying it as his next primary target.
Indeed, Bush’s escalating rhetoric against Iran has
prompted some analysts to conclude that Bush will launch at least air
strikes against suspected Iranian nuclear facilities before the U.S.
elections in November 2006.
Bush’s political advisers still view national
security as his strongest suit for blocking Democratic electoral gains.
So, another foreign crisis – with Bush talking and acting tough – could
be expected to intimidate the Democrats and rally his base.
Moreover, many of Bush’s neoconservative foreign
policy advisers retain their faith in a policy of “creative destruction”
in the Middle East with the goal of shattering the status quo and
transforming Muslim nations into non-threatening pro-American states
that also accept Israel.
Rather than building support for the United States
in the Middle East, however, Bush’s Iraq War and revelations of prisoner
abuse in U.S. detention centers have touched off tidal waves of
anti-Americanism that threaten to inundate Washington’s regional allies.
So, while Bush rattles sabers against Iran
ostensibly to prevent Muslim extremists from getting their hands on a
nuclear bomb, one consequence of Bush’s strategy could be the
destabilization of the pro-U.S. Pakistani dictatorship of Gen. Pervez
Musharraf, who is facing a growing domestic challenge from Islamic
Ironically then, a U.S. attack on Iran to prevent
its hypothetical development of nuclear weapons in a decade or so could
lead to the rapid collapse of the Musharraf government and put
Pakistan’s existing nuclear arsenal in the hands of radical Pakistani
Muslims, with close ties to Osama bin-Laden’s al-Qaeda.
Bush’s air strikes against Iran also could lead to
retaliation by Tehran against U.S. troops in neighboring Iraq. With
close ties to Iraq’s new Shiite-dominated government, Iran could
instigate bloody reprisals against American soldiers, including
vulnerable U.S. trainers working inside the new Iraqi security forces.
Iran and angry Arab states could play the oil card,
too, slashing American supplies or at least driving the prices up to
levels that would endanger the U.S. economy. Already, some Arab oil
ministries are quietly shifting some of their oil trading from dollars
to euros, a transition that could further weaken the dollar and force a
nasty restructuring of the American economy.
In short, the “safe” political option – to let Bush
operate much as he has since Sept. 11, 2001 – has consequences that may
be more dangerous than the other two more confrontational options. [For
our early assessment of “preemption,” see “Bush’s
Grim Vision”; for an early warning about Iraq, see “Bay
of Pigs Meets Black Hawk Down.”]
There certainly are other potential future
scenarios – beyond these three – that merit consideration. But the
larger point is that U.S. citizens may have little choice other than to
begin pondering difficult options that go beyond what’s envisioned by
today’s conventional wisdom.