I predict that George W. Bush, our 43 president, is going to play a far larger role in American history books of the future than many expect and than he would like.
We all know the obvious blunders during his two terms, the war on Iraq, tax changes that benefited the wealthy, an economy in a nosedive, creation of the surveillance state, destructive educational policies, but these aren’t his most lasting legacies. I think what historians are going to look most closely at is how he and Cheney and his advisors drastically altered the presidency itself and opened a Pandora’s box of real and potential abuses of power for generations to come.
In the weeks, months and years after 9/11, Bush, Cheney and others demanded and got more and more power handed to the executive branch. One could argue that in the immediate wake of 9/11 the president needed the authority to make decisions quickly and without burdensome oversight. However, the new powers were granted, but they were never repealed. A spineless, ineffective Congress allowed the President to keep his new executive powers without challenge.
A lot of people, myself included, thought that the election of Obama would somehow bring more balance to the three branches of government, that this self-proclaimed agent of change would refuse to abuse his authority in the same way Bush did. How wrong we were. The promised transparency never happened. Sketchy surveillance programs were expanded instead of stopped. Administration officials lied to Congress without repercussions. Drone killings increased. Guantanamo stayed open for business. And now, against the will of most of the world, Obama is going to drop bombs on a foreign country that does not pose a direct threat to the United States.
All of this was made possible by a congenial dullard from Texas and his nearsighted puppeteers who saw an opportunity for a power grab and took it. They let the genie out of the bottle, and no future President, however well intentioned, is going to willingly put it back in.