Have you heard? George W. Bush is the Bestest President Ever -- hands down, no contest. He's the smartest and the most successful and the handsomest and we were damned lucky to have him for the last eight years. Otherwise, we'd all have been killed by al Qaeda or Democrats or bears or something. Anything good that happened to you during the Bush years? Bush's work. Anything bad? Democrats fault. That is, if it really happened at all and wasn't just media hype.
Like soviet propagandists, Team Bush is looking to edit certain events and airbrush certain people out of the history books. It's called the "legacy project" and, under the direction of master propagandist Karl Rove, the goal is to rewrite history in Bush's favor.
Weekly Standard columnist and leading neocon Stephen Hayes spilled the beans on CNN earlier this month, telling a talking-head panel, "We're going to be seeing a lot more of this and there's an ongoing Bush legacy project that's been meeting in the White House, really, with senior advisers, Karl Rove, Karen Hughes has been involved, current senior Bush administration advisers and they are looking at how to sort of roll out the President's legacy."
It's typical of Bush and the neocon mindset. All problems are problems of perception -- if a tree falls in the forest and no one's there, it doesn't make a sound. If you can't be happy and informed, then the obvious solution is to be happy and ignorant. Failing that, the next best thing is to be happy and misinformed. If no one knows there's a problem, there is no problem. If everyone says there's a problem, then that's just the media over-hyping a bump in the road to "bash Bush." In the Bush White House, problems aren't solved by action, they're solved with public relations campaigns, propaganda, photo ops, and denial.
The lefty blog Think Progress, run by the Center for American Progress and Obama transition head John Podesta, has done a pretty good job of tracking the legacy project. But they cover a lot of things and it's impossible to shoot down every bit of propaganda that comes out of the White House and the Bush-friendly media.
To do that, we need pre-emption -- a word Bushies know very well. Put just about every damned failure of the Bush administration out there and have all the facts ready for the next revisionist lie that comes out of Washington. Fight fire with fire, fight a project with a project.
So we have the Center for Public Integrity detailing the failures of the Bush administration. In an investigation they call "Broken Government," CPI lists 128 failures of the Bush administration since 2000. Even that isn't comprehensive. The early failures of a surveillance plane and crew captured by China and maintaining unsafe levels of arsenic allowed in drinking water are two right off the top of my head that aren't covered. 128 is a good start, but it's still incomplete.
CPI tells us there are 45 million Americans without health care, that 1,273 whistleblower complaints were filed from 2002-2008 (1,256 were dismissed), that 30 million pounds of beef were recalled in 2007, that 2,145 troops killed and 21,000 injured in Iraq from March 2003 through November 1, 2008 by IED -- many while waiting for body armor, and that there were 935 lies told in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. That's a tiny fraction of the massive screwups that bear Bush's signature.
Seriously, reading the whole thing gives you a headache. But it's good to know that it's there. It's looking more and more like the only punishment any Bushie might face will be the judgment of history. They can't be allowed to dodge even that. And they're trying -- the White House has already issued revisionist talking points to staffers. The L.A. Times got hold of them.
The document presents the Bush record as an unalloyed success.
It mentions none of the episodes that detractors say have marred his presidency: the collapse of the housing market and major financial services companies, the flawed intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina or the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
In a section on the economy, speakers are invited to say that Bush cut taxes after 2001, setting the stage for years of job growth.
As for the current economic crisis, the memo says that Bush "responded with bold measures to prevent an economic meltdown."
That last one strikes me as pretty funny, since everyone knows Bush didn't actually "prevent an economic meltdown." I'm sure they'd argue that it could be much worse -- no one's resorted to cannibalism yet and we can all thank the Bestest President Ever for that. The point of the memo -- titled "Speech Topper on the Bush Record" -- is to provide Bush loyalists with handy examples of the successes of the most successful president in history. You'd think that examples would leap readily to mind, but remember -- it's all BS. Even Whitehousers have a hard time thinking of examples of Bush triumphs.
And that may be where the Bush "legacy project" fails. While they need spinny notes to come up with some sort of success to pin on Bush like a medal, all we need to do is reach into the grab bag of history and pull out pretty much anything. The Center for Public Integrity makes that a bit easier, but it wouldn't really be much of a challenge without them.
Bush's final battle will be fought against the enemy he's fought most of his battles with -- reality. It's poetic justice that his legacy project to erase his record of failure will likely be a battle he fails to win.