"Few people will mourn the departure of the 43rd president"
The Economist's Devastating parting shot to Bushy...
"Frat Boy Moves Out!"
A president who believed that America’s global supremacy was guaranteed by America’s unrivalled military power ended up demonstrating the limits of both. Many of America’s closest allies in Europe refused to co-operate with the Iraq war. Many of America’s rivals used America’s travails in Iraq to extend their power: Iran is more powerful than it was in 2000, and closer to acquiring a nuclear bomb; Russia and China have extended their web of alliances and strengthened their regional influence. Mr Bush’s recalibration of his policies in his second term suggests that even he recognises that America’s loss of soft power has cost it dear.
The American military machine is under intense strain. The demands of tackling the Iraq insurgency have forced America to short-change Afghanistan. Deployments have grown longer and redeployments more frequent. Recruitment standards are going down. The neoconservative dream of a muscle-bound America knocking down the “axis of evil” and planting democracies from North Korea to Iran looks, more than ever, like an overheated fantasy cooked up in a think-tank.
Mr Bush relied heavily on a small inner core of advisers. The most important of these was Dick Cheney, who quickly became the most powerful vice-president in American history. Mr Cheney used his mastery of bureaucracy to fill the administration with his protégés and to control the flow of information to the president. He pushed Mr Bush forcefully to the right on everything from global warming to the invasion of Iraq; he also fought ruthlessly to expand the power of the executive branch, which he thought had been dangerously restricted since Watergate.
The two other decisive figures were Karl Rove, Mr Bush’s longtime political guru, and Donald Rumsfeld, his defence secretary. Mr Rove was obsessed by pursuing his dream of a rolling Republican realignment, subordinating everything to party politics. Mr Rumsfeld regarded the Iraq war not, like his boss, as an exercise in democracy-building, but as an opportunity to test the model of an “agile military” that he was pioneering at the Pentagon.
The fruit of all this can be seen in the three most notable characteristics of the Bush presidency: partisanship, politicisation and incompetence. Mr Bush was the most partisan president in living memory. He was content to be president of half the country—a leader who fused his roles of head of state and leader of his party. He devoted his presidency to feeding the Republican coalition that elected him.