For many of us on the left coast, President Bush’s pardon of Scooter Libby was a non-event; we’ve grown blasé about Bush abuses. As a result, we shrug and say to the rest of the nation: What did you expect? You supported a conservative demagogue whose most notable “accomplishments” were a series of business failures. Why are you surprised that he’s become the worst president in modern history? Nonetheless, while it’s comforting to bask in self-righteousness, that won’t fix our common problem: Bush will be President for another 18 months and the immorality of the Bush administration infects us all. The president is a moral termite.
If you’ve ever had a termite infestation in your house, you know how pernicious the insects are: they chew their way deep into your woodwork and, before you know it, your home’s structure is jeopardized. Then the infected area has to be treated to ensure the termites are destroyed—often the entire house needs fumigation—and the damage has to be repaired—whole sections of your residence require reconstruction. That’s exactly where America is with the Bush administration: first the pests have to be treated and then the structure—the federal government—has to be repaired.
How do we remove these moral termites from the White House? The best alternative is for Bush and Cheney to resign. After all, even Richard Nixon had the sense to resign once he realized that he’d lost the support of three-quarters of the U.S. electorate. Unfortunately, Bush and Cheney don’t have good sense, so it will be necessary to impeach them. There are specific, factual grounds for impeachment such as their falsifying the justification for the invasion of Iraq and illegally eavesdropping on domestic communications. But, the larger grounds are the damage the Bush administration has inflicted on the United States, the corruption of America’s moral infrastructure.
Bush and company have caused four types of destruction: They’ve severely damaged the reputation of the United States. Recent polls indicate the United States continues to lose favor with much of the world. It’s not only that non-Americans don’t like us, think we’re fat, greedy, and brutal, but also that they listen to our talk about democracy and don’t believe we are sincere. After all, in many parts of the world the face of America is our military or our most aggressive businesspeople. As a result, when we say “democracy,” many non-Americans see militarism and unrestrained capitalism. Throughout the world there’s deep cynicism about Bush’s claim that the United States is spreading liberty and democracy. This has affected our reputation and the security of Americans who travel overseas. Moreover, in some parts of the world it’s made theocracy look attractive.
Secondly, the Bush administration has jeopardized the security of the United States. The invasion of Iraq has done more harm than good: it has promoted the cause of al Qaeda, and other Islamic extremists, and made it easier for them to attract recruits. As serious as that is, it’s overshadowed by two more debilitating injuries: the prolonged occupation has weakened the U.S. military and the Bush administration’s tight focus on Iraq has delayed the implementation of the recommendations of the 9-11 commission, kept the United States from common-sense actions that strengthen domestic security.
Thirdly, Bush administration termites have adversely affected the lives of most Americans. Some of this deterioration has been psychological: recent surveys indicate that American confidence in the future is approaching an all-time low. Most Americans don’t like the road that America is on and don’t have confidence in the president or Congress. They have good reasons for this pessimism: for millions of Americans, life got much harder under the Bush administration. For the past six years, the White House has catered to the rich and powerful. As a result, the social fabric of democracy has been weakened as average Americans are forced to spend more time working and less time participating in public democracy.
Finally, the Bush termite infestation has undermined the office of the presidency. After six years, it’s become painfully apparent George Bush never accepted a fundamental tenet of American democracy: the balance of powers doctrine. Bush and Cheney believe in the Imperial Presidency, the notion that the president is above the law. Bush’s conduct has disgraced the office of the president and created a situation where a majority of Americans do not trust him or the government. This is bad at any time, but it’s particularly troubling in an era where America is battling militant fundamentalists.
So, what needs to be done? The obvious first step is to remove Bush and Cheney from office. The next step is to replace them with someone who is committed not only to occupying the White House but also to restoring public confidence in the presidency. The problem is larger than politics, it reflects the public morality that runs America: do politicians govern from the perspective of their own self-interest or with respect for the common good? We need to clean the termites out of the White House and restore integrity to our government.
Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org