Have you seen those AIG ads? The ones with little kids pestering their parents about money, cataloging all the things they ought to be worried about, until the parents say, "It's okay, we're with AIG. It's taken care of."?
Yeah, not so much.
Over the last eight years, my mind has turned time and again to a George Will column I read back in 1988, when George H.W. Bush got the Republican nomination, and Will, who was not a fan, wrote, "How much damage can a bad president do, anyway?"
I think we're starting to get a fairly clear picture of that, and there are two categories of damage we're seeing.
Iraq is a sin of commission, a war we didn't need to be in, driven by the passions of a man given too much power by the circumstances, namely by the events of September 11th.
Which leads me to the second class of fuckups, the sins of omission. What's the difference? For the non-theologically inclined, let's boil it down: A sin of commission is your buddy driving your boat into a log because he thought he could jump it. A sin of omission is the moron who turns on the cruise control of his RV, then goes in the back to make a sandwich.
I think it's clear by now that Bush and his gang of "government never did anyone any good" conservatives had no interest in doing the job of government. They wanted the power, and the nice offices, but either didn't understand the responsibility, or didn't care.
9/11: Those who took Bin Laden's threats seriously were sidelined, and when they finally got a meeting with the boss to talk about it, they were told, "You've covered your ass, now." That quote says so much, doesn't it?
Katrina: The same crew who claimed to be the only ones capable of handling a terrorist attack had three days warning that a major catastrophe was coming, and they did nothing to prepare, and little to respond until they turned on CNN and realized that their asses were not, as it were, covered.
The housing/credit crisis: Phil Gramm actually laid the foundation for this back in December of 2000 by inserting radical deregulation of the banking industry into a 262-page, last-minute spending bill. Not knowing what was in it, Clinton signed it, and passed the problem to his successor, whose free-market ideology and legendary lack of attention to detail meant he would never re-regulate.
To revise my earlier analogy, I guess you could say that Phil Gramm turned off the auto-pilot, and Bush turned the pilot's seat around so he could schmooze with the first-class passengers.
My point, I guess, is that 8 years ago, we could be forgiven for thinking of politics as a kind of sporting event, where the Royals are heroes and the Yankees villains no matter who the actual players are, or how they're playing. Even 4 years ago, I could see that.
But our nation has serious problems right now, and of the two people running for president, only one of them is putting forth serious solutions. The other has no plan for the housing crisis, no policies on lending, no interest in regulation, and no economic plan beyond cutting taxes for the richest of the rich (which includes himself), and taxing your health insurance benefits.
As Molly Ivins used to say, policies have effects, and people's lives are really touched by what happens in Washington.