Tomorrow, the world will see George W. Bush step aside as President of the United States, bringing to an end one of the most disappointing presidential tenures that the world has ever witnessed.
Under Bush II, things went from 'not bad' to 'really awful' in short order.
(1) In the wake of 9/11, he started a heavy armour war in Afghanistan to smoke out a handful of people. (anybody else remember Osama bin Laden? yeah - we were supposed to find him in weeks, not years) Anybody with an iota of sense would have long ago realized that capturing someone like bin Laden doesn't take tanks, it takes stealth, intelligence and patience.
(2) Then he leveraged the limited success in Afghanistan and did a bunch of chest-thumping to justify finishing off what his father started in Iraq a dozen years before. I think we all know how swimmingly well that war has gone. We shouldn't ignore the blatant lies that he used to justify attacking Iraq - the mysteriously non-existent WMD's, among other topics.
(3) Guantanamo Bay - never before has a US President gone to such lengths to detain people in a legal no-man's land. In doing so, Bush II and his sidekick Dick Cheney created an environment which encouraged torture, abuse and maltreatment of inmates.
(4) We shouldn't ignore the systemic nature of the attitudes with respect to Guantanamo Bay, because they gave implicit license for the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
(5) Under Bush II, the US government went from surplus to deficit, and the national debt has spiralled out of control as the government attempts to finance wars it has little chance of actually succeeding at.
(6) It certainly didn't help matters that Bush II encouraged people in the wake of 9/11 to "spend, spend, spend". People took that message to heart and leveraged their houses, using them as ATMs rather than long term investments. The result? Unheard of levels of consumer indebtedness, and rates of foreclosure on properties unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s once the "housing bubble" popped.
(7) Tax cuts that served to benefit the very wealthy, and further downloaded the tax burden onto middle-income earners.
(8) Woefully inadequate oversight of the banking industry allowed it to lose sight of the fundamental principles of banking, succumbing to the atmosphere of greed that resulted from writing predatory mortgage loans, and then being able to resell them as "Asset Backed Commercial Paper". Separating risk and reward was a huge mistake, and where was the oversight?
(9) What he couldn't legislate, he passed into existence as "executive orders" and "rules" - some of which are so ill considered that they jeopardize people's health on the altar of "faith".
(10) Abstinence Only sex-ed. This is one of the great oxymorons of our time. Abstinence Only programs aren't about educating people about sex and sexuality, they're about scaring youth into not being sexual beings. Good luck with that - hormones are amazingly powerful things, as are instincts ... and teenagers will figure things out - sadly they may have more misconceptions about healthy sexuality than their grandparents did.
I'm sure I could come up with more if I wanted to. Needless to say, incoming President Barack Obama has his work cut out for him. He inherits a nation bruised and battered, it economy a shambles and its credibility on the world stage ruined.
On the other hand, when you start at the bottom, there's only one way to go, isn't there?