"He can have sex with Donna Rice, Jessica Hahn, Bob Dole," wrote The Crimson's editorial chair in a piece regarding about George Bush, a little over a year ago. "Beat Bush/Quayle? The Dems couldn't beat Bush/Hitler."
Plenty has changed in the course of this pundit-shaming year, and fast. And now that almost everyone's ready for a breath of fresh, Arkansasan air, George Bush has tottered out of the limelight. He's been on a fishing trip in Florida for a while, and his friends are saying that he just isn't fishing like he used to.
Bush knows it's the end, that most are simply waiting for him to finish packing. All our efforts are spent imagining the Clinton presidency, and the Bush one is showing signs of how it will be remembered in the history books: barely.
But just as things changed since last November--or even since May, when Clinton couldn't find a way onto our television screens--just as much could happen between now the inauguration.
Bush had little but reelection on his mind for the past four years; without that mooring, he's free to follow his own mission for the presidency.
That's the problem with lame ducks. Though Congress will probably treat him like a pariah, Bush can still do plenty on his own. (Do the words "Iraq" and "Iran" ring any bells?) With our faces turned to Little Rock, Bush could sabotage things for the president to come.
Wecan already see inklings of this strange agenda in last week's announcement that the U.S. will place a 200 percent tariff on French wine.
If there was one thing I thought safe under Bush, it was free trade. In the New Hampshire primary, all the Democrats (with the notable exception of Paul E. Tsongas) and Republican challenger Patrick J. Buchanan were cultivating anti-Japanese and anti-German xenophobia. They promised trade barriers to "protect" American citizens from the foreign invasion of (better? cheaper?) goods.
Bush persevered with the sound economic policy of free trade. He refused to cash in on voter fear, relying instead on our intelligence and the realities of economics.
George Bush? Trust the American people to think? Yes. For one shining moment, George Bush was our voice of sanity.
The European Community subsidizes, making much domestic produce cheaper than American imports. It's not in the spirit of free trade, and the U.S. has a right to be worried.
So what has President Bush decided to do? Use the diplomatic skills he's so proud of to negotiate a new deal with the powerful European Community?
Nope. Not only has Bush given up the idea of free trade (and "no new taxes" to boot), but he has also ignored the use of diplomacy, preferring a lazy, bullying response to a powerful issue.
By socking it to the Europeans, Bush may have set off a trade war. Who's to say that they won't start taxing us back or put greater restrictions on imports? What could have possibly made George Bush, with this island of logic in a sea of confused economic policy, think this was a good idea?
Clinton may turn things around when elected. But the damage may already be done, and he may not have time, in his crowded first hundred days, to erase this tax on French wine.
On November 1, Clinton supporters shouted at the White House, "Two more days! Two more days!" George Bush, though, had more than 80 to go, and he seems to be making the most of them. The nagging reminders that he's still president do interrupt nobler dreams (Clinton's ethics code for his transition team as an astounding example).
But we can't start celebrating the end of an unprincipled presidency until a new one--one which, in the last analysis, we can really trust--takes its place.
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