Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 05:40:02 PM EST
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | How does the Bush presidency rate?
I suppose the underlying question here is whether George W Bush has been one of the worst US presidents.
Many people have already made up their minds.
For them, the invasion of Iraq was enough to put Mr Bush high on the list. And that was compounded by his lack of action elsewhere - with global warming and Hurricane Katrina as examples.
Others will want to wait a bit and see what history decides. History can improve the image of a presidency.
It's strange and unexpected, but with the curtain crashing to the stage around the remains of the so-called Bush presidency, the BBC has decided that - well, he wasn't so bad after all. Not one, not two, but four entire web features appeared on BBC News making the point that knee-jerk reactions to the torturer, bungler, kleptomaniac and buffoon-in-chief simply wouldn't be serious.
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Countries that will miss George Bush
A lot has been written about George W Bush's unpopularity around the globe - but what about those places where the outgoing president was popular?
As he leaves office with a record high domestic disapproval rate - 73%, according to an October ABC News/Washington Post poll - President George W Bush can perhaps take some comfort from the fact that this feeling is not uniformly shared abroad.
While the shoe-throwing incident in Iraq may come to symbolise the world's opinion of a president who is often referred to as the worst in America's history, some corners of the world will miss the 43rd president of the United States.
He has approval ratings of around 80% in Africa, according to some polls, and in Kosovo a main street was named after him to thank him for supporting Kosovo's independence.
"It is generally accepted in the US that Bush has generated hatred for America around the world," says Peter Berkowitz, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.
"But the picture is not black and white," he added.
No, indeed, because apparently the Shrubster not only has that impressive 80% approval rating in Africa - largely because of his efforts to make people having sex think twice just in case bad things happen to them and The Lord smites them with a nasty illness - but there were even cheering crowds to welcome him as
liberator wacko white guy on a recent visit.
Of course he doesn't really have anything of the sort - how do you poll a representative number of Africans? - but it makes for good media to pretend that at least someone likes the doddering old idiot. In any case, as the BBC reporter notes, the numbers come from the Pew Foundation. Unfortunately he doesn't mention that the Pew Foundation is a religiously oriented right-leaning Think Tank prone to putting out the usual equally doddery and ridiculous spin and nonsense:
The Middle Class Bottoms Out? « Creation Project
A study from the Pew Foundation reveals that most middle-class Americans believe they are not "moving forward in life." The article notes: "For decades, middle-income Americans had been making absolute progress while enduring relative decline. But since 1999, they have not made economic gains." Part of the reason for "bad times" is the borrow/spend habit that middle class Americans have developed. Again, "For the past two decades middle-income Americans have been spending more and borrowing more. Housing has been the key driver of both trends." However, despite current feelings about personal progress, many of "the American middle class are optimistic about the future. Most are confident that their quality of life in five years will be better than it is now. And, gazing farther ahead, most expect their children to do better in life than they themselves have done."
Still, if Bush isn't popular in Africa, or with evil and grasping spendthrift middle class Americans, at least he's popular in Israel.
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Countries that will miss George Bush
"Israel is probably the only place on earth where Bush can still get a standing ovation," says Mr Berkowitz, who was in Israel at the time of Mr Bush's visit in May for the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation, when he got several standing ovations.
Which is nice - foreign-policy-in-one-country is certainly a political innovation that hasn't been tried before.
But Bush isn't just a successful ambassador of US goodwill and not really an historical failure at all much really.
He's also very much not responsible for any of the financial disasters of the last few years. Uh uh.
BBC NEWS | World | Americas | Did Bush cause the financial crisis?
On his watch, the US authorities did little to prevent the sale of millions of mortgages to people who could never afford them.
They failed to police the market in mortgage-backed securities which has now collapsed with such devastating consequences.
And credit default swaps, those multi-billion-dollar bets on other people going bust, went virtually unregulated.
In recent days, Congress has been holding hearings to determine how the regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) missed numerous warning signs - "Red Flags" - about Bernard Madoff, the man accused of running a gigantic Ponzi scheme which has defrauded investors of at least $50bn.
| The image of Mr Bush as the arch deregulator and the Democrats as the champions of stricter rules for business does not quite tally with the evidence|
Paul Kanjorski, the Democratic Representative who is chairing the hearings, argued that the SEC's failings were - in part - due to chronic understaffing, implying that the Bush Administration had starved the agency of the resources needed to do its job.
In the blame game for this financial crisis, George W Bush comes a close second to greedy and unscrupulous Wall Street bankers.
But there are serious flaws in this argument.
In fact it was Bill Clinton who not only pioneered deregulation, but also started the trend for NINJA loans which brought down the entire planetary economy. Bush actually increased regulation - it says here - so it's not his fault. Maybe a little though. But certainly not a lot - not after a mere eight years of dealing with the evil influence of aggressively libertarian Democrats.
If this seems like fatuous thick-headed nonsense - of course it is. But it's also what the BBC, in its dedication to objective reporting, and not naked hagiography, has decided to publish online.
How about the environment?
BBC NEWS | The Reporters | Richard Black
Reaction to this week's announcement ranged from the Pew Environment Group's applause for Mr Bush's "historical action" to the Center for Biological Diversity's contention that in the end it meant nothing without cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
In recent weeks, the president's administration has been under fire for denying endangered species protection to the ribbon seal (an echo of its earlier stance on the polar bear), over plans that would apparently allow developers to build in forests and permit surface mining close to mountain streams - and for the "one-minute-to-midnight" nature of this rule making.
For some observers such as the Huffington Post's Lincoln Mitchell, the administration's record on greenhouse gas emissions means that President Bush will be remembered for "a studied, and malignant, neglect of major issues such as climate change".
But for some others, including the Guardian newspaper, the Pacific marine measures are enough to "recast his environmental record".
A last minute change of heart - it's too late for the seals and polar bears, oh noes, but the presnidnet loves himself some Ocean - means that even The Grauniad believes that Bush is practically a smaller (and less fat) version of Al Gore.
And look - it's those Pew people again. How unexpected and delightful.
So what does this squealing four-wheeled tumbril full of submissively slimy spin and inanity say about the BBC? Presumably someone on high decided that it would be unfair to do any aggressive reporting, and the soothing oily balm of flattery would be a more appropriate editorial policy. The bias was obvious enough during the election when McCain's every word was treated with reverence, while Obama battled doggedly against challenges, issues, question marks and trials. Now it's not so much obvious as faintly comical and toady-ish - persuasion never works when you can see the wheels turning as obviously as they're being spun here.
The BBC, in short, might as well be CNN for all anyone cares. It's some way short of FOX, but the coverage isn't so much fair as Blair. And indeed, anyone looking for a change in editorial policy can find a revealing change of direction after Kelly was suicided so tragically.
Fortunately most people don't seem to be fooled. Away from the limp yapping of the leader writers, the Have Your Say section includes a representative 75% or so of negative comments which veer from annoyed frustation to incandescent rage.
If only news were a democracy. It isn't, yet, but it's reassuring that the BBC's exercise in keyboard flapping seems to have been a pointless failure, and has convinced no one of anything - except the BBC's own creaking and listing credibility.