What will Bush's legacy be?

by Matthew M. Lug - Tech News Staff

By the time this is printed it will be official - George W. Bush is now the President of the United States. As President, he will be the symbolic figurehead of this nation. He will be our highest leader, the head of our military forces, the most influential public official in domestic and foreign matters. He has one of the most visibly important positions in the world. He will meet with world leaders, make important decisions that will affect millions of Americans, and be seen as a symbol of our country in good times and bad. With this in mind, there is one important question that millions of people will be asking: how will he embarrass us all?

Now, you may be wondering why a President's legacy must be scandal and embarrassment. Why can't we focus on the positive accomplishments instead? I'm not really sure how to answer that beyond the obvious; they're boring. Peace treaties, economic stability, happiness - who cares? These days people want sex, violence, suspense, intrigue, conflict, plot twists, explosions, etc. Who cares about arms reduction treaties when you could see someone throw up in the lap of the Prime Minister of Japan? World peace or tales of sex in the White House - which would you rather hear about on the evening news? This is the sad but true state of our thoughts about the leader of our nation. How did things get this bad? Let's take a trip back in time...

In the beginning, information flowed slowly. Messengers would spread information on foot, so information could only flow as fast as a person's legs, desire, and performance enhancing drugs could take him. As time went on, better methods of transporting messengers and their messages were developed. The use of horses, boats, and other vehicles allowed for faster communication over greater distances. Still, this communication often did not reach the masses. People could live their lives without knowing much about their leaders, except that they existed, if even that. As wires and electrons replaced couriers and paper, communication became almost instant and widely available. However, it was still point to point, which can make wide distribution slow and inaccurate (like a game of telephone for those of you who are familiar with that concept). Newspapers could reach a fairly large audience, but print media was for the most part a read-only communications system - most people couldn't use them to spread information, either due to poor literacy or ideas that went against the ideologies of the newspapers. Cost, regional distribution, and literacy were also limiting factors in the effectiveness of newspapers. Then came radio, a free broadcast medium that could spread a single piece of information to many people over great distances. Information content was higher, standards were lower, and audiences were greater. So why didn't this mess start when the information medium was adequate?

Society was the reason. People had better things to do than gossip about people they would probably never meet. The neighbors on the other hand were far more interesting. There were also other details like survival and housework to worry about. People also believed in an old-fashioned concept known as "respect." Decency, morality, and integrity were also concepts that were put into practice, at least on the surface. Somewhere along the line, something changed. People were tired of being told what to believe or how to behave, so they rebelled. Alternate viewpoints were embraced, giving all information value, not just the information that was "good" or "decent." For the most part, this was a good thing (once things settled down a little). The abundance of leisure time (particularly mental leisure time) was what finally set the stage for our present situation. Information of all kinds was available on a wide scale, people had the time to process it, and there were no boundaries between what was good information and what was bad information. All information was fair game, and the best information involved big names and big surprises. Nixon scheming, Ford bumbling - it kept a country entertained, and there was plenty more to come. Mistakes. Failure. Lies. Journalistic gold.

And that brings us back to the present. Just about every recent Presidency can be reduced to a single one-liner. For Nixon, it would be "I am not a crook." For Bush Sr., "Read my lips, no new taxes!." Who could ever forget Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." I don't recall Reagan's line... I'm sure Ford and Carter had their moments too. Regardless of whatever good things these people did, their voices will forever echo with the sound of lies, deceit, and evasion. The past few years have been a non-stop thrill ride of embarrassment after embarrassment. Whitewatergate, filegate, thisgate and thatgate were in the news day after day. Every day a new extramarital affair was revealed, a new scandal uncovered. Clinton's personal life was an embarrassment to those who viewed the President as a moral leader and expected him to do no wrong. His choice in women was an embarrassment to those who thought he should at least have good taste. The media circus and impeachment nonsense were embarrassments to everyone who could see how much of a waste of time it all was. The rest of the world laughed at us; some people in this country blamed Clinton for that, others blamed the people blaming Clinton. We couldn't possibly get into a bigger mess. At least, not until we tried to elect a new leader. As if it weren't bad enough that we couldn't find any decent candidates, we couldn't even figure out which one of them won the election. We could determine who got more votes overall, but it all came down to a few thousand measly votes down in Florida. Unfortunately, Florida showed the entire world just how embarrassing an election can be. Arcane voting methods. Confusing ballots. Incompetent voters. Legal bickering. Media frenzy.

So what does the future hold for our new Commander-in-Chief? Laughs, lots of laughs. Let's face it, Dubya would make a better stand-up comedian than serious orator. His public speaking skills leave much to be desired. Between his pronunciation and articulation and his inability to think on his feet, he can be guaranteed to have his speeches seen and heard by millions - in the form of short clips on comedy shows. Still, he should be relatively harmless, right? He seems like a decent, well-meaning guy with good values and a sense of morality. Well, except for how he has blind faith in the legal system in Texas, which has such a bloodlust that it would see fit to execute someone whose lawyer couldn't stay awake in court. But with his father's connections, shouldn't he at least be able to get advisors who can keep him out of trouble for 4 years? The economy is good, people are happy, technology is advancing rapidly. In other words, life is good. Who cares what the idiots in Washington do? Well, deep down, we all do. We're just waiting to pounce on every little flaw, every mistake, every lapse in judgement. The media knows this, and they'll serve it up to us as fast as they can. Many Democrats know this too, and they've most likely been taking notes while they were on the receiving end for the past eight years - recent criticism of Bush's cabinet appointees certainly supports this idea. The tables have turned, but the game is the same. Get ready to be ashamed to be an American; it's going to get a whole lot worse.

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