The results of last week’s poll are in. It was an uncharacteristically serious question, “if you could climb into a time machine and change the outcome of one historical event this decade, which would it be?”
A clear majority, 62%, said they’d go back to the 2000 election, get Ralph Nader off the Florida ballot, make Al Gore the obvious winner, and prevent George W. Bush from ever becoming President.
The other two choices fell far behind, tying at 18% apiece. One choice was to go back to 2001 and prevent the terrorist attacks on September 11th. The other choice was to go back to 2004 and warn the world about the looming tsunami, saving almost 350,000 innocent lives.
This is the first of the LFT weekly polls in which I never voted. I could not bring myself to vote against the lives of 350,000 innocent victims of a natural disaster. But I understand why almost everybody else did; the current state of world affairs is more complicated than a simple math game, even when the numbers represent the raw cost of human life.
The 2000 and 2001 poll choices were really the same choice in a practical sense, put in different ways. The lingering bad aftertaste of the Bush Presidency will hinge on, and follows from, what happened on September 11, and the illogical and wrong-headed choices made by the President as a result. 9-11 was the backdrop for the ill-fated Bush doctrine that the U.S. would go it alone when necessary, which Bush then immediately made sure would be necessary. 9-11 was the excuse for the tragic abandonment of multilateral diplomacy and the process of continuous dialog and negotiation – the new way forward would instead be that the U.S. would see no shades of grey, and would pause for little discussion. 9-11 was the justification used to go to war against a two-bit country uninvolved with 9-11. 9-11 was the excuse used to chip away at the United State Constitution, as if taking away fundamental American rights was the best way to preserve fundamental American rights.
The results of the poll indicate that the totality of Bush’s mistakes is far worse than the sum of its parts – if one took every ill-fated decision ever made by this administration, and added up the cost of each in terms of lives lost, it is doubtful under any measure that together they would reach the 350,000 lives lost because of the tsunami in 2004. But 62% don’t believe that’s all it’s about. They’re right.
It’s not just about lives lost, and lives ruined. It’s also about the stunning tragedy of the loss of moral authority. It’s also about the resulting alarm and sadness surrounding the body blows to a sense of justice, and the rejection of the rule of law. It’s about the shame and anger felt by regular run-of-the-mill Americans, many of whom may only have the vaguest sense of our place in the world, but who sense that grave injustices continue to be perpetuated in their names. And it’s about intensely-patriotic Americans who always believed we are better than this, and never until now had cause to doubt it.
The world knows that this American President still has 7 months remaining, and so they nervously wait. It is doubtful that they will soon forget all that the Bush Presidency has done to them or to others.
But, without a doubt, even if we could ever forget all the things Bush has done, we will always remember how he made us feel, and all it has cost us.
Back to our usual ridiculousness, this week’s poll is up on the top of the right-hand sidebar. Vote on it there, and feel free to comment on it here.