Saturday 08 November 2008
by: Frédéric Lemaître, Le Monde
Frederic Lemaitre imagines George W. Bush's image replacing Che Guevara's on alternative-worldists' T-shirts, joining that of his four most illustrious predecessors on Mt. Rushmore. (Photo: Executive Office of the President of the United States).
At the moment when it's good form to criticize you - unfortunately, even within these columns - allow me, instead, to inform you of my admiration. And to deplore your situation. How, in goodness name, did the most powerful man on the planet come to be misunderstood to this extent? I know: believer that you are, you despise the glory of this base world. Nor am I unaware that - following the example of many great men - you have long had a premonition that you would only be understood after some fifty or so years. Your voice will have fallen silent, but your oeuvre will continue to speak for you.
As for me, I have no doubt: History will do you more justice than do your despicable contemporaries. So while certain intellectuals (oh, those "neocons" you have so masterfully taken for a ride) thought, in their day, to play the wise guys by prognosticating the end of History: they didn't see that the first great revolutionary of the 21st Century occupied the Oval Office at the White House.
Mister President, I make this bet: in a few years, if there's any sense to History, you will have replaced Che Guevara on the other-worldists' T-shirts. After all: what a record you've got!
By what criteria does one recognize a great leader? By his ability to organize his succession, of course. Now who can deny that without the policy you've conducted over the last eight years, Barack Obama would never have been elected? This brilliant young man's veritable Pygmalion is you, of course. I imagine that it was hardly always easy. I'm thinking in particular about one of your master strokes: the war in Iraq. To manipulate your Secretary of State, the righteous general, Colin Powell, to the point of pushing him to lie before the UN about Saddam Hussein's suppositious weapons of mass destruction; then, once the deception was realized, forcing him to resign so that he ended up joining Barack Obama. Nice one!
Moreover, to take advantage of that conflict to show the whole world what only a few initiates used to know - that it happens that the American government confuses its interests with those of the influential multinational corporations that finance political campaigns - testifies to an audacity on your part that borders on recklessness. To make the war even more hateful by subcontracting it out to poor schmucks underpaid by private companies: no pacifist would have dared to dream of it.
And frankly, what other means did you have to empty the government coffers filled by your predecessor Bill Clinton? Apart from armed conflict, I see only one other way of spending 3 trillion dollars in so short a time: creating a social security system worthy of the name. But that obviously would have been contrary to your ultimate objective. So you did well not to waste your time on the "compassionnel,*" like some vulgar European social democrat.
Especially since this year of 2008 unquestionably marks your apotheosis. To dare to dynamite capitalism by nationalizing Wall Street a few weeks before your departure: who would have thought it possible, even from a man endowed with as great a talent as your own? In any case, your Treasury Secretary, that great booby Henry Paulson, didn't see it coming. A guy who didn't hesitate to give up the presidency of Goldman Sachs - which is to say the heart of the empire - to work at your side, and, all unknown to him, deconstruct the system to which he owes his fortune.
In the most unlikely case that these deeds alone do not allow you to figure on Mount Rushmore next to the four most illustrious of your predecessors - but whose records seem awfully pale next to yours - know, Mr. President, that they are adequate to guarantee you a choice place in our French Pantheon.
And if they were only all there were! Then we'd be passing in silence over your greatest work, your action on behalf of the environment that will save the planet. By refusing to sign the Kyoto protocol - a text the inadequacy of which obviously did not escape you - you, in fact, forced American civil society to take itself in hand much more effectively than would have any law Congress would in any case have reduced to a strict minimum. In the beginning, I have to admit, I was persuaded your goal was to adopt the villain's role to facilitate Al Gore's entry to the White House.
However, over time, the pieces of the puzzle came together with a cleverness worthy of Clausewitz. First act: the non-ratification of the Kyoto Protocol mobilized public opinion in America - and beyond - over the necessity for each person to act on behalf of the environment. That incidentally translated into the auctioning off of SUVs, the retirement of a certain number of more modest vehicles and the bankruptcy of your automobile manufacturers - another notch on your pistol. Second act: the war in Iraq, which contributed to the increase in the price per barrel of oil and emptied the government's coffers. Third act: the real estate crisis - provoked by your old accomplice Greenspan - which throws tens of thousands of Americans on the street. No more car, no more house, soon no more retirement, taxes your successor will be forced to increase and, as a bonus, a global economic recession. No question: your record will be historic.
One little detail still eludes me: why the hell did Nicolas Sarkozy absolutely insist on having you preside over the November 15 summit intended to rebuild the global capitalism you have knocked yourself out to discredit? Would he also be playing a double game?
Translation: Truthout French language editor Leslie Thatcher.