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Wednesday, December 31, 2003  

The Real Person of the Year: George W. Bush

So, who should the person of the year be? As Mark noted in comments to that Time post below, it has to be George W. Bush. Or, as sticklers for accuracy will quickly point out--the Bush administration. Their work domestically in remaking government would qualify them alone, but they had, in the meantime, enough energy to mount a PR campaign for an invasion that violates 60 years of accepted international law--and then execute the invasion. Like the administration or loathe them, they had a fantastically influential year.

Let's review. In roughly chronological order, here are a few of the things the White House was up to over the past year:

  • Things start out with the war justifications: Iraq definitely possesses WMD and poses an imminent threat to the US. This forms the backdrop to the newly-unveiled pre-emption doctrine designed specifically to justify an attack on Iraq. In the months leading up to the invasion, members of the administration are unequivocal in their language about the Iraqi threat.

  • Bush submits a brief in support of a legal challenge to the University of Michigan's admissions policies. The policies encourage black enrollment; later, when the Supreme Court endorses Michigan, Bush praises the decision.

  • In response to Iraq's declaration that it had no WMD, Condoleezza Rice publishes "Why We Know Iraq is Lying" in the New York Times.

  • The Department of Homeland Security--the first organizational expansion of the Federal government in decades--comes into existence.

  • Bush delivers the State of the Union, in which he says that Iraq has sought nuclear material from "Africa"--a claim he later admitted was false.

  • Bush meets with Silvio Berlusconi, a man so corrupt he had to change Italian law to keep out of the pokey.

  • Bush releases his 2004 budget, which includes tax cuts for the wealthy and further expansion of the federal government. A half-trillion dollar deficit is projected. Later, in the face of criticism of the projected deficits, Bush restyles the tax cuts a "jobs package."

  • Colin Powell speaks to the UN and holds aloft fake vials of anthrax to demonstrate Iraq's danger; later, Bush declares that the UN's failure to endorse the invasion will threaten its "relevance."

  • Bush champions faith-based initiatives, rewriting the "establishment" clause of the first amendment.

  • Bush introduces the "Roadmap for Peace" in Israel. Distracted by the war in Iraq, the situation in Israel festers as bombings on both sides increase.

  • The US invades Iraq.

  • The Bush administration hints it may invade Syria.

  • Bush visits Africa, touting his AIDS relief package. Meanwhile, violence rages in Liberia, and the US refuses to act.

  • Bush proposes cuts for pay to military and decreased funding for education to military children. When the Senate pushes to offer full benefits to part-time reservists, the administration comes out in opposition.

  • The President asks for $74 billion in funding for the war, later adding $87 billion to the tab.

  • On May 1, Bush vamps in a flight suit and announces the end to "major combat operations" in Iraq in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner that he later denies hanging up.

  • Signing into law the latest tax cuts, Bush calls the legislation an "economic jobs and growth bill" that will help "those who suffer." Despite focusing his remarks on working families, the bulk of the cuts go to the wealthy.

  • Berlusconi visits Crawford.

  • Uday and Qusay Hussein killed in Iraq.

  • After major combat operations end, violence continues. In August, the number of soldiers killed in the "peace" exceeds the numbers killed in the war.

  • The Valerie Plame scandal begins when Robert Novak inadvertently "outs" an undercover CIA agent. The tip was apparently leaked to Novak in order to punish ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had called Bush a liar for mentioning the Iraq-Niger connection in his State of the Union Speech.

  • The UN is bombed in Iraq.

  • With Bush's backing, the FCC passes sweeping legislation that will allow further consolidation of media holdings. A horrified Senate overturns the rules in September.

  • Bush pushes his "Clear Skies" initiative, which will relax industrial pollution rules. Broad coalitions form to oppose the legislation, which languishes.

  • After forest fires rage throughout the Northwest, Bush successfully pushes through his "Healthy Forests" legislation, allowing increased logging.

  • As Iraq becomes an increasingly dangerous quagmire, Bush begins to court the "old Europe" he excoriated for not supporting his invasion.

  • Bush pushes his energy bill--a giveaway to coal, oil, and electrical companies--though even many GOP leaders find it irresponsible.

  • Late-term abortion act becomes law.

  • After last minute wrangling tips the balance, Bush gets his Medicare Bill passed, the first major expansion in decades. Later, Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan alleges that he was offered a bribe for his vote.

  • Bush visits the troops in Iraq clandestinely for Thanksgiving. The image of him standing in front of a roasted turkey is beamed throughout the world. It is later revealed that the turkey was fake--soldiers get a more meager meal.

  • Saddam Hussein is captured, and Bush's approval numbers jump up.

  • November growth skyrockets--the highest number since the early 80s. The Dow pushes over 10,000 and later the NASDAQ moves above 2,000. Deficits are below earlier predictions. Employment, however, does not improve.

  • Halliburton accused of overcharging the government in Iraq.

  • Libya pledges to abandon its own WMD.

  • Bush announces over the Christmas holiday that he will allow logging of the Tongass National Forest, America's last substantial stand of old-growth forest. Few hear the news.

  • The Bush administration dominated the news in all corners of the globe last year. Bush's Iraq invasion provoked tens of millions to protest. In 2003, the word "Empire" was readily applied to the US, and is accepted without controversy--in the Atlantic Monthly, Robert Kaplan even asserted that the American empire was a positive force in the world.

    Time chickened out by calling American soldiers their person of the year. They were but the instruments of a much larger force in the world: George W. Bush (and his administration), the real Person of the Year.

    [Note: I reread this post and discovered some language that wasn't quite English. I fixed it.]

    posted by Jeff | 8:30 AM |
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