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The Legitimacy Deficit: Another Gift from Bush to my Generation.

Think Again: Oops. - Center for American Progress

It has been clear for three years now that Bush has sacrificed the fiscal flexibility of my generation - of people just now entering the workforce, of everybody under thirty - for his reelection prospects. He shamelessly squandered Bill Clinton's surplus in gifts and graft for those who didn't need it, but would vot Bush if they got it. For the next generation, we will be digging ourselves out of this hole.

Bush clearly didn't believe squandering our fiscal resources was enough. So he went ahead and threw away something more ephemeral, but as valuable and harder to fix: our national moral legitimacy.

Starting with Roosevelt and Truman, we had a solid, but unspectacular record on international human rights. It was good enough to build up a reserve of international good-will in many of the hotspots throughout the world. Moreover, the Scoop Jackson Democrats, supposedly the direct forefathers of modern neo-conservatives, recognized the significance of defending legitimacy. Their support for domestic political reforms - the Civil Rights movement, the New Frontier and the Great Society - was a complement to the ideological battle against Communism. They succeeded, not without exception, but generally, in making America's opinion on something matter in a positive way. Ironically, our legitimacy was never higher than in the immediate aftermath of September 11th, when cries of "we are all American" could be heard around the world.

Obviously, that is no longer the case. Abu Ghraib is the pinnacle of a long progression demonstrating the moral bankruptcy of the current administration, and the international reaction to it has highlighted just how large our legitimacy deficit has become.

It is possible to pull the country out of its ruinous financial situation, through good decisions and good government. Salvaging our ruinous legitimacy situation is more complicated. Its start, though, must be one thing: a resounding rejection of George W. Bush. Our best argument to the world must be that George W. Bush wasn't duly elected, and his government wasn't representing the people of the United States.

I don't want to spend my life cleaning up the wreckage of George W. Bush's America.


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