02-19-2017  8:51 am      •     

Nothing is more costly or dangerous than a failed presidency. The powers of the office are without rival. The scope of responsibility spans the globe. When a presidency fails, we all pay the price — no matter what our politics.

When George Bush served up his State of the Union address last week, he did so with his presidency in a state of virtual collapse. None of this was apparent on the TV screen. The address was "interrupted" with numerous standing ovations. The pundits were respectful.

As Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton understood, a president never looks better than on these ceremonial nights. But beneath the bunting and the applause, this president is in trouble.

His war of choice in Iraq has gone bad. Our military is near "snapping," says a report commissioned by the Pentagon. Iraq has become a training ground for international terrorists. The elections have produced a Shiite plurality, led by religious parties that have formed a mutual defense pact with Iran. The Iranian president has called for the destruction of Israel, and the Iraqi leaders that our soldiers are dying to defend stand by his side.

The reconstruction of Iraq is a joke, with literally billions of dollars wasted or stolen, while citizens still have no stable source of electricity. We can't leave because a civil war, already started on the ground, will flare up. We can't stay because our presence simply feeds the terror and destabilization. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz now projects the actual cost of the Iraq war at $1 trillion.

Iraq has undermined the war on terror. Osama bin Laden is still alive, but that matters little. What matters is that the United States is more despised across the Moslem world. Abu Graib, rendition of suspects to other countries for "interrogation," secret prisons, the administration's tortured defense of torture — all this has fueled anger and hatred and provided recruits for the evolving and decentralized networks of terror.

The administration has done nothing to move us toward energy independence. And by simply being in denial on global warming, it has isolated us in the world on a clear and increasingly present danger.

The administration's trade policies are hollowing out our manufacturing and high tech sectors. Bush has run up the largest trade deficits in the history of humanity.

The administration's top-end tax cuts have failed to produce. Take away the jobs produced by government at all levels and by the military buildup, and the United States has lost an estimated 1 million private sector jobs since Bush came into office. Those same tax cuts have helped rack up record deficits and staggering national debt.

The administration's unrelenting war on seniors continues apace. The new prescription drug program confounds seniors and will end up costing many of them more for drugs — even as it prohibits Medicare from negotiating a better price for drugs and shovels billions to HMOs. The effort to cut and privatize Social Security was blocked, but that debate blocked any sensible response to the growing crisis of pensions.

Inequality has reached record heights. The minimum wage has been frozen, while CEO salaries have soared. The administration does nothing to help labor under corporate assault, even as wages stagnate. African Americans and Latinos suffer disproportionately, even as the administration retreats from the commitment to equal opportunity.
And the ticket to the American Dream — a college education — is being priced out of reach of more and more working families. The administration and the Republican Congress are about to raise interest rates on student loans.

Katrina exposed the administration's incompetence. But the catastrophic failure to reconstruct the Gulf Region is adding to the suffering of those who survived the storm.

The list can go on. It is to no one's advantage. This isn't about an election that's nearly a year away. It's about governing. It's about the country.

This president has three more years in office, and we will all pay dearly if the failures continue.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. is founder and president of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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