Whoever is running the Federal Government next year will spend a lot of his time cursing his predecessor, and that will be the case even if Bush turns out to be his own successor. Like a frat pledge on the day after the toga party, he’ll spend most of his term on his hands and knees scrubbing the vomit out of the White House carpet. Bush and his people didn’t create all our problems, obviously; but there is no serious challenge to the welfare and security of the nation that he and his people have not exacerbated. Running up massive deficits, to cite just one example, is not a very promising way to prepare for the retirement of the baby boomers. And the deplorable state of public finance is only one of the many legacies Bush will bequeath: a world of nations looking for revenge for our insults, threats, and violence; a deteriorating environment; an inadequate and yet vastly expensive health care system; and an increasingly uncompetitive economy utterly addicted to liquid fuels.
Getting rid of Bush may lead to a government that isn’t actively making things worse, but ending the binge and even taking the pledge is not enough. We need to be thinking about how to manage the hangover.