President George W. Bush's administration has, on any objective basis, been a frightening thing to behold. Strident and self-absorbed by narrow partisanship, administration officials have actually betrayed the conservative ideological cause, dismantling the tried-and-tested institutional foundations of America's economic prosperity and global security.
Start with economic policy and the deliberate unbalancing of the US government's long-term finances. The aim clearly has been to sharpen the financial crisis of the social-welfare state and bring about a permanent reduction in government wealth re-distribution. But broken eggs do not necessarily make an omelet: Bush's massive (and still growing) fiscal deficits have stimulated nothing but jitters about a prolonged slowdown in capital formation, household consumption, and economic growth.
Fiscal policy is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg. Korean steelworkers might well ask whatever happened to the Republican Party's historic commitment to free trade. African farmers should wonder how it could be Bush--not some left-wing Democrat--who reversed the archconservative Newt Gingrich's proudest achievement: the partial reform of agricultural subsidies.
The security policy of the Bush administration has been worse than frightening; it has been, to borrow one of the president's most frequent utterances nowadays, terrifying. At the moment, administration insiders are trying to convince elite journalists that Bush did not deceive outsiders about Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program. They are hoping that Americans will forget all the cocksure predictions of a military walkover and cheering crowds lobbing flowers at US and British troops.