Perhaps the most noteworthy comment from Bush’s typically-painful news conference today was one that the pundits completely missed in their post-conference wrap-ups. The President was commenting on the rising tide of protectionist sentiment in the country. “It’s a sign that we’re losing confidence,” he said.
It was probably a Freudian slip, but one that came very close to Jimmy Carter’s “malaise” speech, in which Carter made a similar observation, although never using the word “malaise” himself. That word was used by pundits in describing Carter’s tone, but it came to define the overall failure of his policies. In this case, it’s an admission by Bush that the country has lost confidence in his policies.
You bet we’re losing confidence! We’re losing confidence in the same way that people lose confidence in any approach (in this case, “free” (blind) trade policies) that, after decades of experience, have proven to be a complete and utter failure. How else can you describe a trade policy that has produced a cumulative deficit of $9 trillion since 1976, one that has destroyed the value of the dollar and transformed America’s credit rating in the global community to “junk” status? Perhaps we’re not so much losing confidence as we are wising up.
One final comment on the news conference: it was another opportunity lost for the journalists. In spite of all the discussion of soaring oil and food prices and whether or not supplies are adequate or even in decline, the thought never occurred to any of the journalists to ask Bush why we then continue to pour fuel on the fire by maintaining an extremely high rate of immigration. How I’d love to hear him try to answer that one. He might set a new Bush record for hemming, hawing and “uhhhhhs!”
The end of this dismal chapter in America’s history can’t some soon enough.