President Bush met with his successor, Barack Obama, on Monday and began discussing the transition from one administration to the other.
The Bush administration has 10 weeks left before Inauguration Day. His presidency doesn’t end until then, and he certainly has the right to continue the policies and programs he has initiated and that he considers important.
However, the president should pay attention to the clear message voters gave last week — they want something different — and at least consider Obama’s ideas and proposals in whatever decisions he makes for the remainder of his term.
Bush has shown he can be pragmatic, and work for compromise with all parties involved. That is what made him such a popular governor of Texas, and helped him win the presidency eight years ago. Unfortunately for him and for the country, after the horrific attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Bush deferred much of his influence to Dick Cheney and the neocons, who began turning the administration into an oligarchy driven by paranoia and opportunism.
The lurch to the right has gone so far as to alarm many longtime Republican leaders, who are appalled at the systematic curtailment of individual rights and the blatant disregard for international law. Many question the interventionist military policy that appears to favor saber rattling to diplomacy.
And of course, among the primary concerns, especially along the southern border states, are policies that appear to foment outright hatred for Latin America that extends to people of Hispanic descent.
Last week’s vote, and Bush’s own disapproval ratings — public opinion of him is the lowest shown any president in modern history — should convince the president that Americans simply don’t want him to continue on the current course. His own administration, particularly Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, apparently recognizes this, as evidenced by the urgency with which Chertoff wants to build the odious barrier between the United States and Mexico. His rush is akin to that of a misbehaving child who wants to finish his destruction before the adults come.
Well, the adults are on their way. Bush should recognize — and we hope — that the border fence could be one of the first things the new administration revisits. Bush should discuss this with Obama and the congressional leadership. If they agree the barrier does more harm than good, as we expect and hope they will, then the work should simply stop the project that has already cost this country billions in construction and legal costs, and much more in terms of national and international esteem from American citizens and Latin leaders.
Open discussions and a willingness to work together will help ensure a smooth presidential transition. President Bush can help this country, and regain lost favor, if his last days are dedicated to supporting the country rather than the neocons.