A lot will change on Jan. 20, when George W. Bush takes one last wistful glance around the Oval Office before heading back to Texas, and a few thousand Republicans begin finding out whether having "former Bush administration official" on their resum é is a help or a hindrance in getting that next job. It's more than just a new set of policy goals and a round of executive orders undoing some of Bush's worst offenses. For the first time in eight long years, the federal government will be managed by people who have a clue about what they're doing.
Just over two years into George W. Bush’s presidency, The American Prospect featured Bush on its cover under the headline, "The Most Dangerous President Ever." At the time, some probably thought it a bit over the top. But nearly six years later, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on the multifaceted burden that will soon be lifted from our collective shoulders.
For years, some economists and political scientists have scratched their heads in bewilderment at what they call "the paradox of voting," which states that going to the polls is a profoundly irrational act. If the only reason we do anything is because the material benefits of an action outweigh its costs (an assumption embedded in this theory, among others), there's no reason at all to vote. The odds that the election will be decided by one vote -- and therefore your vote will be decisive -- are vanishingly small. Therefore, whatever benefits you will derive from your favored candidate's policies must be multiplied by that infinitesimal chance that your vote will decide the election, to ascertain the return on the investment of voting.
Osama bin Laden speaks on a tape broadcast on Friday, Oct. 29, 2004. (AP Photo/AlJazeera via APTN)
On Oct. 29, 2004 -- four days before the election -- Osama bin Laden released a videotape attacking President Bush. As Ron Suskind later reported in his extraordinary book The One Percent Doctrine, CIA analysts concluded that "bin Laden's message was clearly designed to assist the President's reelection." John McLaughlin, the acting director of the CIA at the time, said at a meeting to discuss the tape, "Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president."
If you thought there wasn’t much interesting left to learn about Sarah Palin, you should read Jane Mayer’s piece in The New Yorker about how Palin shrewdly laid the groundwork for her selection as John McCain’s running mate. It turns out it wasn’t all that hard -- all it took was charming some of the conservative pundits who came through Alaska on fundraising cruises for The Weekly Standard and National Review. But what really stands out is what a bunch of pushovers these guys were, and how her looks played no small part in convincing this bunch of middle-aged men that she was just the bee’s knees.