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What We've Lost: How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment, and Damaged Our Standing in the World

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The editor of Vanity Fair magazine offers a hard-hitting assessment of the Bush administration's first term, and its disastrous effects on America at home and abroad, in this revised paperback edition which includes new material on Bush's re-election and second term.

What We've Lost addresses the fragile state of U.S. democracy with a critical review of the Bush administration by one of our leading magazine editors, Graydon Carter. Carter expressed his deep dissatisfaction with ...

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Overview

The editor of Vanity Fair magazine offers a hard-hitting assessment of the Bush administration's first term, and its disastrous effects on America at home and abroad, in this revised paperback edition which includes new material on Bush's re-election and second term.

What We've Lost addresses the fragile state of U.S. democracy with a critical review of the Bush administration by one of our leading magazine editors, Graydon Carter. Carter expressed his deep dissatisfaction with the state of the nation in his monthly editor's letters in Vanity Fair—which aroused widespread comment. In this updated edition of What We've Lost he provides a sweeping, painstakingly detailed account of the ruinous effects of this president's first term, and warns us what more we stand to lose following his re-election.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
According to Graydon Carter, the ruinous invasion of Iraq is just the tip of the iceberg. The longtime Vanity Fair editor-in-chief accuses the Bush White House of curtailing our freedoms, mortgaging our economy, ravaging our environment, and badly damaging our relations with other nations. With hundreds of specific examples, he documents the administration's spending abuses, hypocrisy, and attacks on personal freedom.
Publishers Weekly
No quarter is given in Vanity Fair editor Carter's furious, comprehensive indictment of the Bush administration. Dispensing with satire and mind-of-Bush psychoanalysis, Carter and his researchers sum up a now-familiar anti-Bush case mainly through a relentless buildup of often bullet-pointed facts, including many thematic litanies of Bush policies, a list of American soldiers killed in Iraq and a debunking of the 2004 State of the Union address. A sprinkling of choice quotes highlights what come across as broken promises, cynical deceptions and presidential inanity ("It's clearly a budget. It's got lots of numbers in it") that Carter uses to sum up the administration. He condemns the shortage of biochemical warfare suits for American soldiers in Iraq, even though he believes Iraq had no biological or chemical weapons, and he blames Bush both for soaring trade deficits and for protectionist measures. Carter's voice comes through this blunt marshalling of facts and figures; people will be listening. (On sale Sept. 8) Forecast: This book is basically a branded, annotated list one tailored to a ready audience that is looking for facts to throw at undecided neighbors as debate heats up. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Readers of Vanity Fair will not be surprised by the tone of editor in chief Carter's anti-Bush book since the magazine has produced several feature-length investigations critical of the President. Carter enumerates the areas of American life that he believes have been diminished or damaged by Bush policies, from the economy, civil liberties, the judiciary, and the environment to our reputation abroad with a misdirected war on terror. He contends that many of the policies and reforms will last far longer than the current administration and that much of the change has been enacted below the radar, if not in secret. Carter believes that the administration deceived Congress, the American people, and the UN in order to go to war in Iraq, and he devotes 12 pages to list the 833 coalition members killed in the year following the "end of hostilities." Although the documentation is incomplete, this book provides evidence of research and is not merely the author's opinion. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/04.]-Jill Ortner, SUNY at Buffalo Libs. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374288921
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Pages: 352

Meet the Author

Graydon Carter has been the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair since 1992. Previously, he was the editor of The New York Observer and the cofounder of Spy. He is the producer of the acclaimed film The Kid Stays in the Picture and the executive producer of the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning documentary 9/11. He lives in New York.

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Read an Excerpt

TO BEGIN WITH . . .

In making his final decision to launch an invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush did not seek the advice of his father, a veteran of World War II and a former president who had gone to battle with the same foe a decade earlier. Nor did he seek the overall final recommendation of his secretary of defense, or of his secretary of state, the only man in his cabinet who had been decorated for military service in wartime with the medals befitting a national hero. Instead, as Bob Woodward wrote in his book Plan of Attack, he consulted his God, a God that the president presumes takes sides in disputes between peoples.

That reckless, unnecessary and unforgiving decision to wage a war of choice with a country that was neither an enemy nor a real threat is at the very root of all we've lost during George W. Bush's presidency. We've lost our good reputation and our standing as a great and just superpower. We've lost the sympathy of the world following September 11 and turned it into an alloy of fear and hatred. We've lost lives and allies. We've lost liberties and freedoms. We've lost billions of dollars that could have gone toward a true assault on terrorism. It could fairly be said that in the age of George W. Bush, we have lost our way.

The deceptions that took the United States into Iraq were the work of an administration without care for logic or truth. The aftermath, a war seemingly without end and one that is costing the country tens of billions of dollars and the lives of about thirteen young American soldiers every week, is the work of an administration without judgment or fore-sight. The United States is a warrior nation with aheart of peace and a history of generally doing the right thing. The cry-wolf invasion of Iraq has not only shaken that opinion of the United States, it will make it difficult for future American leaders to rally nations against an enemy that actually is a credible global threat.

The sideshow in the Middle East proved in the end to be a convenient diversion for the Bush White House: It distracted Americans' attention from the administration's domestic agenda, its ideological war at home. Iraq also served as a shield for the administration, in the sense that the White House defined any opposition to or criticism of what it was up to in those early days as the work of the unpatriotic or the traitorous. With the country looking the other way, Bush and Cheney began dismantling decades' worth of advances in civil liberties, health care, education, the economy, the judiciary, and the environment. It is difficult to point to a single element of American society that comes under federal jurisdiction that is not worse off than it was an administration ago.

The Bush White House inherited a military greater than any ever assembled and spread it so thin that it ultimately had to order thousands of troops to stay in war zones months longer than the terms of their service contracts. At a time of war, the administration tried to cut back on benefits for veterans and soldiers still in the field of battle.

The Bush White House inherited a robust economy brimming with jobs and budget surpluses. It may well end its four years with a net loss of jobs during Bush's first term, a feat unsurpassed since the Hoover administration. In its desire to create tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, it created a horizon of budget deficits, crippling debt, and trade imbalances.

The Bush White House inherited an education system that, while not perfect, was in many ways the envy of the world. Its unreasonable and underfunded No Child Left Behind program hobbled state systems by placing rigid demands on school districts but pledging little money to meet those demands.

The Bush White House inherited an environment that had been all but saved by the Clean Air and Clean Water acts of the 1970s. The administration, many of whose members were plucked from the oil and gas industries, turned its back on more than thirty years of advances in environmental legislation and global treaties to reward its campaign backers from the petrochemical industry.

The Bush White House inherited a health-care system that favored the rich, then made it worse, turning it into a complex apparatus that will produce unprecedented profits for another set of major campaign backers — the health and pharmaceutical industries — all at the expense of regular patients, the elderly, and the poor.

The Bush White House inherited a government of model transparency and purposefully bent it to the will of the most secretive administration in recent American history.

The Bush White House inherited a judicial system that was America's centrist, if not conservative, legal safeguard and turned it into an ideological, right-wing juggernaut.

The Bush White House took the world's warm feelings toward America — remember the days following September 11, when all citizens of the world proclaimed themselves to be New Yorkers? — and turned them into confusion and then rage.

The Bush White House took a nation that was both the cradle and the missionary of democratic freedoms and civil liberties and reduced rights under both for America's own citizens.

At the heart of all of this loss were two unforgivable deceptions embedded in George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign: that he was a "united and not a divider," and that he was a "compassionate conservative." This "uniter" became "the great polarizer," a president who has divided Americans more than at any time since the Civil War. "Compassionate conservative" was a meaningless bit of public relations designed by Karen Hughes to appease the middle ground of the Republican Party and the conservative flank of the Democratic Party. Once in office, the Bush administration pursued not a compassionate course but rather a harsh, far-right-wing effort to roll back decades of liberal legislation. In a May 2004 interview in The New York Times, the billionaire George Soros said, "The government of the most powerful country on earth has fallen into the hands of extremists." It seems as if post-September 11 America has been in a slumber — brought on by an anesthetic of fear and patriotism — and is only now beginning to wake up.

* * *

I am an American by choice rather than by birth. I'm a white, fifty-five-year-old Episcopalian. Born in Canada, I've lived in America for half my life. I've raised four children here, have done reasonably well professionally, and am by most measures a happy man. I've followed politics all my life, but politics has never been my life, if you know what I mean. To be honest, I really never had much truck with politicians of any stripe. But I love this country, its land, its soul, and above all its people.

So what does it say about us that we let a man of such blind conviction and willful ignorance lead us? George W. Bush may be the most incurious American president ever. He reads little and is far and away the least traveled president of the last half century. Indeed, most of his trips outside this country have been aboard Air Force One. When he was on the David Frost show in late 2003 before his official state visit to London, Frost brought up previous trips Bush had made there. "Laura and I went to see Cats," was the president's chief recollection. Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill describes meetings with the president as short, limited, and without discussion or inquiry. Five, ten minutes tops, then Bush is up and out of the room.

In polls, America is now regularly listed as one of the most dangerous nations on earth, sometimes ahead of even North Korea. The world, simply put, doesn't like Bush — or Americans — very much. And Americans, a great people with high ideals, like to be liked. Well, Americans like to be feared and liked, but liked is an important part of the equation. Electing George W. Bush was seen in many quarters of the world as a mistake, a voters' aberration. His reelection would send those same quarters a message of intent and hostility on the part of the United States that may take decades fully to recover from.

One can only hope that this war, this period, this administration, is not the beginning of a new age. That it is not the true story of our times, a terrible dream from which we will wake up one day only to realize what we've lost.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

To begin with... 5
1 The president's wars 11
2 The military 47
3 Secrecy 83
4 The economy 103
5 The environment 127
6 Education 186
7 Health care 198
8 The judiciary 214
9 The state of the union 254
10 Our reputation 269
11 The president by the numbers 287
12 And finally... 326
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First Chapter

Excerpt from What We've Lost: How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment, and Damaged Our Standing in the World by Graydon Carter. Copyright © 2004 by Graydon Carter. Published in September, 2004 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. All rights reserved.


TO BEGIN WITH...


In making his final decision to launch an invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush did not seek the advice of his father, a veteran of World War II and a former president who had gone to battle with the same foe a decade earlier. Nor did be seek the overall final recommendation of his secretary of defense, or of his secretary of state, the only man in his cabinet who had been decorated for military service in wartime with the medals befitting a national hero. Instead, as Bob Woodward wrote in his book Plan of Attack, he consulted his God, a God that the president presumes takes sides in disputes between peoples.

That reckless, unnecessary and unforgiving decision to wage a war of choice with a country that was neither an enemy nor a real threat is at the very root of all we've lost during George W. Bush's presidency. We've lost our good reputation and our standing as a great and just superpower. We've lost the sympathy of the world following September 11 and turned it into an alloy of fear and hatred. We've lost lives and allies. We've lost liberties and freedoms. We've lost billions of dollars that could have gone toward a true assault on terrorism. It could fairly be said that in the age of George W. Bush, we have lost our way.

The deceptions that took the United States into Iraq were the work ofan administration without care for logic or truth. The aftermath, a war seemingly without end and one that is costing the country lens of billions of dollars and the lives of about thirteen young American soldiers every week, is the work of an administration without judgment or fore-sight. The United States is a warrior nation with a heart of peace and a history of generally doing the right thing. The cry-wolf invasion of Iraq has not only shaken that opinion of the United States, it will make it difficult for future American leaders to rally nations against an enemy that actually is a credible global threat.

The sideshow in the Middle East proved in the end to be a convenient diversion for the Bush White House: It distracted Americans' attention from the administration's domestic agenda, its ideological war at home. Iraq also served as a shield for the administration, in the sense that the White House defined any opposition to or criticism of what it was up to in those early days as the work of the unpatriotic or the traitorous. With the country looking the other way, Bush and Cheney began dismantling decades' worth of advances in civil liberties, health care, education, the economy, the judiciary, and the environment. It is difficult to point to a single element of American society that comes under Federal jurisdiction that is not worse off than it was an administration ago.

The Bush White House inherited a military greater than any ever assembled and spread it so thin that it ultimately bad to order thousands of troops to stay in war zones months longer than the terms of their service contracts. At a time of war, the administration tried to cut back on benefits for veterans and soldiers still in the field of battle.

The Bush White House inherited a robust economy brimming with jobs and budget surpluses. It may well end its four years with a net loss of jobs during Bush's first term, a feat unsurpassed since the Hoover administration. In its desire to create tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, it created a horizon of budget deficits, crippling debt, and trade imbalances.

The Bush White House inherited an education system that, while not perfect, was in many ways the envy of the world. Its unreasonable and underfunded No Child Left Behind program bobbled state systems by placing rigid demands on school districts but pledging little money to meet those demands.

The Bush White House inherited an environment that had been all but saved by the Clean Air and Clean Water acts of the 1970s. The administration, many of whose members were plucked from the oil and gas industries, turned its back on more than thirty years of advances in environmental legislation and global treaties to reward its campaign backers from the petrochemical industry.

The Bush White House inherited a health-care system that favored the rich, then made it worse, turning it into a complex apparatus that will produce unprecedented profits for another set of major campaign backers--the health and pharmaceutical industries--all at the expense of regular patients, the elderly, and the poor.

The Bush White House inherited a government of model transparency and purposefully bent it to the will of the most secretive administration in recent American history.

The Bush White House inherited a judicial system that was America's centrist, if not conservative, legal safeguard and turned it into an ideological, right-wing juggernaut.

The Bush White House took the world's warm feelings toward America--remember the days following September 11, when all citizens of the world proclaimed themselves to be New Yorkers?--and turned them into confusion and then rage.

The Bush White House took a nation that was both the cradle and the missionary of democratic Freedoms and civil liberties and reduced rights under both for America's own citizens.

At the heart of all of this loss were two unforgivable deceptions embedded in George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign: that he was a "united and not a divider," and that he was a "compassionate conservative." This "uniter" became "the great polarizer," a president who has divided Americans more than at any time since the Civil War. "Compassionate conservative" was a meaningless bit of public relations designed by Karen Hughes to appease the middle ground of the Republican Party and the conservative flank of the Democratic Party. Once in office, the Bush administration pursued not a compassionate course but rather a harsh, far-right-wing effort to roll back decades of liberal legislation. In a May 2004 interview in The New York Times, the billionaire George Soros said, "The government of the most powerful country on earth has fallen into the hands of extremists." It seems as if post-September 11 America has been in a slumber-brought on by an anesthetic of fear and patriotism-and is only now beginning to wake up.

* * *

I am an American by choice rather than by birth. I'm a white, fifty-five-year-old Episcopalian. Born in Canada, I've lived in America for half my life. I've raised four children here, have done reasonably well professionally, and am by most measures a happy man. I've followed polities all my life, but politics has never been my life, if you know what I mean. To be honest, I really never had much truck with politicians of any stripe. But I love this country, its land, its soul, and above all its people.

So what does it say about us that we let a man of such blind conviction and willful ignorance lead us? George W. Bush may be the most incurious American president ever. He reads little and is far and away the least traveled president of the last half century. Indeed, most of his trips outside this country have been aboard Air Force One. When he was on the David Frost show in late 2003 before his official state visit to London, Frost brought up previous trips Bush had made there. "I aura and I went to see Cats," was the president's chief recollection. Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill describes meetings with the president as short, limited, and without discussion or inquiry. Five, ten minutes tops, then Bush is up and out of the room.

In polls, America is now regularly listed as one of the most dangerous nations on earth, sometimes ahead of even North Korea. The world, simply put, doesn't like Bush-or Americans-very much. And Americans, a great people with high ideals, like to be liked. Well, Americans like to be feared and liked, but liked is an important part of the equation. Electing George W. Bush was seen in many quarters of the world as a mistake, a voters' aberration. His reelection would send those same quarters a message of intent and hostility on the part of the United States that may take decades fully to recover from.

One can only hope that this war, this period, this administration, is not the beginning of a new age. That it is not the true story of our times, a terrible dream from which we will wake up one day only to realize what we've lost.
Read More Show Less

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