Over the past several years, whenever I have written about the slow (and sometimes not so slow) destruction of freedom in Russia, my responses have invariably included comments that boiled down to, “Well, how is that different from what Bush/Cheney are doing to this country?” Here’s a 2007 blogpost along the same lines. The “Bush is as bad as Putin” trope also pops up quite frequently in various forums and comments sections of websites; sometimes, the trop is, “Putin isn’t nearly as bad as Bush” (see, for instance, the last comment here).
So, now that we are nearing the moment when we won’t have Bush to kick around anymore, I offer you a list of a few things that would have had to happen for Bush to be remotely like Putin.
- Shortly after September 11, Bush pushes through a constitutional amendment abolishing direct elections of governors and Senators, for nebulous “national security” reasons. They are now appointed by the administration.
- All the news networks except for one or two small stations are taken over by Bush cronies and turned into Fox News clones.
- Several politicians and journalists critical of Bush are murdered. Their killers are never found. Commenting on the murder of one journalist and speculation that she may have been killed on government orders, Bush dismissively comments, “We had no reason to kill her — her death has done much more harm to the country than her writings.”
- After George Soros announces his plans to finance a movement to defeat Bush in the next election, he is jailed on trumped-up charges of tax fraud and repeatedly denied parole on technicalities. Most of his wealth is confiscated.
- Due to the manipulation of election laws, after 2004 both houses of Congress are more than 70 percent Republican. Most of the remaining seats are held by the Conservative Party, the Right to Life Party, and Democrats loyal to Bush.
- In 2008, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both disqualified from running for office due to alleged irregularities in the documents they filed to be certified as candidates. Bush’s handpicked successor, Dick Cheney, runs against Al Sharpton and and Ralph Nader and handily defeats them.
And that, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg.
Of course, to say that Bush is better than Putin is faint praise, and besides, even an American Putin would have found his ability to wreak havoc on democracy constained by our political system. But the point isn’t that Bush is so great; it’s that the comparisons to Putin are so specious.