Gloom and misery everywhere. The economies of Britain, the USA and the Eurozone are in deep trouble; the war in Afghanistan shows no sign of ending; Britain's MI5 is accused of complicity with America in the systematic torturing of terrorist suspects; thousands are awaiting sentencing following our recent riots; and President Obama's chances of re-election next year seem to be falling as fast as the stock markets.
Viewed from this side of the pond, the Republican party in the States seems to be in the ascendant. Desite the fact that no clear leader has emerged to take on the President next year, the right wing is chortling at the way it humbled Obama over the threat of a default on the nation's debts. Each of the putative Republican candidates seem to be jostling to appear more xenophobic than the rest. Tea cups are rattling all over the mid-West.
Now, would you believe it, the latest front-runner, Rick Perry, is Governor of Texas, he looks and sounds like his great forebear in the job, George W. Bush and he even wears cowboy boots!! To this lover of the USA, it seems as if the world has gone mad. May I, then, in the spirit of comradeship, beg the voters of the great US to consider recent history.
When George W. moved into the White House in 2001, the USA had a two trillion dollar budget surplus. It even looked as if the national debt of 5.7 trillion dollars could be eliminated by the end of the decade. It's worth reflecting what this other, older, cowboy-booted Texan then did.
He cut taxes, reducing annual revenues by 1.8 trillion dollars. He declared a war on terror and set up two military invasions far from American shores, financing them entirely by borrowing. The wars and consequent increases in defence spending added 1.5 trillion dollars to the national debt. At the same time, he looked on serenely as Wall Street and the American Banks over-lent, so precipitating the Western financial crisis.
By the time he left office, Bush had squandered Clinton's surplus and nearly doubled the size of the debt, adding more to it than any president in American history.
It would surely be an exaggeration to blame the man for all of the ills listed in my first paragraph. One person can't be responsible for all that, can he? Or can he? I acquit George W of causing the onset of winter and the arthritis in my right knee. But for most of the rest, there's a smell of Texan denim clinging to it all.
The American electorate should think on it.