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I would put the starting point even earlier, and note that the problem is not just bad luck but poor leadership, which began in the late 1990s and was compounded by events. Here are the 10 most important setbacks:


1998-9: Clinton impeachment Our present-day political rift really began with the impeachment crisis. It is almost customary to blame the Republican Party--and, ultimately, the electorate seemed to be less interested in President Bill Clinton's lies under oath than the GOP leadership was. Yet Clinton could have saved the country the trouble by resigning. In clinging to power, he let the country be split and destroyed his own political legacy.


1999: Seattle WTO protests The contemporary radical left, which brought us the anti-war movement, the Obama campaign, and eventually Occupy Wall Street, was born in the streets of Seattle, when labor unions, environmentalists and anarchists united to shut down trade talks that could have boosted global prosperity. To their shame, President Clinton and other leaders let the thugs outside shut down the deliberations within.


2000: Florida recount Though George W. Bush deserved to win, given the actual votes cast, the process through which the decisive electoral votes were granted only served to sharpen bitterness at the fact that he won despite losing the popular vote. Opponents called Bush's win an "electoral coup" and treated him as illegitimate, insisting he had no mandate. Subsequent attempts by Bush to govern in a moderate fashion were ignored.


2001: September 11th Though the nation absorbed the horrible blow of that bright late summer morning, and emerged united for a time, the shock of that moment has never really left us. Airline travel became more complicated; government surveillance became more intrusive; and the world that once seemed welcoming to Americans now seems more hostile, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican happens to be president.


2003: Iraq War Whether it was right or wrong, the Iraq War did not seem necessary to many, and was later undermined somewhat by the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction. Democrats seized the war as a political wedge issue, actively rooting for the failure of U.S. troops--a far more cynical and corrosive form of opposition than anything the nation has seen in the Obama era, and one that hardened mutual political mistrust.


2005: Hurricane Katrina Though the failures were primarily due to (Democrat) state and local officials, the federal relief effort was ultimately blamed. Katrina quickly became a symbol of Bush administration cronyism and incompetence. Worse than that, the disaster was exploited to create racial divisions. Though New Orleans has bounced back--thanks in large part to new Republican officials--the national political rifts have remained.


2007-8: Financial crisis Despite all of the challenges of the Bush era, the economy had, at least, grown at a rapid clip, thanks in part to a strong housing sector. All of that collapsed in the waning months of the Bush presidency, as failed government intrusions in the mortgage market created a credit crisis that was exacerbated by over-leveraging and by complex derivatives that hid the dangers. Economic confidence has never recovered.


2008: Election of Barack Obama The election of the first black president ought to have been something to celebrate. Yet Obama was anointed by the media, which covered up his many flaws. Obama beat Hillary Clinton by running against war policies he would later embrace; defeated John McCain thanks to the financial crisis; and entered office believing he had a mandate for "fundamental transformation," ensuring conflict to follow.


2009-10 Obamacare No major entitlement program had ever been passed without bipartisan support, but Obama and the Democrats pressed ahead regardless, disregarding constitutional limits and parliamentary procedure to ram through the change they believed would open the floodgates to others. The experience split the nation over a law that is more unpopular today--especially among the uninsured--than it has ever been.


2012-14 Foreign policy collapse From the Benghazi terror attacks, to Syria's use of chemical weapons; from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea, to the emergence of the "Islamic State" in Iraq, the multiple foreign policy crises that confronted Americans underscored the degree to which events had spun out of control, thanks in part to a deliberate abdication of U.S. leadership by a hopelessly disengaged president.



Blues caused by Blues...

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