There are many acts of destruction for which the Bush years are rightly reviled – the illegal invasions, the defiant defenses of torture, the tanking of the global economy.
But the administration’s most lasting legacy may well be the way it systematically did to the US government what branding-mad CEOs did to their companies a decade earlier: it hollowed it out, handing over to the private sector many of the most essential functions of government, from protecting borders to responding to disasters to collecting intelligence.
This hollowing out was not a side project of the Bush years, it was a central mission, reaching into every field of governance.
And though the Bush clan was often ridiculed for its incompetence, the process of auctioning off the state, leaving behind only a shell – or a brand – was approached with tremendous focus and precision.
The Bush administration’s determination to mimic the hollow corporations it admired extended to its handling of the anger its actions inspired around the world. Rather than actually changing or even adjusting its policies, it launched a series of ill-fated campaigns to “rebrand America” for an increasingly hostile world.
And these errors do not cease.