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Opinion: Bush Forced to Rely on Help from Old Foes in Crisis

If people's homes and livelihoods weren't on the line, says Jefferson Chase, the Bush administration's latest predicament would be funny. Unfortunately, no one's really having any last laughs.

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George Bush won the last presidential election by stressing the importance of faith and values. But as he's finding out right now, people's faith in the financial system and the values of national stock markets have more to do with an administration's popularity than religious homilies.

It's impossible to deny the irony that this president, one of the greatest believers in the unfettered free market in US history, is practically begging Congress to intervene in the economy.

For most of his term in office, Bush has treated democracy in general and the legislative branch in particular as obstacles to be overcome. Now he's forced to turn to the latter in an effort to avoid being remembered as the chief executive who presided over the devastation of the American economy.

At some point, John McCain piously intoned during last week's presidential debate, greed took over the financial sector. Exactly, I found myself thinking when I heard the line. That point was January 22, 2001 -- the first day of the first Bush administration.

Nearly eight years on, Bush is now forced to ask the know-it-alls in a Democratic Congress to think up a solution to a mess caused by a misguided faith that private profits are inevitably good. What a humbling experience that must be.

And Congress isn't the only former foe upon whose help Bush must rely. By freeing up billions of dollars in short-term loan options, the European Central Bank is playing a major role in keeping the credit crunch from doing even more damage.

The ECB, of course, is run in part by people from Germany and France, countries that the Bush administration mocked and whose advice he ignored when he decided to launch an invasion of Iraq.

"Old Europe" was, I believe, the derisive phrase used at the time. Now, the US is getting help from its "wayward" European allies, help that will likely contribute to some ordinary Americans being able to keep their jobs and their homes.

The Iraq war and the current threat to the global financial system are very different, but related problems.

According to Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, the American experiment in bringing democracy to the Middle East by force has cost the US Treasury $845 billion.

That sum would easily cover the rescue package Congress is being asked to pass, and ordinary Americans are being asked to pay for. There would even be plenty of money left over to try to find a cure for AIDS or pursue other projects that would restore the world's faith in the benevolence of American motives.

Lest anyone accuse me of anti-Americanism, I would point out that not only am I an American, I write this as an American -- as an adherent of the great American ideal that through rational self-governance, we can make the world a better place for ourselves and others.

For the past eight years, the Bush administration has encouraged the American public to substitute blind faith for reason and argument. I would hope that as the current government limps into its final days, Americans reflect on the folly of that attitude.

I would also hope that those segments of the US populace that tend to dismiss Europe as hostile, old-fashioned and anti-American will remember the assistance Europeans are now offering.

Most of all, I would hope that, with the financial crisis, a wrong-headed President and those who helped him to power are getting their final, ironic comeuppance.

I fear, though, that this may not be the last, nasty surprise of the Bush presidency. And that is definitely no laughing matter.

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