George W. Bush is politically dead, cremated and buried. American presidents are always sidelined in the long period between the November election and the inauguration at the end of January. But this time he is totally sidelined.
But Bush is in power for another 52 days. He can cause a lot of damage in that time. His Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a shock through America's European allies when she aired the thought of rush NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia without following the careful process known has the Membership Action Plan. Obviously [this was] after [she received] instructions from the White House. The negative reactions were so strong that this week Rice had to ensure that the two countries must fulfill a series of demands before membership is accepted.
If anyone should doubt how mad it would be to let Georgia into NATO, another confirmation came yesterday, when it was learned that it was Georgian troops who fired into the air close to President Mikhail Saakashvili and his Polish guest Lech Kaczynski last weekend during a visit to the border with South Ossetia. According to Polish intelligence the troops fired under orders to create headlines of Russian aggression.
It is unknown whether Barack Obama will assume a different attitude than George W. Bush towards Georgian NATO membership. Obama, too, will first and foremost care for America's own security. The significance of having a good relationship with Russia is different in Washington than it is in Paris, Berlin or Oslo.
But Obama should also question the prudence of letting NATO move closer to Moscow. The lesson from the Cold War, that security can only be achieved communally, still applies. Total security for one side means total insecurity for the other � with dangerous instability as a result.
The period of a power vacuum in America could not come at a worse time. The economic crisis requires leadership America does not currently have. Bush is president, but no one listens to what he says. No one takes him seriously. He can move neither the national nor international economy, which requires confidence and a stable future to recover.
It is comforting to see that Obama has confidence enough to choose strong leaders with the courage to stand for their own opinions. That means that political discourse can once again take place in the White House, after the period of Bush, who prioritized loyalty to such a degree that objections never surfaced. That has contributed to his many disastrous decisions.
Rarely, if ever, has a president-elect been the subject of this level of attention. He hardly takes a step and does not choose any staff members without it being reported on all TV networks and on the front page of every newspaper. That tells us how strongly America awaits this transition. The expectations are enormous. That could be Obama's biggest problem.