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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bush's Post-Presidential Prospects

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During his summer vacation, U.S. President George W. Bush bragged about his extensive reading list. It is apparently as a result of boning up on World War II history that he began referring to fundamentalist Muslims as "Islamo-Fascists" and comparing Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and other regional baddies to Adolf Hitler.

Drawing lessons from history is a good thing, but Bush may be reading the wrong kind of history. He might gain a better insight into the nature of his administration -- and catch a glimpse of his own future -- by reading about the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

The Bush administration has the feel of a late-era Soviet bloc regime. True, the United States remains a functioning democracy and is not ruled by geriatrics -- with the exception of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But what makes today's Washington so similar to Berlin or Prague in the twilight years of "people's democracy" is a bankrupt, moribund ideology. The U.S. government desperately clings to neo-conservatism even though it turns every policy initiative into failure.

Conversations at New York dinner parties have become reminiscent of Moscow gatherings circa 1974. Americans can still vote and express their opinions, but there is a sense of impotence and alienation rivaling Brezhnev's Soviet Union.

Unlike Brezhnev Bush is likely to face a hostile Congress after the election on Tuesday and will have to leave after 2008.

Whoever follows Bush will need to deal with the lost war in Iraq. Extricating U.S. troops will be messy, possibly leading to chaos in an economically and strategically vital region. To deflect massive political fallout the next president will need to lay the blame for the Iraq misadventure squarely at the feet of the Bush administration. Investigations into the origins and conduct of the war will ensue, probing such sensitive issues as prewar lies, lack of planning, torture and war profiteering. Quite a few powerful people will be at risk of an ignominious end to their public careers -- or worse.

This is where the Soviet bloc analogy comes in. By the 1970s, most Eastern European regimes had mellowed, at least compared with the repressive Stalinist rule of the early postwar decades. Consequently, the revolutions that toppled them were also mild. They were not prosecuted, but packed off into peaceable retirement.

The only exception was Romania's Nicolae Ceausescu -- the most ruthless of the remaining autocrats. When his regime began to totter, he and his odious wife were hastily whisked to a provincial city, tried and shot. Notably, Ceausescu was dispatched by his own comrades, who feared subsequent investigations and trials. They had a reason to want the boss dead -- so as to be able to blame him for all of the regime's crimes.

Some retired U.S. generals, including former Secretary of State Collin Powell, have warned that the Bush administration's tampering with the Geneva Convention could expose captured U.S. soldiers to abuse in future conflicts. The same principle applies in civilian life. Bush's twisting of the U.S. Constitution to suit his purposes may have set a dangerous precedent for his enemies.

A new film about a fictional assassination of Bush titled "Death of a President" has raised concerns about possible copycats. But Bush may be facing a greater danger from the Justice Department than terrorists or lunatics. A scion of a rich, well-connected family, he has been a figurehead all his life -- from his time with an investment group owning a major league baseball team to his presidency. Conceited, pugnacious and stubborn, he is ideally suited to take the fall to expiate the collective guilt of the U.S. ruling elite.

Alexei Bayer, a native Muscovite, is a New York-based economist.