Thursday, November 16, 2006
# Posted 12:46 PM by Patrick Porter
How odd that today we admire Ronald Reagan whose coattails never could translate into a House majority, who was nearly destroyed by Iran-Contra, and who left office in uncertainty over whether he had really changed much the Cold War calculus. Harry Truman finished with about a 25% approval rating, winning no credit for the birth of containment. After his crankiness, the Democrats wanted a more “thoughtful” liberal like Adlai Stevenson as their leader.
I guess we'll see, but I suspect this Presidency will go down in collective memory as a bit of a disaster.
Granted, Bush's ideas and vision offered, as Andrew Sullivan said, 'clarity, purpose and a vision for a proportionate response' after 9/11, and his rhetoric at times has been inspiring in identifying the need to defend liberal society from militant Islam. And some of his gestures have been welcome, appointing more African-Americans to high office than any past President (or at least most), and he has at least mentioned 'Palestinian' and 'state' in the same sentence.
And from this side of the Atlantic, people are too quick to indulge in a sniggering anti-Americanism with Bush as their lazy example, an attitude rooted often in ignorance, irritation at being dependent on the US, and in old Tory imperial resentment.
But things would have to unfold in a dramatically unexpected and miraculous way to save his reputation in posterity.
Bush hasn't really 'won two wars.' He won the opening phases of conventional war in Aghanistan and Iraq. Disastrous decisions, maladministration, failure to plan properly, cabalistic decision-making within a small elite, and general inattention to detail and operational execution has thrown into crisis his mission to introduce a democratic alternative into the Middle East and Central Asia. It is possible to say this while still being sympathetic with his strategic vision of a democratic middle east and the overthrow of Baathism.
He has vastly overspent. Like a big-state Christian socialist, arguably. He has appointed cronies at times, and been called on it. He, along with other levels of government, reacted too slowly to avert the costs and damage of Hurrican Katrina. His administration has continued and intensified Clinton's toleration of torture, rendition, and other human rights violations. And overall, his promising rhetoric has been failed by incompetence. Grand rhetoric alone doesn't get you a mantle of public affection like Churchill.
Who knows, maybe in a decade he will be sainted. But I doubt it.
History won't care in the slightest about the problems you list (it hasn't for any other president). Bush's legacy will be Iraq. If it succeeds, history will be very kind to him. If it fails, then not.
I think there's almost no way Bush will be seen in a bad light. I hate the guy, but look how nearly every single war time president is revered today, despite committing arguably more disastrous errors or heinous crimes than Bush.
Historians do not care about niceties like constitutionality. They respect the sweeping, decisive and dramatic. Just like Roosevelt (Teddy and Franklin), JFK, Truman, Wilson, Lincoln, Jefferson or Reagan, the primary consensus of history will be that he was a great hero.
Every once and awhile the Discovery Holo-Channel will run "George Bush: Our 43rd President Revealed!" that may analyze criticisms of his administration. That'll be it.
Maybe I'll be wrong. I hope I am. But the past isn't promising.
Iraq is a diversion. As the army attacks Iraq, the US gov't erodes rights at home by suspending habeas corpus, stealing private lands, banning books like "America Deceived" from Amazon, rigging elections, conducting warrantless wiretaps and starting 2 illegal wars based on lies. Soon, another US false-flag operation will occur (sinking of an Aircraft Carrier) and the US will invade Iran, (on behalf of Israel).
Final link (before Google Books bends to gov't demands and censors the title):
America Deceived (book)
President Woodrow Wilson took the USA to war, and Lyndon Johnson dramatically escalated a commitment to a war.
History has not been quite as kind to these Presidents, and both were no slouch at high-flown oratory.
To be sure, Wilson is not treated with universal hostility, but he portrayed much more often as a high-minded idealist with little grasp of hard realities and one of the fathers of the League of Nations, a failed experiment according to some. And he was the one who came up (I think) with the phrase, making the world 'safe for democracy.'
But I could be wrong.
I backed Bush on Iraq and have frankly been royally pissed off by the lies and incompetence of this administration, that have been revealed over time. I'm at the point now where I, in company with others who backed G.W., feel betrayed and in some high cases ... screwed.
The optimistic views about the Bush historical record on this thread frankly surprise me, given everything we now know, and that historians presumably will also know.
The historical record will show that lies and deceptions were used as an alibi for the invasion of Iraq. It will show massive incompetence ... lousy pre-war intelligence ... idiot optimism (throwing of flowers at the liberators) ... dreadful mismanagement and incompetence (Abhu Ghraib) ... and almost imbecile complacency (claiming victory with flags a-flying).
It will show close to 3,000 American service people killed and many more thousands injured, as disorder even now continues to spiral into chaos. It will show moreover a country that is morphing into a national entity that bears little or no resemblance to the Bush vision, although "vision" is a little grandiose for the half-assed scheme Dubya had in his back pocket.
It's a fiasco, and now apparently Ahmadinejad and Bashir Assad have become "part of the solution". Desperation calls for desperate measures, clearly.
Any historians who can put a shine on this mountain of crap are clearly writing from a partisan position, which many of them in fact do. G.W. has always needed a lot of good explainers and justifiers around him ... and for good reason.
Patrick, re "Bush hasn't really won two wars." In what way (s) are Coalition operations in Iraq today those of a "war"? Armies in Afghanistan and Iraq were defeated by U.S. and Coalition armies; the actions that led to those defeats conformed with what I understand to be "war." But the absence of battles in Iraq makes me wonder if a distinction isn't called for in describing the booby traps that account for most Coalition casualties, which usually occur on police-like errands: patroling a neighborhood, manning roadblocks, or searching a home. Isn't the problem that the struggle in Iraq isn't a war, that force alone cannot prevent roadside and suicide bombing? One suggestion in response to the current impasse caused by Iraq's inability to make constructive use of its new freedom has been to let the Sunni and Shia have a war. I assume this idea is based on the assumption that until then, there will be no "winner," only daily body counts caused by booby traps. Walter.
Bush has been a quite awful President. But if he hadn't been he'd still be pictured as one, since it's Democrats who write the histories.
I thought the "people are too quick to indulge in a sniggering anti-Americanism" line exceedingly funny. Is that a very polite way of saying "incapable of doing anything but"?
Whether history actually absolves George W. Bush, we can all agree that he has sinned.
Now in order for him to be canonized a Saint within the Catholic faith, it is generally agreed that he has to have a miracle or two to his credit. Think creatively. Then he can get in line with Isabella and other Right Wing cause celebs as a Servant of God, the Catholic term for having your resume on file.
The big question is 'can you become a Saint if you are rotting in Hell?' With that in mind and supposing W is in a bit of a hurry, he can try some other religions. Judaism has its tzadik; Islam (who would have thought?) has its wali; and Greek mythology (maybe a bit late for that) has its heroes. I don't think there are rules against multiple applications prejudicing an early admission.
Never the less, an apotheosis on the order of a Reagan is still possible. If (somehow) McCain gets elected it is conceivable that W might have an aircraft carrier named after him, or perhaps an oil tender.
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