Saturday, January 17, 2009

More End-of-Term Grades

UPDATE: below

Another view on Bush's place in history, from Andrew Roberts in the January 15th Telegraph (U.K.):
At the time of 9/11, which will forever rightly be regarded as the defining moment of the presidency, history will look in vain for anyone predicting that the Americans murdered that day would be the very last ones to die at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the US from that day to this.

The decisions taken by Mr Bush in the immediate aftermath of that ghastly moment will be pored over by historians for the rest of our lifetimes. One thing they will doubtless conclude is that the measures he took to lock down America's borders, scrutinise travellers to and from the United States, eavesdrop upon terrorist suspects, work closely with international intelligence agencies and take the war to the enemy has foiled dozens, perhaps scores of would-be murderous attacks on America. There are Americans alive today who would not be if it had not been for the passing of the Patriot Act. There are 3,000 people who would have died in the August 2005 airline conspiracy if it had not been for the superb inter-agency co-operation demanded by Bush after 9/11.

The next factor that will be seen in its proper historical context in years to come will be the true reasons for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in April 2003. The conspiracy theories believed by many (generally, but not always) stupid people - that it was "all about oil", or the securing of contracts for the US-based Halliburton corporation, etc - will slip into the obscurity from which they should never have emerged had it not been for comedian-filmmakers such as Michael Moore.

Instead, the obvious fact that there was a good case for invading Iraq based on 14 spurned UN resolutions, massive human rights abuses and unfinished business following the interrupted invasion of 1991 will be recalled.

Similarly, the cold light of history will absolve Bush of the worst conspiracy-theory accusation: that he knew there were no WMDs in Iraq. History will show that, in common with the rest of his administration, the British Government, Saddam's own generals, the French, Chinese, Israeli and Russian intelligence agencies, and of course SIS and the CIA, everyone assumed that a murderous dictator does not voluntarily destroy the WMD arsenal he has used against his own people. And if he does, he does not then expel the UN weapons inspectorate looking for proof of it, as he did in 1998 and again in 2001.

Mr Bush assumed that the Coalition forces would find mass graves, torture chambers, evidence for the gross abuse of the UN's food-for-oil programme, but also WMDs. He was right about each but the last, and history will place him in the mainstream of Western, Eastern and Arab thinking on the matter.

History will probably, assuming it is researched and written objectively, congratulate Mr Bush on the fact that whereas in 2000 Libya was an active and vicious member of what he was accurately to describe as an "axis of evil" of rogue states willing to employ terrorism to gain its ends, four years later Colonel Gaddafi's WMD programme was sitting behind glass in a museum in Oakridge, Tennessee.
Agreed. See also Charles Krauthammer in Friday's Washington Post:
Except for Richard Nixon, no president since Harry Truman has left office more unloved than George W. Bush. Truman's rehabilitation took decades. Bush's will come sooner. Indeed, it has already begun. The chief revisionist? Barack Obama. . .

It is the great care Obama is taking in not preemptively abandoning the anti-terror infrastructure that the Bush administration leaves behind. While still a candidate, Obama voted for the expanded presidential wiretapping (FISA) powers that Bush had fervently pursued. And while Obama opposes waterboarding (already banned, by the way, by Bush's CIA in 2006), he declined George Stephanopoulos's invitation (on ABC's "This Week") to outlaw all interrogation not permitted by the Army Field Manual. Explained Obama: "Dick Cheney's advice was good, which is let's make sure we know everything that's being done," i.e., before throwing out methods simply because Obama campaigned against them.

Obama still disagrees with Cheney's view of the acceptability of some of these techniques. But citing as sage the advice offered by "the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history" (according to Joe Biden) -- advice paraphrased by Obama as "we shouldn't be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric" -- is a startlingly early sign of a newly respectful consideration of the Bush-Cheney legacy.

Not from any change of heart. But from simple reality. The beauty of democratic rotations of power is that when the opposition takes office, cheap criticism and calumny will no longer do. The Democrats now own Iraq. They own the war on al-Qaeda. And they own the panoply of anti-terror measures with which the Bush administration kept us safe these past seven years.

Which is why Obama is consciously creating a gulf between what he now dismissively calls "campaign rhetoric" and the policy choices he must make as president.
To the contrary is the Economist:
He leaves the White House as one of the least popular and most divisive presidents in American history. At home, his approval rating has been stuck in the 20s for months; abroad, George Bush has presided over the most catastrophic collapse in America’s reputation since the second world war. The American economy is in deep recession, brought on by a crisis that forced Mr Bush to preside over huge and unpopular bail-outs. . .

His supporters--the few that remain--point out that this was a presidency knocked sideways by the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001, which no one foresaw. The huge expansion of government and executive power under Mr Bush, and the prosecution of a disastrous war, all unrolled in the wake of those attacks. The financial crisis, which began with overvalued homes and sloppily underwritten mortgages, was the product of numerous forces and failures in which Mr Bush was not a major contributor; they included low interest rates, bankers’ reckless risk-taking, flawed regulation and consumers’ bubble mentality, all of which spanned borders.

Yet Mr Bush’s presidency was also poisoned by his own ambition. Mr Bruni’s "timeless fraternity boy" wanted to be a great president. He not only wanted to win the second term that Bill Clinton had denied to his father--though that mattered to him enormously. He also wanted to usher in a period of prolonged Republican hegemony, much as William McKinley had done for his party in the late 19th century. After the September 11th attacks he not only itched to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban. He also wanted to tackle the root causes of terrorism in the Middle East. Mr Bush frequently spoke about how much he hated anything that was "small ball". His close advisers repeatedly described him as a "transformative president".

Mr Bush’s role model throughout his presidency was not his father but the patron saint of the modern conservative movement, Ronald Reagan. He regarded Reagan as a man who had unleashed free-enterprise and defeated the Soviet Empire, and he tried to do the same with his huge tax cuts and his global war on terror. He mimicked Reagan’s Western style, even relaxing on a Texas ranch where Reagan had taken his holidays on a Californian one; and he echoed Reagan’s enthusiastic use of the word "evil".

Other facets of Mr Bush’s personality mixed with his vaulting ambition to undermine his presidency. Mr Bush is what the British call an inverted snob. A scion of one of America’s most powerful families, he is a devotee of sunbelt populism; a product of Yale and Harvard Business School, he is a scourge of eggheads. Mr Bush is a convert to an evangelical Christianity that emphasises emotion--particularly the intensely emotional experience of being born again--over ratiocination. He also styled himself, much like Reagan, as a decider rather than a details man; many people who met him were astonished by what they described as his "lack of inquisitiveness" and his general "passivity".
Somewhere between these three is the Wall Street Journal:
"We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network," Mr. Bush told a Joint Session of Congress. "I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people."

In that moment, he set the standard for the Bush Presidency: To protect Americans from another 9/11 and hit Islamist terrorists and their sponsors abroad. Whatever history's ultimate judgment, Mr. Bush never did yield. Nearly all the significant battles of the Bush years -- the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Guantanamo and wiretapping, upheavals in the Middle East, America's troubles with Europe -- stemmed directly from his response to the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that defined his Presidency.

By his own standard, Mr. Bush achieved the one big thing he and all Americans demanded of his Administration. Not a single man, woman or child has been killed by terrorists on U.S. soil since the morning of September 11. Al Qaeda was flushed from safe havens in Afghanistan, then Iraq, and its terrorist network put under siege around the world. All subsequent terror attacks hit soft targets and used primitive means. No one seriously predicted such an outcome at the time.
Finally, don't miss Vice President-elect Joe Biden's assessment of Dick Cheney:
The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The Bush-Cheney relationship hasn't tasted very good. Not a single person you can name for me. Look at me, now, a single one can't tell you that the pudding has tasted good. Not one.
Expect four more years of such Jabberwocky-grade nonsense.


Deroy Murdock says
"Bush is the Republican Jimmy Carter." Ouch. By contrast, Power Line's John Hinderaker gives Bush a B-. And read Tom Carter:
I think objective historians in a decade or two will present a much more balanced and factual picture of President Bush and his administration. The reality of 2000 will be better understood; Katrina will be seen as a situation in which local and state governments failed badly, with the federal government doing better but not well; foreign assistance programs will be seen as strengthened and improved, with significantly greater support for the fight against AIDS; scandals such as those involving "torture," electronic surveillance, WMDs, firing U.S. Attorneys, and so on will seem much less significant when put in perspective; the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be acknowledged as qualified successes; and most important, President Bush will get credit for preventing a major attack on U.S. soil after 9/11. . .

I’m not trying to paint President Bush in glowing colors. I don’t think he was a particularly good president. But I think he was better than Gore would have been and significantly better than Kerry would have been. Time will tell--but I’m betting that the real history of this time, when finally written, will portray President Bush as a president who did a creditable job in a very difficult time.
(via readers Doug J. & Chris R., Best of the Web)


Assistant Village Idiot said...

Interesting how much of the critical Economist essay is mere name-calling. They diagnose without first having established what the symptoms are.

Carl said...


I thought the Economist article one of their worst ever, and I've subscribed for 20 years. As you said, there's a lot of whining but very little analysis.

OBloodyHell said...

Here's some analysis:

> the true reasons for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in April 2003. The conspiracy theories believed by many (generally, but not always) stupid people - that it was "all about oil", or the securing of contracts for the US-based Halliburton corporation, etc ...

The simple fact is, if it was just a "war for oil", and/or a "contract obtainment mission", then what would have been the easiest, cheapest, and, here at home, the most poltically expedient route towards that goal?

A: After routing Saddam's forces, find a local strongman, prop him up militarily, and then leave.

Total time: six-to-nine months, TOPS.

No one would be whining at Bush about the "endless" Iraq war (which, in fact, hasn't been one whit longer than any rational person expected it to be. Yes, I realize that excludes about one-half of the electorate).

The Iraqi people would be little better off than they were under Saddam. But Bush's popularity here at home would be much, much better.

Instead he chose the hard route -- "We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard," as Kennedy put it -- Bush chose the route that he believed (and I concur) would possibly result in longer-term stability for the Middle East.

Maybe it won't. But a strongman sure wouldn't have.

"War for Oil"? Pfeh. I'll spit on the shoes of anyone making that claim.

OBloodyHell said...

> abroad, George Bush has presided over the most catastrophic collapse in America’s reputation since the second world war.

You know, one thing that has been missing for a couple years now is the polls from the ME.

I recall, after the Iraqi Election That Would Never Happen, that the USA's numbers among those in the ME was up substantially, and there was discussion of the pressures it placed on other ME states to "democratize up".

1) I never hear citations of those numbers. I presume, thereby, that they must be holding steady at higher than historical, or even climbing higher.

2) I hear no more about such pressures, either. One has to wonder about those, too.

Hence I'm led to the presumption that "The most catastrophic collapse in America’s reputation since the second world war." must somehow deal with Bush's rep in the UK, France, and Germany, and with Eurolibtards all around.

In short, it's a load of crap, since America should NEVER listen to Eurolibtards. They're even stupider and more clueless than the homegrown variety, being descended from several generations of clueless idiots.

If they had had their way, they're kids'd be learning Russian in school and they themselves would be working on equalling the USSR's goal of "a drunkard on every streetcorner, a lush in every doorway".

I'll spit on their shoes, too...

OBloodyHell said...

Doh! "Their kids". Argh.

Carl said...


Agreed. At bottom, the Euros are complaining that America acted as a leader. They'd rather we be followers, like them.