It isn’t my normal habit to blog about politics, but today is inauguration day, and the beginning of the term of our 44th president.
Being an amateur historian (aren’t we all?) I like to take these moments to look back at what has been.
Ann Althouse put up a post wherein people could say good-bye to our 43rd president.
Aside from the idiots and cranks who have nothing better to say than “Buck Fush” or “good riddance” there are some intelligent and useful comments in that thread. Althouse does a fantastic job about keeping most of the loonies away, btw.
The one subject I would like to address is the one of dignity.
Commenter Helen Parr:
I remember his 2000 campaign promise to restore dignity and honor to the office of President. I believe he succeeded.
He is a good man. He is genuinely compassionate. He is a role model for fitness and sobriety. If everyone I know possessed his character, I would be grateful.
But he never should have been President of the United States of America. He has valued loyalty over authority in a way that has done us harm.
I hope he enjoys his life. Having worked so tirelessly for us, he deserves to.
And, oh yeah,
“A man of honor, something we haven’t seen of late on the other side of the aisle.” (referring to an earlier comment that stated this – Dan)
he would never say that.
The man goes out with his head held high, and secure with the knowledge that – despite everything that was thrown at him – he never lost his dignity. I don’t know what he plans to do with his time now, but I will make one daring prediction: he will not be jetting around the world fund raising from dictators and third world corporate oligarchs; nor will he be traveling to woe-begotten tyrranies to declare their latest sham elections to be “basically fair,” nor will he grow wealthy traveling the world by private jet giving speeches about the imminent melting of the icecaps.
And, just as liberals look back at their hounding of the progressive Lyndon Johnson with regret, we will regret that we did not recognize that this was a president who was the the liberator of Iraq and Afghanistan, the strongest pro-life voice to occupy the office, the strongest friend of Israel, the finest annointer of judges and justices, a crusader for AIDS relief in Africa, and above all The Decider.
And no matter what, I think we will miss him more than we know.
I tend to side with these types of comments about Bush. There is so much we will not know for many, many years about this man and the situations he was in. I am not necessarily a huge Bush fan. I am intensely grateful that Bush remained sober, in shape and dignified. He rose above the withering barrage of fools, cranks and idiots that constantly and consistently bashed this man, calling him horrific things like Hitler, Chimp and the like. I swear I have never seen anything like it (granted, I am only 40 but it truly was repulsive).
Not one time did I ever see him lower himself, get mad, or lose his cool. That is something that I could never do. If someone called me Hitler, I would probably promptly smash that person across the face with my best Muay Thai elbow, probably a Sok Ti or Sok Ngad. And it would be a two hit fight, I guarantee you – me hitting that person, and them hitting the ground.
Everyone can, and will, argue about Bush’s policies as much as they want, but they can never take away the fact that he truly stayed dignified and represented the office well.
For that, and much more, I say thank you to President Bush, and Godspeed.
12 thoughts on “Thoughts on Bush From a Guy Who Doesn’t Usually Do Politics”
I went from defending George Bush because his enemies were so despicable, to seeing that he was indefensible, despite that fact.
I think if you vote for a guy, you feel in some way that you have taken ownership of him, your pride gets mixed up in it, and it is hard to admit that he has let you down very badly. I found this to be so in my case.
One of these days I may write up on this blog the many reasons why I think Bush is one of the two or three worst presidents we have ever had, out of 43.
As the facts have come out about his presidency bit by bit from objective sources, the record became increasingly clear. It will become more so over time.
No one here will agree with me, which is fine.
The fact that the most leftist president we have ever had is being sworn in today is solely the faut of Mr. Bush, for starters.
I voted for him twice. I do not have Bush Derangement Syndrome. Yet I cannot give him a grade above a very low F for his presidency. I have to grade hime even lower for his stewardship of the Republican Party, which is in a shambles. As to the Conservativism, he has set us back forty years.
I will not be watching the Inauguration. The Media-frenzy of Leader Worship is more appropriate to Maoist China than to the United States of America. Or I should say, the United States of America has stopped being what it was or what I imagined it to be.
At some point the nausea will go away. I hope.
Harsh stuff Lex. I agree with some of your points, and disagree with others. I won’t be watching today either.
I don’t think Obama got elected because of Bush. I think Clinton, Bush and Obama got elected because the country has changed. If you want to blame someone, blame the voters.
Bush got some things right and some things wrong. I expected little of him, other than that he would probably be better than Al Gore. He exceeded my expectations. He behaved according to his nature, which was clear enough for anyone who cared to see it before he was elected. (The same statement was also true for Clinton and will probably also be true about Obama.) If the voters had wanted someone else they could have nominated and elected someone else. I appreciate Bush’s honesty, his directness, his civic mindedness and his willingness to hold unpopular positions when he thought he was right. I suspect that we will come to miss these qualities in our leaders in the coming years but hope that I am wrong. I doubt that he will come to be seen as a bad president but what do I know.
Bush made some right decisions that Gore and/or Kerry would have made wrong. But a substantial part of the value of the right decisions was eroded by the bad decisions he made, inlcluding some decisions to do nothing (firing people, specifically).
He was right to have taken out Saddam. If you aren’t willing to attack somebody like Saddam on suspicion, you aren’t taking the WMD problem seriously. He was wrong to have let Rumsfeld conduct the invasion and occupation with the light footprint model from Afghanistan. He was wrong to have let the invasion happen with no realistic occupation and reconstruction plan.
Rumsfeld might have been a great reforming SecDef in time of peace, like Jackie Fisher was to the British fleet before WW1. But he should have been fired early on after his model failed in Iraq. One gets the feeling that had Bush been Lincoln, he’d have just been strating to think about firing McClellean in 1865. Now when we are facing a worse tyrant than Saddam with worse WMD threats, it will be very hard to raise a consensus to take him out. We may very much regret that.
Bush failed to use the bully pulpit and lead the nation; it was always a struggle for him to get on TV and try to explain what needed to be done to the nation.
And he very much failed as leader of the Republican Party. Having your party keep control of Congress is part of the job of President. Churchill never spent a day in office without working to secure his majority and improve his party’s position. When he needed the support of the opposition, as in 1940, he went out an negotiated for it realistically, and demanded that they live up to their side of the bargain. The result is that he was efective in pushing for what he wanted. Bush seemed never to have learned those lessons.
I do think he deserves credit for some good things, but his mistakes must be weighed against them. So I agree with Lex in many respects. We have yet to fully pay the price for those mistakes, but we will.
I see his unwillingness to fire people and to make his case persuasively to the public as his principal failings. I see his rapid framing of 9/11 in what I think were correct strategic terms as his principal success. Most of the rest is details, though I think he deserves considerable credit for his tax cuts, and he may deserve considerable blame for his response to the 2008 credit collapse. Only time will tell on most of this.
He shares blame for weakening the Republican Party. The Party leadership wanted him despite his flaws because he knew how to win elections. In this regard he was to the Republicans what Clinton was to the Democrats. Both men left their parties in disarray. The Democrats recovered. Eventually the Republicans will recover too, the only question is when.
Jim Bennett – excellent comparison re Rumsfeld to Fisher, thank you for leaving that comment. Reminds me that I need to re-read some of my pre WW1 political history books.
In the last week Mr. Bush admitted that he was going against his principles with respect to government interference with free enterprise capitalism – the obscene bailouts. What Mr. Bush didn’t realize, it seems, here, and at various junctures of his administration, is that going against one’s principles makes one unprincipled.
He’s probably not in the group of the worst 10 presidents, I suspect, but he has wasted opportunities, floundering without a well thought-out philosophy, leading to a lack of ideals. It appears that sometime during his watch a working republic may have reached high tide and now traditional Americanism is in recession.
I’m not a historian (even as a hobby) and my responses are, I’ll admit, to some degree emotional.
Still, Bush’s vision of the potential power, applied in other cultures and in varying forms, of the American ideal spoke to me. It also undergirded his respect for others. That he should have cleaned out the State Department, that he should have listened to those like Petraeus, that he should have fired Scott McClennan, that he should have overriden the Democrats who refused to request federal help during Katrina is probably all true. That he would have had hell to pay in one big storm at State instead of a trickle of leaks, that Iraqis needed to turn on those in their midst who wanted civil war, and that it would not have been lawful to enter New Orleans without a state request is also true.
When it all comes down to it, you may well convince me that his choices were wrong – I may have too small (or too much a value system built on words) a context. Still, I do know that he modelled many good things and they came from his head as well as his heart. The last, great good thing he did was try to make as seamless a transition as possible – that part of that may well have been to screw up the economy motivated by his desire to hand it on in better shape than if he hadn’t made these moves may also prove true. And motivations may count for naught next to the badness of a choice. But I suspect that motivations that were relatively selfless can lead to better policy than those of a narcissist. We’ll see if Obama is more like Clinton or more like Bush. His reading list, frankly, seems more like Clinton and I don’t see that as a good. Two of the books he’s “read” are the ones he wrote. Oh, well.
Without question a good man; someone I’d like to have as a friend. He has qualities that, in their application, have not done a disservice to his country. Would it be fair, perhaps, to say that the peter principle applies here?….Perfectly fine as a governor but as president and as a political leader, just a click or two away from “good”?
We have seen the growth of government, increased government power, growth of government spending, increased federal programs and federal employment, and perpetual war for perpetual peace. The federal budget was $1.7 trillion in 2000. Today, the expected deficit alone is expected to be a good chunk of this. Federal spending went through the roof, and most of that was non-defense, non “war on terror” related. Bush never vetoed a spending bill.
Now, how can anyone right in the head claim with a straight face that this is consistent with conservatism? If you define conservatism as belief in limited governments and free markets (as I do), there is no way anyone can call Bush “conservative”.
Anyone who thinks Bush was a good president must have a hole in their head.
Anyone who thinks Bush was a good president must have a hole in their head.
Depends. President do a lot of things and common history tends to forget 99% of them. We tend to remember “great” presidents for one or two actions they took and forget all the rest even though the people of the time thought them highly important. For example, nobody remembers Lincoln’s economic or trade policies in the least.
The War on Terror will be Bush’s legacy. 20-50 years down the road no one will remember anything else just as no one remembers anything about Truman save his Cold War policies. Most people today are shocked to find out how broadly Truman was disliked at the end of his second term because contemporary politicians of both the left and right fight each other to compare themselves to him.
Truman was disliked by the end of his term because of his failure to bring the Korean war to a quick, conclusive end. The Korean War dragged on and on mainly because of mistakes that MacArthur made and Truman’s failure to correct them after firing MacArthur. Remember Ike’s campaign speech where he says, “If I’m elected president, I’m going to go to Korea???”
Nonetheless, I stand by my criticism of Bush with regards to conservatism in general. The reason why we remember things like wars and cold wars and not the things that actually affected our daily lives (like technology and economy) is because of the government-run public school system. The public schools teach what government considers the relevant historic events but not how daily life changed on a profound basis, like when people got their first automobile, their first radio, or when people started buying stocks or flying around on commercial airliners.
This is one of the arguments against the public schools.
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