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The End of Bush

I just read PJG’s Facebook status, which says that PJG is “starting the mental countdown until our national nightmare finally ends!” I presume he means the departure of one George W. Bush, but he may be talking about the return of Battlestar Galactica tonight. I doubt it, though. He’s in line with Robert Redford, who, at the outset of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, opened his remarks by saying the following:

“Nerves. Anxiety. Worry. Pain. Panic. Fear. I’m not talking about the Festival; I’m talking about what’s going to be exiting the national scene on Tuesday.”

And then there’s today’s Doonesbury:


Everyone hates him except for me.

Bush is going into exile, almost as much as Nixon did, and, unlike when Clinton refused to cede the spotlight when his successor took office, I’m betting we don’t hear a lot from or about Bush for a good long time once he’s gone. I’m not sure how much of that will be voluntary.

As for me, a guy who proudly voted for the guy twice and would have voted for him again if he’d been on the ballot this last time around, I think Bush’s positives outweigh his negatives, which is hard to do, as his negatives are massive. He has actively presided over the most aggressive expansion of government in the history of the republic, and he’s done so cheerfully and “compassionately.” Bush is, in my estimation, single-handedly responsible for the collapse of the Republican Party, and, more significantly, the entire conservative movement.

Contrary to what his legion of mainstream critics maintain, Bush was the exact opposite of a hardened conservative ideologue. He lurched left on entitlements and education and immigration whenever the mood suited him, with no core political principles to tether him to something greater than himself. So his party followed him and collapsed in the process. It’s going to take years, maybe decades, for the GOP to claw its way back to relevancy again, and that is unmistakably George Bush’s fault.

So how on earth could I find enough positives in the Bush presidency to outweigh all of that?

Well, I should note that the judiciary, notably the Supreme Court, is now filled with people who believe that legislatures should make the laws, not unelected judges. John Roberts and Samuel Alito are perhaps the most lasting tangible elements of Bush’s legacy, and they may be enough to keep the courts from jumping off into the abyss.

But that’s not enough to outweigh the damage Bush has done to his party and his ideology. No, the real Bush legacy is that we now live in a much safer, more stable world.

You don’t believe that? You think Bush lied, kids died? That we’re now loathed by everyone and the world hates us and if only we’d have been nice, life would be so much better?

That’s a load of crap.

Move beyond the slogans and imagine what would have happened, for instance, if Bush had backed down in Iraq when the UN told him to. What kind of world would be living in now, where Saddam Hussein knew that nothing he could do would provoke the nations of the world to action? You think we’d have gone seven and a half years without another terrorist attack on US soil? We now have a solid ally in the heart of the Middle East, which is going to make it a whole lot harder for the Arab world to rally behind al Qaeda. You think that happened by accident? Or that it doesn’t matter? Nonsense. We’ve been at war with these people for decades, and Bush is the first president to truly fight back.

Obama is already demonstrating that he recognizes all of this. He’s not going to shut down Gitmo and yank us out of Iraq and undo everything Bush he’s done. And the world isn’t going to suddenly like us a lot more just because the Cool People have one of their own in the Oval Office. As Obama discovers what it’s going to take to keep the country secure, I’m willing to bet he’s going to develop a true appreciation for just how much George W. Bush sacrificed on behalf of the nation he served without flinching.

People talk about the verdict of history, and that it will take time to measure how Bush will be remembered. Some side with Doonesbury and presume the verdict is already in. I don’t much care. My guess is that the people who write history will never give Bush credit for what he’s done, just as they still struggle to pretend that Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with the fall of the Iron Curtain. The collapse of Communism was a historical accident, just as the safety of America under Bush’s watch is another accident. Bush probably knows this, and decided it was more important to be right than to be beloved.

That’s why, when Bush leaves the scene, the nation will have lost more than it will ever admit.

Southern Utah, Tuacahn, and Mountain Meadows
Inauguration and the Draper Temple

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33 Comments

  1. Brilliant analysis. Sadly, it is hip to indulge in the myopic, petulant hatred of Bush. If a Democrat had accomplished the same things, rest assured the mainstream media and coffee-shop pundits would be hailing the successful spread of democracy and the surprisingly secure state of the country. Those who blame Bush for 9/11 and it’s social & economic aftermath refuse to recognize that it happened only EIGHT months into Bush’s FIRST TERM. Obviously that large-scale attack took YEARS to plan (hmmmmmm), but you never hear anything about whose watch THAT occured on. Plus, it prevented Bush from pursuing much of his agenda.Those who can shed the need for conforming hatred will join you in proclaiming the historic successes of George W. Bush. Those who need to “fit in”, who judge by emotional impulse rather than objective analysis, will continue their unjust berating–and will undoubtedly hold Obama to an entirely different standard than GWB. Let’s just pray that Obama learns what W learned: That opinion polls shift with the wind, but principles stand forever.

  2. As I understand your post, you seem to be saying that Bush was awful, terrible, ruined the party, ruined the country, lied, was erratic, inconsistent …… AND he is better than everyone seems to think, doesn’t get credit for lots of good stuff that he did, will be severely missed, and ….. so there!!!Uh…. what?Clear it up for us. You should assign a letter grade to his presidency. If it is easier for you to break it down and assign letter grades by category (domestic policy, foreign policy, political actions, inspirational qualities, etc.) then do it that way ……. but then come up with an overall grade. You seem to be criticizing Phil (and unnamed historians present and future) for grading him too low. It is hard to know what that means unless YOU assign a grade.Oh…… I need to ask one other question. As does every President, Bush took the following oath:“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”My question is: how well do you feel he honored his oath of office (ESPECIALLY THE LAST CLAUSE to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution…?)sign me (“curious”) andPOUNDS

  3. POUNDS, I don’t think Bush ruined the country, nor do I think he lied. I think he honored his oath of office admirably, and that he had far more respect for the Constitution than his predecessor. I think he dismantled the party, yes, but at the same time, the party didn’t really push back. On the domestic front, he was not an ideological president, so he left us with a non-ideological party. Bush stood firm where it counted, and he left us with a safer, more secure world. He’s a solid B president. (Mrs. Cornell says B-. I can live with that.)

  4. Tax Policy: B+Education Policy: D-Medicaire Reform: DSocial Security REFORM: C-Farm Bill: D-Immigration: C-Military Policy: A-Judicial Policy: AGlobal Warming Policy: AInspirational Qualities: C-Personal Integrity: A-OVERALL: B

  5. Stallion,Thanks (to both you and Mrs. Stallion) for your honest answer about Bush’s deserved grade.Interesting, though. Your original post said: Bush “… was the exact opposite of a hardened conservative …” and that he was a man “… with no core political principles…”Earning a “B” under those limitations makes him a successful quasi-liberal, a miracle worker, or you an easy grader. (lol)Have a great year,POUNDS

  6. Sorry, I didn’t get to see your “breakdown” of grades by area. I was typing my previous comment. Interesting….. By the way, you won’t find me defending Bush’s “predecessor.” I thought Clinton (although much, much brighter than Bush….either Bush) was a major disappointment. Of course, I did not vote for him either time.Happy Inaugural!POUNDS

  7. It’s embarrassing how much the media are peeing themselves with excitement over Obama. NPR is even hosting a night of poetry dedicated to the guy, and he hasn’t even done anything yet! Ever! And everybody is saying he’s like the next FDR. Let’s hope not.

  8. While I don’t believe that the negatives (that you so brilliantly expounded) outweigh the positive of Bush’s presidency, I wholeheartedly agree that once Obama gets in there and understands the threats against our country, he will admire Bush in a whole new way and hopefully he too will sacrifice popularity for quietly doing the correct thing every time in this silent war.

  9. <>Move beyond the slogans and imagine what would have happened, for instance, if Bush had backed down in Iraq when the UN told him to.<>Well, that’s sort of the problem, isn’t it? By pushing the U.N. to vote up or down when it wasn’t clearly in favor of the war, Bush had already locked the nation into choosing between war and humiliating climbdown.As far as avoiding attacks here, that’s something border control and a serious immigration policy would have fixed. In fact, your C- is laughably forgiving. After 9/11, the border should have been shut down and internal enforcement against those hiring illegal aliens should have been, you know, done. Until very recently, Clinton outperformed Bush in this department. If Bush had done this, then he would have had the credibility to ask for an amnesty for any holdouts. He deserves a straight up F on this issue.As it is, we’ve been lucky to break up a number of plots due to the stupidity of the plotters (many of whom should have never been allowed in the country in the first place), and we still really aren’t out from under the gun. Remember 9/11 took place eight years after the first WTC attack.<>We now have a solid ally in the heart of the Middle East, which is going to make it a whole lot harder for the Arab world to rally behind al Qaeda.<>No, we don’t. What we have is a government made up of two Shiite parties who were founded and built up in Iran. In fact, Maliki’s party, Dawa, bombed the U.S. embassy in Kuwait in 1983. You can’t trust that bunch anymore than you can throw them.We still have to underwrite practically every aspect of the government operation, as well as subsidize basic things like food sales. What we have is a cranky, unreliable dependent who’s been in bed with mullahs in Tehran for almost three decades.We have to make the best of it now, but it’s not worth the lives of 4,000 soldiers.

  10. I think the nation’s increased safety post 9/11 can be measured in the number of 9/11-style attacks since then – i.e. none. Polchinello, Iraq isn’t Great Britain, but it’s a crucial first step to a freer world. I don’t share your cynicism on the issue. As for Bush’s C- on immigration, I gave him the same grade I gave him on Social Security reform: he had the right ideas but couldn’t execute them. I’m a GOP heretic on the immigration issue, as I don’t think you can come up with a solution without addressing both the supply and demand side of it. “Close the border first” is a slogan, not a workable solution, which is one of the reasons the GOP is doomed to wander the wilderness for quite some time.

  11. The GOP doesn’t translate to global free markets. It’s always going to be cheaper to make in China. It’s going to be cheaper to grow in America, but you have to get third world migrants to pick it.As the cost of living increases, the further the state becomes a third person service provider.

  12. “I think the nation’s increased safety post 9/11 can be measured in the number of 9/11-style attacks since then – i.e. none. “I see. How many 9/11 style attacks occurred before?

  13. <>“Close the border first” is a slogan, not a workable solution…<>The other alternative has been tried, in 1986, and it made things worse. The reason for pushing enforcement first is that it’s the hard part. If you give out the amnesty first, government will ignore the enforcement, as it has before. Then you’ll have another crowd of illegals demanding yet another amnesty.In fact, tightening border controls has shown fruit in the past year. We’ll never attain a 100% control, but it can and has been brought into a manageable number when the government showed some will.<>…which is one of the reasons the GOP is doomed to wander the wilderness for quite some time.<>The GOP is doomed because it didn’t take steps to protect its base’s numerical position. Letting in low-wage immigrants will only further doom it as they have no use for a small-party government.

  14. <>Polchinello, Iraq isn’t Great Britain, but it’s a crucial first step to a freer world. I don’t share your cynicism on the issue.<>So how is trading the lives of soldiers and civilians for the sake of some undefined “freer world” not cynical?

  15. <>Twelve.<>Does that twelve include the Cole attack? Because if attacks on soldiers in foreign postings is a measure, Bush has exceeded that count several times over.

  16. Polichinello, if you want to do the grisly calculus of wartime casualties, you’re a braver man than I. How many people did we spare from Saddam’s mass graves? How many lives were saved from any future aggression sponsored by an emboldened Saddam? How many lives have been protected by virtue of no new terrorist attacks on US soil? If you have the answers, good luck with that. As for immigration, you’ve created a false dichotomy. It’s not amnesty vs. a fence. A guest worker program worked quite well through the fifties and sixties until Kennedy shut it down to placate the unions. The vast majority of guest workers don’t want to be citizens. We should therefore have our border guards tracking down terrorists and drug runners instead of fruit pickers and hotel maids.

  17. <>How many people did we spare from Saddam’s mass graves?<>None. He did his damage ten years before. We occupied the north and had an army deployed next to the south. Further, Saddam was to dependent by the early noughts on the Shiite tribes to do any serious damage there.<>How many lives were saved from any future aggression sponsored by an emboldened Saddam?<>Who exactly would Iraq attack? Iraq had no military hardware to speak of beyond small arms and light artillery. Their armor was shot for lack of replacement parts and their air force was buried under the sand. Every other country in the region was far better armed, and they didn’t have the disunity that plagues Iraq. This, naturally, assumes, too, that we’d leave Kuwait, which is not on the table.<>How many lives have been protected by virtue of no new terrorist attacks on US soil?<>This isn’t connected with Iraq. It’s more connected with Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Of course, it’s really tied to a non-insane immigration policy that doesn’t import the kind of people who commit terrorist attacks.

  18. Mind you, all that I wrote above grants the assumption that we even have some kind of duty to prevent wrongs in other countries through the use of force. It’s an assumption I do not accept personally. After all, if we’re to be world-savers, then we have plenty of work waiting for us in sub-Saharan Africa.

  19. Yes, you’re right. As long as we had our foot on Saddam’s throat by keeping an army ready to invade in perpetuity, he wasn’t going to get away with much. Why, he even let in U.N. weapons inspectors a few days before military action was imminent! That’s unsustainable – sooner or later, you have to fish or cut bait. Saddam knew that, so he was biding his time, waiting for the U.S. to back down, which, thanks to Bush, we didn’t. The threat of military force is only potent if the enemy knows you’re willing to follow through. Who would Saddam attack? He had already annexed his neighbor to the south and gassed his own citizens. He had engaged in a decade-long war with Iran that cost over a million lives. Once the U.N. backed down, he could have reconstituted his weapons program overnight and provided plenty of supplies to terrorists around the globe. To say that terrorism is a product solely of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan is tunnel vision at its most dangerous. Who’s sponsoring the current attacks on Israel? (Not Saddam, who used to pay off the families of Palistinian suicide bombers.) What about Libya, which offered up its WMD in response to U.S. action in Iraq? And al Qaeda decided to make Iraq the central front of their attack on the West, which resulted in them being defeated soundly by U.S. forces. How many lives has that saved ultimately? Bush’s accomplishments are the dog that didn’t bark – his greatest legacy can only be found in what didn’t happen.

  20. Stallion, We’ve been maintaining a war-ready force in Europe and Korea for decades. Maintaining a smaller containment force in the Middle East to manage a far smaller threat was more than doable. It would be far less expensive in lives and money than the disaster we’ve seen in Iraq, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced through civil war and ethnic cleansing.<>Who would Saddam attack? He had already annexed his neighbor to the south and gassed his own citizens. He had engaged in a decade-long war with Iran that cost over a million lives. Once the U.N. backed down, he could have reconstituted his weapons program overnight and provided plenty of supplies to terrorists around the globe.<>All of this was over a decade in the past, during a time when he had billions of dollars of aid from the West and the Soviet Union. We helped him in his was on Iran, too, remember. In 2002, he was no in such position. As I said, he couldn’t even maintain himself in power without relying on the tribal system.Every military in the region was more powerful than Iraq’s degraded forces were and would be. This especially so with our own force in the area.<>To say that terrorism is a product solely of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan is tunnel vision at its most dangerous. Who’s sponsoring the current attacks on Israel?<>The Saudis have long been funding Hamas. More so than Hussein and his stunts ever did. The Iranians are playing a role, but as they’re the biggest winners in Iraq (with us having put their people in power), I don’t see how we’ve helped.<>What about Libya, which offered up its WMD in response to U.S. action in Iraq?<>Khaddafi had been putting out feelers long before the Iraq invasion. Every other flake movement hadn’t panned out for him, so he decided to go with the West.<>.And al Qaeda decided to make Iraq the central front of their attack on the West, which resulted in them being defeated soundly by U.S. forces. How many lives has that saved ultimately?<>2.5 googleplex, I’m sure, since we’re dealing in counterfactuals.Again, though, ask who’s being truly cynical? I mean, what you’re saying is that you decided to turn a bunch of innocent people’s homes into a battlefield for your own sake. Try to imagine the misery this meant to people who never did anything to the U.S.Whatever good you can discern from this war could have been gotten from a patient policy of containment–and, of course, sound immigration policy.

  21. I think what Jim is trying to defend here without having to say it, is that Iraq is all about destabalizing the Middle Eastern oil powerbase, under another banner.

  22. <>I think what Jim is trying to defend here without having to say it, is that Iraq is all about destabalizing the Middle Eastern oil powerbase, under another banner.<>The problem with this policy is, again, it’s immoral unless you can be assured of the outcome. If you’re going to render another person’s country into a chaotic stew, you’d better have a good idea where it’s going to end, and there’d better be a serious need pushing you in–something more pressing than gauzy hopes of a “freer” world.None of the people pushing the policy evidenced any idea of the consequences of their action. A lot of them truly believed Iraq would smoothly transition to a western-modeled democracy, since that was supposed to be the “end of history.” I include Bush in that number.Look at the paltry number of troops planned for the occupation, despite several warnings from professionals that three times as many troops would be needed. Mind you, I’m opposed to the policy, but if you’re going to do it, you should do it right or don’t do it all. As usual with Bush, he counted on his good intentions making up for what he lacked in material and personnel.

  23. I will most miss having a president who didn’t make policy like a wind sock, who stood like a house upon the rock in defending his country despite gale force criticisms sucked down from the worst form of Monday-morning quarterbacking, and who was not afraid to laugh at his own foibles and shortcomings. Like every other national Republican, the media relentlessly worked to pin the label of stupid/unintelligent/buffoon on him (see Reagan, Bush I, McCain, more recently Palin), yet he consistently took it in good-nature. His attempt at Compassionate Conservatism, while well-intentioned, was disaster prone from jumpstreet because it assumes as its core premise that true Conservatism is not compassionate, which is false. I sincerely hope President Obama succeeds. Not succeeds by pushing through a socialist agenda that turns us into another soul-sucking Western Euro-Union shell, but succeeds by coming to understand through the gravity of his office that America is great because its individuals are great. I hope he comes to know that to foster greatness in America he must foster greatness, accountability, and achievement in the individual, and that government policies and programs cannot substitute for these attributes. And I hope that he does not give in to the prevailing winds and hasten the demise of the one institution in America that still fights for these traits, the American family.I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

  24. [i]The problem with this policy is, again, it’s immoral unless you can be assured of the outcome. If you’re going to render another person’s country into a chaotic stew, you’d better have a good idea where it’s going to end, and there’d better be a serious need pushing you in–something more pressing than gauzy hopes of a “freer” world.[/i]Unfortunately, foreign policy doesn’t live in those neat little packets of morals, as you indicated with US collaboration with Saddam against Iran during the 80s.What I find interesting are those who continually claim Iraq was only about terrorism, without at least acknowledging the economic aspect as a plus. It either shows a deep seated allegiance towards the ‘con’ and duty ridden desire to ignore the evidence. Or, someone with the naivety of a sheep in a Welsh mans boots.

  25. <>Unfortunately, foreign policy doesn’t live in those neat little packets of morals, as you indicated with US collaboration with Saddam against Iran during the 80s.<>Okay, so what did that yield us? We built up Hussein, he invaded Kuwait, which drew us into the area, which set off Islamic radicals, which led to 9/11.Neither you nor I have any idea what this war has set in motion, or where it’ll end.<>What I find interesting are those who continually claim Iraq was only about terrorism, without at least acknowledging the economic aspect as a plus.<>Well, let’s see, the war will cost us $1 trillion minimum, possibly as much as $3 trillion. It’s led to an explosion in oil prices that’s only been tamped down recently by an economic crash.BTW, that economic crash can be partly blamed on the war. If Bush hadn’t spent so much energy and credibility on the war, he could have spent a bit more time dealing with problems like Fannie Mae and the SEC. But why bother with American problems, when you can busy yourself with the troubles of foreigners?

  26. <>Well, let’s see, the war will cost us $1 trillion minimum, possibly as much as $3 trillion.<>It’s not necessarily a matter of how much it costs, but where it is being spent. Most of that money is being recycled back into your economy, of course you have those who get to skim a little more of the cream through preferred contracts.Then you need to have a look at the deal Iraq and the US have come up with on repayment. The oil deal alone is half the percentage cost of most foreign oil deals, except the lion share of Iraqi profit goes straight back into repaying the rebuilding of the oil infrastructure. More cash for those in the deal, and guess what, they ain’t Iraqi businesses.Then you have the strategic positioning of Iraq. Right smack centre of the Middle East, and not too far from the Caucasus.<>BTW, that economic crash can be partly blamed on the war.<>I very much agree with you here, except that if you look at a chart of home mortgage defaults against that of oil price from 2001 to 2008, you’ll notice a very strong link between the two. As the cost of everything went up, as the market found more profit in oil shares, the sub prime was stretched to breaking point…..

  27. <>It’s not necessarily a matter of how much it costs, but where it is being spent. Most of that money is being recycled back into your economy, of course you have those who get to skim a little more of the cream through preferred contracts.<>This is what’s referred to as the “broken windows” fallacy. It goes that vandals breaking windows are good for the economy, because a glassmaker will make money replacing them. What it ignores the opportnity cost of the guy making the repairs. He’s now out money that could have been used somewhere else.So, yes, particular companies might profit, but not the nation as a whole.<>As the cost of everything went up, as the market found more profit in oil shares, the sub prime was stretched to breaking point…..<>I don’t for sure that that’s how it went down, but it sounds plausible. It doesn’t really matter, though, because if oil prices hadn’t triggered the crisis, something else would have.