Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bush Redux

It was funny today to watch the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. I have to admit I love to see the living presidents together. I'm a sucker for Barbara Bush joking with President Obama. I'm a politics junkie. An event like this isn't exactly heroin, but it's still a bit of a rush.

Still, it was impossible not to note how each president had to struggle for good things to say about the Bush years. Carter was very generous, but he did mention the dispute over the 2000 elections -- which was handled despicably by Bush, and which implicitly argues that Bush should never have been president in the first place. The elder Bush focused on how nice it was to have his family together. Clinton focused on W.'s post-presidency paintings. Obama focused on his predecessor's personality -- but in the process demonstrated how confident Bush is, even when he knows nothing.

Bush himself talked about freedom and liberating people -- without a single mention of Iraq or weapons of mass destruction, which was the stated reason for invasion, despite all this rhetoric about freedom. Bush joked about how he didn't use to hang out at libraries -- as if to underline how truly odd it is that Bush, not exactly an intellectual or deep thinker, would have a library. Shockingly, Bush even referenced Katrina -- as an example of the resilience of the human spirit, ignoring that people wouldn't have had to have been nearly so resilient if, you know, Bush had done his job the way every other president present had done in their national emergencies.

It's amazing to see how absurd the apologists for Bush are. Bush mostly kept us safe! Well, except for 9/11, which happened after he'd ignored cries from the intelligence community about an impending attack. Bush stood on the World Trade Center rubble -- a great moment! Except that he promised the culprits would "hear from all of us soon," then ignored bin Laden and said he wasn't even a significant concern, while attacking Iraq instead. Bush liberated peoples! Except that both Afghanistan and Iraq were botched wars, with almost no realistic planning and, in the case of the latter war, massive lies to the American public, fear-mongering about "mushroom clouds," and bullying of foreign nations to support the effort. Then there's Katrina. Then there's becoming the world's leading proponent of torture. Then there's the massive illegal wiretapping program. Outing a CIA agent because her husband told the truth about weapons of mass destruction. Turning a budget surplus into unprecedented deficits to pay for this nonsense, plus tax cuts that almost exclusively favored the rich. The failure that is abstinence-only education -- which the Bush administration even forced on other governments, if they wanted foreign aid. Appointing as U.N. representative a nincompoop idiot who wanted to end the U.N. Oh, and then there's presiding over the biggest crash of the U.S. economy since the Great Depression -- a crash caused primarily by the deregulation Bush endorsed. There's incompetence, and then there's George W. Bush. There are disastrous administrations... and then there's George W. Bush.

I'm sure he's a nice guy. And yes, he did make decisions, as his apologists love to point out. Bush even titled his post-presidential book Decision Points. There's a gallery in the new library with the same title. Well, they were decisions. So is burning your house down. Which, if you tried to do to the nation, probably would have performed slightly better as a strategy than the presidency of George W. Bush.

Let's try a thought experiment, shall we? It's 2020 or so, and Barack Obama is opening his presidential library.

Is there a single speech, talking about how, um, Obama sure can paint? Or how it's so charming that he doesn't know anything but is confident anyway?

Instead of "we didn't have a terrorist attack -- except for the worst one in our history, which we don't blame him for," you have "he got bin Laden." I mentioned him earlier, but you might not remember him. He's that guy who masterminded that terrible terrorist attack on Bush's watch. He's the guy Bush said didn't matter. Instead, Bush got Saddam Hussein. Bush might have stood on the rubble, promising the culprits would pay, but he didn't deliver on that promise. Quite the opposite. Obama did.

Instead of helping to cause the Great Recession, Obama helped America recover from it.

Instead of getting us into America's longest war, or the quagmire of Iraq, Obama got us -- or is getting us -- out. Maybe it's not fast enough, but at least it's movement in the right direction, as opposed to the wrong one.

When they dedicate Obama's library, someone's going to mention that he got health care reform -- which most presidents since World War II have called for, yet failed to accomplish.

No, there won't be any of this nonsense when it comes to dedicate Obama's Presidential Library.


Tony Laplume said...

Julian, I hate talking politics, because most of the time it's because of all this polarizing bullshit. In my house when I was growing up we talked about how horrible Clinton was, Clinton being the president before Bush, when the 9/11 plot was being hatched. When Bush had his disputed election in 2000, there was the giant controversy of ballets over Florida. Didn't Gore concede? What's the point of him becoming a martyr again? If he was so dedicated and able to being a better president, why didn't he run again, especially after getting more people to love him with more conviction with the environmentalism that was always his hallmark?

We all know bin Laden was a hell of a man to find. If you don't know how hard that was, well congratulations on that. There was a whole movie about it. Then again, maybe you only thought about the torture. In the realities of the world we live in, things are always going to be complicated. Truthfully, Bush accomplished his objectives in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He scooped out the Taliban and finally got rid of Saddam Hussein. The problem wasn't achieving the objectives, it was balancing the results. What everyone calls the wars of the past ten years have been police operations. If you don't know the basic character of the region, how people react to change over there, you probably have no idea what's been happening in Israel. Congratulations on that as well. The Islamic world is in constant upheaval. It's at war with itself. If there was any blunder, it was in the failure to identify that. Bush went out of his way to say this wasn't about religion. But everyone who said he was an idiot said he was simply blundering around. Maybe it was a fool's game to introduce a paradigm shift from the outside. But you can't be a success at something when everyone around you is actively getting in your way.

Or maybe you're forgetting about Clinton again? He was the guy who got all those outsourcing initiatives going. They're great for other countries, but as we've increasingly seen they're a hell of a thing for us. We haven't replaced any of those jobs. We say the new thing is technology. Whatever that means. Obama, meanwhile, had everyone loving him from the start. Maybe you haven't noticed, but not as many people love him now. He narrowly won the second election, against someone who didn't have much visible passion, besides reacting against Obama. All of his supporters were saying Obama originally ran "against Bush," but Obama wisely decided not to play that game (originally). When you win against someone who appears at best to be a mediocre alternative, that's not much to brag about. Kerry used the same platform against Bush as Obama did against "Bush's successor." Maybe that ought to tell you something, too.

There are always two sides to every story. The popular story the last ten years has been how horrible Bush was. Popularity doesn't mean it's the real story. You say we've gotten out of our financial problems. I say, really? Congratulations on being on the other side. I'll let you know if I get to reach there myself. You takes facts for granted, assume everyone believes the same things you do. That's the approach you took, as if history always has and always will agree with you. I'm simply here to suggest, maybe rethink that a little.

Anonymous said...

George W. Bush inherited an economic boom and left office with a war and a recession. (Having both at one time is no small feat, considering that war usually stimulates the economy). It's possible that Bush was so focused on Iraq that he ignored warnings about Al Qaeda and 9-11. That said, the party line that Bush was the Dark Ages and that Obama is the Renaissance just doesn't hold up. A 2012 campaign ad said, "President Obama inherited a mess, but now our factories are humming again, our enemies have been brought to justice, and our troops are coming to the hero's welcome that they deserve." Right. The unemployment rate is higher than it was before Obama took office. Obama did not get bin Laden, SEAL Team 6 did. Those SEALs were later ambushed and killed, very likely because of information leaked to the enemy by the Obama administration, and possibly with US-made weapons supplied by Obama to the Muslim Brotherhood. Our troops are "coming home" in body bags; more Americans have been killed in Afghanistan in the past five years than in the previous eight. During the government shutdown, Obama ordered barricades erected to prevent US citizens (including war veterans) from visiting open-air national monuments, and the National Amputee Coalition and a children's hospital charity had to cancel or postpone fund-raising events. Meanwhile, Obama's favorite golf course stayed open, and illegal aliens were allowed to hold a rally at the National Mall. Obama (unlike Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton)refused to negotiate with Congress to avert a shutdown. And "healthcare reform" has resulted in increased healthcare costs instead of "affordable care."