Monday, September 28, 2009

Ross Douthat Defends Bush

Douthat starts his latest column by listing the successes of the Bush years:

Last week, the Census Bureau released a statistical report on the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency. The numbers were brutal. On every indicator, Americans lost ground during the Bush era. The median income slumped. The poverty rate increased. The percentage of Americans without health insurance rose.

Let's not forget the disastrous financial bubble, which has led to the worst depression in at least 50 years, 9/11, going from a $230 billion surplus to a trillion dollar deficit, the incompetent response to Hurricane Katrina, a horrific war in Iraq and another one in Afghanistan, and the destruction of American goodwill wordwide.

But hey, other than that, it was a pretty good run.

America has had its share of disastrous chief executives. But few have gone as far as Bush did in trying to repair their worst mistakes. Those mistakes were the Iraq war — both the decision to invade and the conduct of the occupation — and the irrational exuberance that stoked the housing bubble. The repairs were the surge, undertaken at a time when the political class was ready to abandon Iraq to the furies, and last fall’s unprecedented economic bailout.

So Iraq has gone from an unmitigated disaster to a slightly mitigated one. Does anyone think that things are looking up over there? Is Douthat seriously trying to say that he made amends with the troop surge? Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of dead.

And if that's not a stupid enough statement, he follows it up by commending Bush for handing over trillions of dollars of wealth to rich banks, at taxpayer expense, without asking for anything in return. This is supposed to make us feel better about 10% unemployment and record foreclosures?

Both fixes remain controversial. But for the moment, both look like the sort of disaster-averting interventions for which presidents get canonized.

Seriously, this was written on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. The most famous paper on earth.

If by canonized, he means put on the Mt. Rushmore of worst presidents ever, he would still be wrong. Because Bush needs his own mountain, and it should be bigger than all the rest, and on a different planet somewhere. Because the entire universe should know exactly how horrible a president he was.

On foreign policy, Bush looks a lot like Lyndon Johnson — but only if Johnson, after years of unsuccessful escalation, had bequeathed Richard Nixon a new strategy that enabled U.S. troops to withdraw from Vietnam with their honor largely intact.

So, after years of unsuccessful military escalation, and thousands of US deaths, hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, a record deficit and the accomplishment of virtually nothing meaningful except uniting the world in disgust at our country, Bush has salvaged all of what? Being so hated that the war that is associated with him is easier to let go? I think this is what he's saying.

Bush-era bipartisanship did produce some defensible legislation (No Child Left Behind, for instance).

(not defensible at all)

But more often, it produced travesties like the failed attempt at “comprehensive” immigration reform, lobbyist feeding frenzies like the 2005 energy bill, and boondoggles like the Department of Homeland Security.

...or the Medicare prescription handout to the Pharmaceutical Companies. Or the status as the country that has, by far, the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Or our newfound commitment to torturing people we don't like.

This is not a blueprint that future presidents will want to follow. But the next time an Oval Office occupant sees his popularity dissolve and his ambitions turn to dust, he can take comfort from Bush’s example. It suggests that it’s possible to become a good president even — or especially — when you can no longer hope to be a great one.

No Ross, it suggest nothing of the kind.

1 comment:

  1. Just stopping by to suggest you stop spamming the New York Time's comments sections with your website address. Very tacky!