September 17th, 2011

Looking back at George W. Bush

A number of people have recommended this article by Walt Harrington about George W. Bush, whom the journalist first met back in the 80s and became friendly with. Those people are correct; it’s a fascinating read.

Their friendship endured throughout Bush’s presidency. Despite the fact that Harrington seems to be a Democrat, he clearly likes Bush and has long been outraged by the hatred directed against him.

Harrington describes watching the advent of BDS (he doesn’t call it that, though) from his perch as journalism professor at the University of Illinois during the early years of the Bush presidency. He was shocked and mystified, knowing Bush as he does and knowing the man that he is. He sees some graffitti reading “Kill Bush” scrawled on a wall at the university and wonders “Is this America?”

Although Harrington did not vote for Bush, he did write a column during his presidency attacking the attackers and saying, “[Bush is] smart, thoughtful in a brawny kind of way and, most of all, a good and decent man…It baffles me that grown people must convince themselves that those with whom they disagree are stupid or malevolent.”

Those who feel that Bush is actually stupid and malevolent (and their numbers are legion) probably either are not reading Harrington’s piece, or are discounting it if they happen to read it. They know what they know, and one thing they know for sure is that Bush never reads and that even if he did he wouldn’t understand what he read, although Harrington describes a Bush whose love of reading (especially history) goes back at least to their meeting in the 80s, when Bush was still called “Junior” and his father was still president.

Harrington quotes Bush as once having told me that “reading books means you’re not lonely.” But one thing the Harrington article makes clear is that loneliness has not ordinarily been a big problem for Bush; he’s always been good at making friends and keeping them. This ability was probably Bush’s most salient characteristic, going back at least as far as his school days at Andover (see this about Bush’s prep school career, which describes a well-liked, friendly, and humorous guy whose people skills were already highly developed; also see this profile in Time that appeared before BDS had taken such a firm hold of the press).

Harrington writes about how disturbed Bush II was during the Bush I presidency at the bad press his father was getting, and when I read that I wondered how the son had subsequently managed to handle his own far more vicious press so well. He had learned something in the interim:

“When I got elected governor and president, history gave me a chance to study the decisions of my predecessors,” Bush says. As governor, he read The Raven, by Marquis James, a biography of Sam Houston, the father of Texas statehood. “I was fascinated by the story of Houston voting against secession, and reading a description of him basically being driven out of town by angry citizens. … My only point is that one lesson I learned, if they’re throwing garbage on Houston, arguably Texas’s most famous politician—Sam Houston Elementary School, where I went to school in Midland, was named for him!—if they’re throwing garbage on him, they can throw garbage on me.”…

When Bush read, in Presidential Courage, by Michael Beschloss, that historians were still debating whether George Washington had been a good president, he told Laura that if they were still debating Washington’s presidency more than 200 years later, he would not worry what public opinion was saying about him now. “And the other thing for me was that I saw a great man be criticized, as you might recall,” he says, referring again to the vitriol aimed at GHWB during the losing reelection campaign of 1992. “On the harshness meter, it seemed unusually harsh to me, as the son. So, therefore, when I became president, the criticism to me was nothing compared to the criticism to him. And so I was able to keep life in perspective two ways: one, through reading of history and how other leaders were treated, but also having witnessed history with my dad.”

Also there’s this (and as I read it, I can’t help but wonder if Obama, who seems to revere Lincoln as well, has read 14 biographies of him, as Bush has. Certainly if he has, he’s not learned the lesson about signaling weakness, or passing the responsibility buck):

Bush believes that one of the most important stage requirements of the presidency is indeed never to signal weakness or self-doubt or confusion: “One of the things you learn about great leaders is that they never project the burdens of responsibility on others.” He remembers Richard Carwardine’s Lincoln: A Life of Purpose and Power (one of 14 Lincoln biographies Bush read while he was president), which recounts the 16th president’s perseverance through not only military defeat after defeat, stupefying troop casualties, and public ridicule, but also the death of his son Willie and the debilitating emotional turmoil of his wife.

“You’re not the only person that’s ever gone through hard things,” Bush says of the lessons he has learned from history. “In other words, can you imagine the signal I would have sent had I said, ‘Ah, why me? Why am I thrust in the middle of all this stuff?’ And they had kids on the front line of combat who were actually having to do all the work.”

But perhaps the most interesting part of the article is when Harrington visits his old friend GW at the White House in 2003, and asks him what it’s like to be president. Bush answers only after ascertaining that his response will be off the record:

And he began to talk—and talk and talk for what must have been nearly three hours. I’ve never told anyone the specifics of what he said that night, not even my wife or closest friends. I did not make notes later and have only my memory. In the journalism world, off the record is off the record. But I have repeatedly described the hours as “amazing,” “remarkable,” “stunning.”…

As he talked, I even thought about an old Saturday Night Live skit in which an amiable, bumbling President Ronald Reagan, played by Phil Hartman, goes behind closed doors to suddenly become a masterful operator in total charge at the White House. The transformation in Bush was that stunning to me.

Here’s Bush in a later post-presidency interview with Harrington, on how history will judge him:

“Some people walk up and say, ‘Oh, man, history is going to judge you well.’ And my quip is, ‘I’m not going to be around to see it.’ And to me, that’s one of the most important lessons you learn through history—you’re just not gonna be around to see it. … I’m confident of this: that those conclusions will be more objective with time than they could conceivably be now.”

I wonder whether those judgments are already starting to change.

49 Responses to “Looking back at George W. Bush”

  1. T Says:

    Neo,

    I read that article the other day and, like you, I found found it fascinating and insightful.

    IMO part of the BDS explanation is that it comes less from the left of center and more from the fringe. Couple this with a media that thrives on sensationalism and you have a willing, if less than conscious, partnership to sell papers and draw eyes.

    Second, again IMO, liberals live in a world that requires no justification. Liberalsim is just and correct because liberals KNOW it is just and correct. No further evidence is necessary; the science is settled. It seems more like a religion (compare it to the religious far right). I believe that true conservatives struggle with reality because they always see compromises; this is what we would like, but reality causes us to make constant trade offs. Liberals, OTH, are more concerned with imposing their theory on reality without recognizing that the real world simply doesn’t work that way.

    Thus, the classic liberal excuse that the progressive program just wasn’t executed properly. The stimulus wasn’t big enough, but had it been three times as large, it still wouldn’t have worked and the excuse would have still been “That’s because the stimulus wasn’t big enough.”

    I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet G.W. Bush twice and I can truthfully say that my first (and second) impression was that he is a man comfortable in his own skin and that he had a deep seated understanding and respect for the import of the office he held.

  2. gcotharn Says:

    Reading the article, I was struck by the degree to which a solid knowledge of history can help a commander. Perspective. A commander makes decisions: it is great help to have a solid understanding of the factors which contributed to good and bad decisions throughout history.

  3. expat Says:

    T,
    I’m jealous.

  4. Gringo Says:

    In his article on Dubya, Harrington points out that GWB has long been a reader. Not only was Bush a reader, his wife was a librarian. By contrast, there is Paul McCartney’s remark at the Obama White House that the White House finally had someone who appreciated libraries.

  5. T Says:

    Gringo,

    Don’t take it too hard. Remember, this was the same brilliant businessman who sold the rights to his songs to Michael Jackson.

  6. Rickbert Says:

    While I sympathize with Bush’s willingness to take the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, seeing his own presidency in the context of history, I think that practice contributed to one of the weaknesses of that presidency.

    It’s a short walk from being willing to accept personal attacks with a quiet dignity to accepting similar attacks on your policies and actions without rising to defend the principles, facts, and reasoning behind them.

    It’s one thing to let history judge you as a person, but when the success or failure of your policies depend on their being promoted and defended in the first drafts of history, then silence comes dangerously close to implying consent to one’s critics.

    I’d have liked to hear him speak up more often along the lines of, ‘say what you like about me, but these are the facts…’

  7. Mike Mc. Says:

    Bush is a great and good man. He is great because he is good.

    Those who attack him are not good people. They are as far from great people as one can get. They are, in truth, as low a specimen of human being as you can get. Period.

    At the end Bush had something like 30% approval. That shows the awesome power of media, mob mentalities, and peer pressure. Frightening. But ever thus. Socrates was accused of making the weaker argument the greater vice versa. Such things – making the good person appear bad (Bush), and the bad person appear good (Obama and all Dems) are a constant reminder of how lucky we are when we get good people.

    Anyway, I was proud then, and I am proud now, to be one of the 30%.

  8. Richard Aubrey Says:

    The BDS was so strong that one hesitated to say something nice about him, or his policies, for fear of snorts of ridicule, vile and bogus accusations, mocking laughter. None of which were, of course, subject to change by argument or facts.
    It made me pretty much permanently unhappy with the company of such folks. Relations included.
    But, from time to time when one of them complains about something or other, I mutter, “I didn’t vote for those clowns.” Point being, of course, that they did.
    Sticking it back.

  9. jon baker Says:

    Mike Mc. said: “At the end Bush had something like 30% approval”

    Remember, he started loosing many of his previous supporters/defenders, myself included, with his support of McCain -Kennedy, the Amnesty bill they called Immigration Reform. That was around 2007.

    Then at the very end of the Bush Presidency there was TARP, or whatever that first bailout was called- its hard to keep track of the names of the bailout/stimulus etc we have had begginning with Bush and continuing thru Obama.

  10. geran Says:

    I voted for Bush twice. He is not stupid, but he wants to choose “stupid”.

    He is qualified and devoted to this country, yet he clearly chooses to go down in history as a “dufus”.

    I don’t understand it either.

  11. holmes Says:

    In the meantime, do we know if President Obama made any friends…ever?

  12. Promethea Says:

    I read Bush’s autobiography, “Decision Points.” I highly recommend it for an easy-to-read explanation of his policies.

    I was especially interested in his defense of the bank bailout (TARP). I can see why he went along with this program–no one could possibly predict what would happen without TARP, and who would want to be the one who made a total collapse happen?

    We will never know if TARP was a good decision or not. What we do know, however, is that the Dems went ahead with their crazy “stimulus” looting that makes me angry every time I think about it.

    I still defend Bush, however. I think he did the best a President could do, except maybe defend himself better. That’s a PR weakness, not a decision-making weakness.

    Maybe our next President will be a perfect man or woman, but I’m not holding my breath.

  13. neo-neocon Says:

    holmes: yes.

    Here’s an article about Phil Boerner, one of Obama’s friends from college.

    Here’s a post I wrote about some of Obama’s friends.

    And here’s a list.

    The entire picture is relatively bare. Not a lot of close friends, not a lot of friends at all, really. And some fairly cryptic comments from people who were willing to step forward and say something.

    Cassandra Butts, who went to law school with Obama, is described in her Wiki entry as having been a close friend of his. Here’s an interview with her about Obama, and especially Obama in law school. It’s an odd document. It’s not that there’s anything especially wrong with it, but it isn’t the sort of thing that makes you think she was actually close to him in the personal sense—as in a warm, intimate (in the non-sexual sense) relationship.

  14. Scott Says:

    One of my work colleagues was a big time Democrat donor — the kind that gets invited to and attends Democrat fundraisers.

    Anyway, we had a TV on at all times in our office. Not long after 9/11, they ran a re-run of the video of Bush standing on a pile of rubble, with one arm wrapped around a NYFD guy, and the other holding a bullhorn in which he says something like, “the people who knocked these buildings down are going to hear from us soon”.

    My staunch Democrat friend remarked, “I’ll never admit to this under oath, but I’m glad Bush is president and not Gore”.

    His affection for Bush didn’t last very long. When no WMD were found in Iraq, he went back to hating Bush.

  15. Parker Says:

    “It’s one thing to let history judge you as a person, but when the success or failure of your policies depend on their being promoted and defended in the first drafts of history, then silence comes dangerously close to implying consent to one’s critics.”

    GWB lacked Cheney’s combative nature and this detracted from his ability to perform his duties as president.

    “Bush is a great and good man. He is great because he is good.”

    I agree that GWB is a good person and that he had his moments of greatness. IMO he lacked the ability to be a great leader simply because he was too much the gentleman. Occasionally, a president (or any other leader) has to be a SOB.

    “I was especially interested in his defense of the bank bailout (TARP). I can see why he went along with this program–no one could possibly predict what would happen without TARP, and who would want to be the one who made a total collapse happen?”

    What would have happened? That’s easy! The big, over leveraged banks and investment firms would have crashed. It would have caused much pain for everyone. We would have taken a 10-20% hit to GDP. AND by now we would be in the beginning stage of a real recovery. Instead, we are around 8 trillion, and rapidly counting, further in the hole and daylight can not reach the bottom. (Bernanke, Obama, and congress do not have flashlights.)

  16. kolnai Says:

    Mike Mc – I too am a proud “30 percenter.” Bush was not the most conservative of guys, but none of the decisions he took were beyond the pale, and the national security apparatus/strategy he adumbrated have survived the “NSC-68″ test: it has been adopted despite the will of those of who hate the strategy, by the very people who hate it.

    For what it’s worth, there was an absolutely first rate book that no one read that predicted this and made the argument before Bush was out of office: “After Bush,” by two Brits, Timothy Lynch and Robert S. Singh.

    Richard Aubrey – That was my experience too. BDS was a horrible madness, a stifling mass pressure that turned ordinary people into political loons. It streaked through my family and through every friendship I had, and scars still remain from the blistering arguments that occurred.

    It got to the point where one of my best friends remarked in a moment of frustration that I was “on the side of the devil.” Others I listened to on a daily basis asserted that the Iraq War was the GREATEST foreign policy blunder in WORLD HISTORY. Anything less than the most extreme hyperbole was outlawed, not by statute of course, but by the sheer force of the permeating delirium.

    It got to the point that when I argued with people, I wasn’t even making the case FOR the Iraq War, just the far easier case for its legitimacy – i.e., it was in accord with Article II and I of the Constitution, in accord with UN Resolutions and past American law, and based on legitimate interpretations of intelligence from across the world. At the very least, there was nothing OBVIOUSLY illegitimate about it.

    But it was a hellish endeavor just to get people to agree that they simply disagreed with the policy – no, no, it had to be the culmination of a singular evil emanated from the malignant mind of the Gorgon BUSHITLERDARTHCHENEY.

    The unique thing about BDS is not that the vitriol directed at Bush was worse than, say, that directed at Lincoln. We may disagree with the vitriol directed at Lincoln, but it was certainly understandable – the Civil War really was an almost unimaginable catastrophe, even if it was necessary and ultimately right. Nothing like that, nothing even in the same universe as that occurred during the Bush years.

    The disproportion, the complete absence of all sense of measure, was what was so galling about BDS.

    We as a nation went insane in the Bush years, and it was shameful. Contrast that with the supposed hysteria about Obama: he’s not a natural born citizen, he’s a socialist, he’s an Alinskyite, he’s an affirmative action President, he’s stupid, he’s lying about his patriotism and his Christianity, he didn’t write his books.

    This is it? Par for the course on “hysteria,” that is. This stuff was merely the TIP of the BDS iceberg. And it wasn’t just fringe people embracing the whole iceberg, it was one’s normally sane friends and family-members, it was the very atmosphere of a get-together, where, indeed, saying anything nice about Bush at all was tacitly verboten.

    I still think there is a good book to be written on BDS (and Victor Davis Hanson is the one to write it, I might add).

  17. Beverly Says:

    I agree that Bush was a good man. Also that he was lousy at defending American policy: that was one thing I think he got wrong. When you’re the President, you’re setting American policy, identified as such at home and abroad. It wasn’t a matter of defending himself, it was a matter of defending the nation’s actions.

    Another fascinating book, which started to change my mind about him (I voted for al-Gore, for my sins): Bush at War, by Bob Woodward, about the first 100 days of the War on Terror. Even Woodward was impressed by his intelligence and seriousness.

    Of course, Woodward took a lot of heat for that from the Leftist lunatics, so he published a nasty book later.

    I’ll always be grateful to George for fighting for us. I remember I wept with gratitude when he was reelected.

  18. Beverly Says:

    Kolnai, my experience was similar, and my family are upper-middle-class Southern Episcopalians. Half of us are Republicans; the other half are deranged. We haven’t been able to discuss politics like rational adults for the last 11 years.

  19. SteveH Says:

    BDS was but a symptom of the degree of success in media to first make anti Christian bigotry an acceptable position to hold in western society. To the extent they have succeeded, America and the free world is failing.

    It was all remarkably predicted 2000 years ago. And the core issue is on a much grander scale than most of us can even imagine.

  20. Mike Mc. Says:

    I sense the embarrassment of the BDS people on this thread, those who voted for or against but who obviously were caught up in the BDS frenzy and peer pressure.

    Your tepid rationalizations are embarrassing.

    Why don’t you at leafs have the sense to let history judge some of the rationalizations you are putting forth, none of which you obviously really have a clue about.

    Possibly the worst fiscal policy of Bush was Medicaid increases. If the worst anyone can think to criticize him on was Tarp, then that is really lame relative to the literal demonization and hyper- mob-hysterical criticism he got and who many of you succumbed to.

    Remember: Bush even tried to reform FNnie and Freddie and Social Security! He was a decade ahead of his time, and all the BDSers tore him to shreds.

    Embarrassing? More like shameful.

    You all gave us Obama. he is the fruit of that tree.

    The single worst thing to happen in my adult political awareness was what people did to Bush. That was far mire evil than anything wrong or mistaken he ever did. Not even in the same galaxy.

    I would think refraining from justifications after the fact, when maybe you are waking up from the intoxication of hate, would be the best approach at this point.

  21. SteveH Says:

    The strangest thing about politics ca. 2008 was how it made people support politicians for their country that would be their last choice to babysit their kids.

    IOW they were unbelievably convinced that character played no role in such important matters.

  22. Mike Mc. Says:

    Steve- yes, but you might be onto something deeper, something about how we treat youth and that is reflected in the way we make irresponsible and wildly wrong national grown up choices. Not even going to try to go there.

    Just want to repeat:BDS was the worst thing I ever personally saw happen in our country. By a longshot. What was worse? Some economic pouch of Pre-Nazi Germany or the industrial strength propaganda that gave them Hitler? Same with Mussolini? To tear down one man and build up another are two sides of the same process.

    I return to the Socrates Test: When, as a matter of ‘just politics’, we make the stronger argument the weaker, and the weaker argument the stronger, we are in big moral and societal trouble. When we make the good man bad, and the bad man good, we are in big moral and societal trouble. When we say things like ‘they are all the same’ we ‘ve lost our way. When we say ‘everyone does it’ then we are, either wrong and in huge trouble, or Ruhr and in worse trouble.

  23. Mike Mc. Says:

    NB: iPad typos notice.

  24. br549 Says:

    The Civil War was over states’ rights. States’ rights lost the war. As wrong as it was (and still is) the slavery issue was for the history books. I firmly believe that. Mechanization alone would have abolished slavery just as it did share cropping, which was still slavery.

    I have read where Bush was / is a Christian socialist. Perhaps. He did more for African nations than any other President in memory. But you’d never know it. Oh yeah. I miss him. I could trust him. Just like I could trust Reagan. Perfect? Who is? For instance, you wouldn’t want me as President. I am way too far to the right for that.

    Water and waste water treatment, highways and roads, international dealings without favor except to our own interests, and the military. The government is best suited to handle that, and every man needs to pay for that. Everything else within our borders needs to be private, and available in open, straight forward competition.

  25. Mike Mc. Says:

    Br – that’s America. Or was.

    We have one last chance to begin possibly getting it back. That is 2012. No chances after that if we miss that one.

  26. Sorta Blogless Sunday Pinup » Pirate's Cove Says:

    [...] last, but not least, neo-neocon looks back at George [...]

  27. texexec Says:

    …is also a proud 30 Percenter.

    I was also exasperated at BDS and wondered why people couldn’t see his decency and class.

    I finally gave up and decided that some people just aren’t any good at perceiving the goodness (or badness) in other people.

    I don’t agree with everything Bush did but I have never doubted the sincere and admirable motivations of what he did.

    And to me, motivations are very important.

  28. T Says:

    texexec,

    Don’t forget that we are herd animals. Those who don’t follow politics rely on others to tell them what to think, andf there are still many people out there who think that the Democrat party is still the middle-class protector party of Harry Truman, JFK or Tip O’Neill.

    For many of those, it’s important to be seen as belonging TO the group rather than as standing out FROM it. Remember, Scott (above 12:46) wrote: “My staunch Democrat friend remarked, ‘I’ll never admit to this under oath, but I’m glad Bush is president and not Gore’”.

    One must ask, “why would he be afraid to admit that?”

  29. Ray Says:

    I couldn’t tell the difference between BDS and paranoia. There were truly insane claims about what Bush intended to do. According to suffers of BDS, Bush was the devil incarnate. I think that is one reason Obama was hailed as the Messiah because he would save us from the evil Bush.

  30. Gringo Says:

    br549

    Mechanization alone would have abolished slavery just as it did share cropping, which was still slavery.

    The abolition of slavery via mechanization would have been a long time coming. Very long.

    The evidence is overwhelming that migration greatly accelerated mechanization. The first commercial production of mechanical cotton pickers were manufactured in 1949, and these machines did not exist in large numbers until the early 1950s. Since the Great Migration began during World War I, mechanical pickers cannot have played any causal role in the first four decades of the migration. By 1950, soon after the first mechanical cotton pickers were commercially available, over six million migrants had already left the South. (See Table 1.) A decade later, most of the nation’s cotton was still hand picked. Only by the late 1960s, when the migration was losing momentum, did machines harvest virtually the total cotton crop.

    How long would one be willing to wait? Absent the Great Migration, which would have been impossible without freedom, the mechanization of the cotton harvest would have been delayed even further.

    Would you consider it acceptable to have had slavery in the US well into the 20th century, which is what would have occurred if the abolition of slavery came after the mechanization of the cotton harvest?

    In addition, the “state’s rights” claim for the primary cause of the Civil War ignores the fact that the slaveowning South was quite content to have the states’ rights of the northern states trampled on in the quest to capture fugitive slaves. States’ rights for me, but not for thee: that was the tune of the slaveowners.
    (Not to mention the unremitting efforts to expand slavery into the West.)

  31. T Says:

    Above (6:28 pm) Iwrote:

    IMO part of the BDS explanation is that it comes less from the left of center and more from the fringe. Couple this with a media that thrives on sensationalism and you have a willing, if less than conscious, partnership to sell papers and draw eyes

    Just now, I read this article in The Daily Caller.

    http://dailycaller.com/2011/09/17/hollywoods-mississippi-remains-a-brutal-backwater/

    Is this not the same as Bush Derangement Syndrome? Bush, Mississippi, it seems that Alinsky was right about personalizing the attack; the left must find a villian on which to project its own evils. I hope that those of us on the right can resist doing this and take to task those who do.

  32. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I guess the African Americans who are returning must be some kind of Uncle Toms or something, yearning to be back on Massa’s plantation. Or, at least, that’s the excuse the left will have to devise.
    Mississippi was a very bad place in the old days. Some of the civil rights effort deliberately avoided MS, because they would flat kill you.
    Also, due to a feudal style of governance and economic structure, it was the poorest state in the union and may well be still.

  33. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    I have read both W’s and Cheney’s books. Both do a pretty good job of defending their policies in the GWOT. It is obvious to me that they are both what used to be called a “Scoop Jackson Democrat.” That is strong on defense and foreign policy, but moderate on domestic issues and social programs.

    No Child Left Behind, the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, and AIDs Relief to Africa are symptomatic of that. Bush did present reasonably restrained budgets to Congress, but they were always larded up by both the dems and the Repubs. He did not veto them because he needed their support to fund the GWOT. Thus, there was more spending than he wanted, but was unable to rein it in.

    IMO, after much study of the issue, the TARP was necessary. Not so much to buy up the “troubled assets” the banks were holding, but to restore confidence to the financial system. Most of the TARP money has been paid back, as was predicted. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has not used that money to reduce the deficit. A fact that only conservatives in Congress like Jim DeMint have remarked upon.

    Obama’s stimulus would have been a help if it had been targeted at business, but instead it was a giveaway to democrat constituuencies (public sector unions, democat states, big labor, etc.) and did little to stimulate the private sector. His new stimulus is a call for more of the same.
    So, IMO, TARP was good but Obama’s Porkulus was BAD!

    As to Bush’s character. You cannot see him in contact with bereaved survivors of 9/11, our wounded military, or bereaved parents of our servicemen without recognizing his ability to connect deeply with ctizens of every kind. His sorrow and compassion are genuine. It takes great strength of character to hold up under the burden of knowing your decisions are sending people in harm’s way and that the nation is depending on your wisdom to keep us safe. That is one of the strengths that Obama is lacking completely.

    Bush gave speeches that read much better than they seemed when he delivered them. His ability as an orator was adequate to the job, but not inspirational or soaring. As a result, many of his defenses of his policies were ignored by the great middle but attacked incessantly by the left and the MSM. At least he never put up a web site called “Attack Watch.com” to have people report attacks on his policies and ideas the way the present incumbent has.

    I greatly admire George W. He is a GOOD man in every sense of what that means. That said, I think his presidential record is mixed. Strong on defense, but moderately liberal on social and fiscal issues.

  34. T Says:

    JJ,

    I thoroughly agree with that assessment. Also, that “strong on defense, but moderately liberal on social and fiscal issues” would be that compassionate conservative thing.

  35. Don Carlos Says:

    As to slavery, I recently read a fascinating economic analysis of the costs of the War Between the States. The writer, an academic of sound credentials, suggested Lincoln and the Congress could have simply mandated the Federal purchase of all slaves at the market price ($4000 ea.) for about $4 Billion, and then declared them free.

    It would have saved at least $20 Billion of 1861 dollars, never mind the horrific human and other tolls of the war and after.

    Sorry I forgot the author and source- it was a quick read.

  36. Occam's Beard Says:

    Another 30% here. In a coin flip, I actually voted for Algore in 2000 (mea culpa, but I didn’t know then that he was nuts, or, as I like to think, he wasn’t then nuts), but became a Bush fan after 9/11. Many was the time I thanked God Bush was President and not Gore (who by then wanted institutionalization).

    I think Bush is a good and decent man, who bore up manfully against the vilification organized against him by the Reds, and he did so without becoming bitter or vindictive. He was a good President, who uniformly did what he thought was in the best long-term interests of the United States, regardless of what was in the best interests of the President or his party. (Seems so long ago, doesn’t it? And what a complete contrast from his successor.) He made mistakes, as all Presidents do, but they did not arise out of hubris (NB, “Barry”), cowardice (NB that also, “Barry”), or expediency (NB this especially, “Barry”).

    I suspect that history may well consider Bush to have been a better President overall than Lincoln – an outrageous assertion, but hear me out. Lincoln had a civil war forced upon him, and had no impact on world history, but only on American history.

    If Iraq comes right, as it is bidding fair to do, and as a consequence ultimately the Arab world turns away from its authoritarian and sectarian trajectory toward a liberal (in the good sense) democratic trajectory, then Bush’s achievement far outstrips Lincoln’s. Bush will have dramatically changed world history by setting a billion people on the path to a better existence.

    Will this come to pass? Maybe, maybe not. But the rumblings in the Arab world suggest it might. And if it does, the person to whom credit should accrue is … George W. Bush.

  37. texexec Says:

    I agree with most of what Occam’s Beard just said.

    I’ll also point out that Israel and Iraq are the only two democracies in the Middle East…so far.

    I guess Afghanistan is sorta kinda in the Middle East and is sorta kinda a democracy. At least women can be educated there now, aren’t routinely beaten, and can vote.

    Plus Afghanistan serves as a base for Predator drones and Special Forces, allowing The Won to do about the only good thing he has done…follow Bush’s policy of killing lotsa Islamic fundamentalists who want to kill us.

  38. abdul7591 Says:

    Neo,

    I’ve thought about the phenomenon of BDS for some time, and having been a liberal once myself, I have no doubt that the Left’s hatred of Bush never had anything to do with WMD or the lack thereof. It had nothing to do with any of his policies, and it had equally little to do with the manufactured controversy of the 2000 election.

    Lately, I have taken to doing a little mental exercize. I imagine a typical, Northern, urban, secular “progressive” liberal, the sort of person who belongs to what I would call the “Maureen Dowd crowd”: angry, bitter, clinging to his delusions of intellectual superiority and his subscription to the NY Times, sipping his latte at the Neville Chamberlain Cafe in Berkeley, San Francisco or Manhattan. Then I imagine this person encountering in a social setting a private citizen, someone having nothing to do with politics, who is conservative, sympathetic to the Republican party, a practicing Christian, and on top of all of that, a Southern white heterosexual male who speaks with a drawl and wears cowboy hats.

    If I am reading my northern kneejerk liberals correctly (and I’m pretty sure I am, having spent some time in that fetid political swamp), said Maureen Dowd clone is going to assume up front that any person who answers to that general description is either the moral equivalent of Hitler or the intellectual equivalent of Jethro Clampett. For all their pretentions to superior moral virtue and worldly sophistication, liberals rarely get any more sophisticated than that. The cultural bigotry that northern liberal snobs project toward Southern Christian conservatives is very, very deeply engrained in these people, and INCREDIBLY virulent.

    I believe that BDS can be understood better if we compare it to an analogous situation wherein in 2000 we had very narrowly elected a Black president, and we were living in a country where the media, the academy and Hollywood were all dominated by people sympathetic to the KKK. Any political commentary about a Black president coming from these quarters would be utterly worthless, given the prejudices they brought to the table.

    I don’t think this analogy is overdrawn at all. Sadly, even conservatives have become so amenable to the suggestion that the liberal Left is open-minded, compassionate and tolerant (albeit mistaken on matters of public policy), that we have difficulty getting our minds around the fact that not only is this not true; it is so far from the truth that you would need a Federation Starship traveling at warp 8 speed for a couple of weeks to get from the myth to the reality.

    Simply considered as a human being, Bush was the “perfect storm” for the northern, urban liberal Left elites. He was to the Maureen Dowd crowd what a Black, Jewish homosexual would be to a Klansman.

  39. T Says:

    Abdul7591,

    Sadly, I think you’ve nailed it. We simply give the left too much credit.

  40. Matthew M Says:

    BDS reminded me of the incessant vitriol aimed at Reagan. I think the ire of the left reaches white heat when BS is called on their critical theory inspired delusions. Conservative(ish) presidents making prominent statements and policies that capture public attention and cannot be ignored (their default treatment of heresy) insults their faith. The phrases “evil empire” and “axis of evil” threw them into tizzy because facts they ignore or deny were being acknowledged. It challenged their orthodoxy that communism was moral and multiculturalism is realistic.

    Another hypothesis regarding BDS that occurred to me after witnessing the Obama hagiography syndrome was that Bush’s presence was a reproach to their desire for an enlightened – read progressive – dictator. In support of this is their enthusiasm for relinquishing control of every decision from health care to light bulbs to the wise experts populating the bureaucracies on Washington. They want an aristocracy instead of a republic.

  41. rickl Says:

    Mike Mc. Says:
    September 17th, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Those who attack him are not good people. They are as far from great people as one can get. They are, in truth, as low a specimen of human being as you can get. Period.

    Wrong. The people who attack Palin are worse. Much worse.

    With Bush, you could say that he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he was an obnoxious frat boy, alcoholic, son of a President who was also a former CIA director, member of the ruling class, etc., etc., etc.

    (I’m just putting myself in the shoes of Bush haters there.)

    Who is Palin? A housewife and mother who came out of nowhere, with no family or political connections, ran for mayor of a small town, got appointed to the Oil and Gas Board, resigned because of corruption, then ran for governor on a platform of fighting corruption in her own party. No contest. The people who hate her hate decency itself.

    Parker Says:
    September 18th, 2011 at 12:55 am

    What would have happened? That’s easy! The big, over leveraged banks and investment firms would have crashed. It would have caused much pain for everyone. We would have taken a 10-20% hit to GDP. AND by now we would be in the beginning stage of a real recovery. Instead, we are around 8 trillion, and rapidly counting, further in the hole and daylight can not reach the bottom.

    Exactly. TARP was an enormous blunder, and set the stage for Obama’s even more massive interventions in the economy. I saw it at the time. Not passing TARP would have sent us into an immediate, severe depression. But it was necessary. Attempting to mask it with deficit spending works for a while, but it can’t continue forever, and the collapse will be much worse when it does happen, as it must. I suppose the thinking was that not passing TARP and going into a depression on the eve of the election would have guaranteed an Obama victory, while staving it off with TARP gave McCain a slim chance. Whatever the case, it didn’t work, and now we have the worst of both worlds.

    I voted for Bush both times, and I’m glad I did. I’m actually more critical of him today than I was during his Presidency.

  42. rickl Says:

    abdul7591:
    Excellent! I didn’t see your comment until after I posted mine. (I’m a slow writer.)

  43. Peter Says:

    During Dubya’s first run for Governor I had just been elected a Republican Precinct Chairman (Yay Me!) and so was a delegate to the State Senatorial District Convention. This consisted of about a gazillion speeches including one by Dubya. Shortly afterward there were a slew of folks running for judge in places where my Precinct had no vote so I was outside, smokin’ and jokin’ with some other delegates. That’s when Dubya came out and spent about an hour talking with us.

    I am sure that Dubya would never recognize me if we met after this long but I sure remember him. I know that one of the things he is proudest of is bringing running water, electricity and sewers to the colonias along the Rio Grande. He did this not because he wanted the Hispanic vote but because he felt it was the right thing to do. Everything he did in office was like that. He was never the same kind of conservative I was, he’s one of those men with which seventy percent is as close as it gets.

    I don’t think George W. Bush remembers me but I am still glad I met this good man and am proud to call him my friend.

  44. br549 Says:

    Gringo:

    I like the EH.net article. Sadly, though, it makes both of us right.

    Anyway, I was going to use what I wrote at first to again lead into the political party who originally supported slavery, and “ran” the south. They are the major migrants, it seems, and now “run” the north, and are filled with a hatred of all things southern. And via their efforts, in a way, have many more people enslaved then ever before.

    I vote republican because I want as little government interference in my life as is currently possible, all things considered. Those who vote democrat seem to want just the opposite. They want the government to do for them. And through the government, want to force me to do as they would have me do.

  45. kolnai Says:

    abdul7591 – great comment. Love the KKK analogy. As T said, I think you nailed it.

  46. Promethea Says:

    I’m not defending TARP here, because I know nothing about the financial matters relating to it.

    However, I remember at the time that people were afraid that without it, there would have been some kind of credit crisis that meant that grocery stores wouldn’t have been able to restock their shelves.

    If this is true, in my area this would have caused panic and looting within a few days. As I recall, this was the argument in favor of TARP for those of us who didn’t understand the situation.

  47. expat Says:

    Promethea,
    I was hearing the same things in Germany about the banks here who had bought the US mortgage loans. I think the fear of international shutdown was real. I am not qualified to say whether it was correct.

  48. Mike Mc. Says:

    Abdul-

    You won this thread.

  49. Ymarsakar Says:

    What was that name they gave the guy in Brandon Sanderson’s one shot novel…

    Warbreaker the Peaceful?

    Many would think that doesn’t fit Bush 2.

    Bush was going to complete a proper succession, and thus his actions on TARP were informed by what obama said he wanted to do, since Obama was going to inherit the issue either way next month.

    Clinton didn’t do that for Bush. And Obama won’t do that for the next President. Because Democrats care little for the nation itself.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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