Thursday, August 28, 2008

The History of W

Blinded by BDS we can't see straight... But one day we will

With the perpetual race for the White House building up to its crescendo as we speak it's nearly impossible to properly assess the current occupant's legacy. In fact it may take 30- 50 years before the book will be closed on George W. Bush.

Historian John Lewis takes the long view and wonders if we can be fair to the Bush presidency's historical significance without the filter of time. Read his article "Ending Tyranny" before you close the door on a consequential but flawed presidency- you may have a change of heart toward our 43rd president.

Without a doubt this Bush presidency was consequential. The same can't be said for all presidents. Looking back through the post WWII administrations few have been notably consequential in the long run.

Truman, without question had a profound and deeply misunderstood effect on the world. At the time he was very unpopular - with popularity numbers below GWB's. His was the administration that formed the doctrine that grew up to be known as the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine was the right thing to do and yet at the time hardly anyone was thrilled about it. Truman was held in much higher esteem in the subsequent 40 years, and rightly so.

Eisenhower presided over a period of general calm - the world was weary after a decade of war. The thought of Ike illicits little emotion one way or the other.

Kennedy, unfortunately, didn't reign long enough to have left much more than an emotional legacy. He recovered from mistakes his arrogance and inexperience led him into, but an assassins bullet preempted him from "changing" the world.

Johnson, well now, he had a profound and lasting effect alright... Vietnam and the Great Society. Johnson's administration was quite consequential, but in a very, very damaging way. The legacy of the Great Society still haunts us today. The decay and rot in our inner-cities is due in large part to Great Society policies. The stain of Vietnam has faded, but it is still an open sore in many quarters today.

Nixon: consequential in that he hurt the Republican party immensely. His policies and actions didn't change the country fundamentally. He will be a sorry figure in presidential history.


Carter was a result of Nixon. He was a disaster. Even the things that he did that were positive - like beginning deregulation, nominating Volker for the Federal Reserve - didn't seem to make an impression. He has spent the years since leaving office soiling his country and its leaders in foreign lands - oh, and building little houses.

Reagan was a result of Carter. Even though his time in office ended 20 years ago his impact on the country and the world can be assessed. Many critics still see him as a bumbling fool, scripted but otherwise disengaged. This was not true. Years after his presidency ended and his office was being closed down many hundreds of pages of his personal hand written papers and (radio) essays came into the light. He was a deep thinker who formed his own policies without a round table of consultants. He, without question, helped bring a resolution to the Cold War in America's favor. To this day his vision and belief system is cited by the new leaders of the nation-states that had been under Soviet dominance. Domestically he set in motion policies that led to a prolonged economic expansion that still lingers today. Reagan, if he did nothing else, made Americans feel good about their country and that was no small feat after 4 years of Carter telling us our best years were behind us.

Bush 41. He was an able administrator, but if you look up the word inconsequential in the dictionary his picture would be there.

Clinton also presided during time of relative calm as the Cold War wound down. It is far too early to fully assess his administration. Was his a consequential presidency? Hard to say of man who had no real over arching vision or strongly held belief system. He was and is a narcissist. The economy benefited from a so-called peace dividend and a technology boom - particularly in the run up up to Y2K. On the foreign front he let Carter drum up a bad deal with North Korea - when Carter had no right. He didn't react anywhere near boldly enough to the rise of violent terrorism. He allowed technology and financial deals to flow into Communist Chinese hands that may in time become profoundly dangerous to American interests and the American economy. It's just too early to tell about Clinton...

Then there is Bush 43. If nothing else he is a brave man. He took action, decisive action after 9/11 and has paid dearly for daring to engage an enemy that had smacked around the West with impunity for 2 decades.

It would be pointless for me to go into a long contentious prattle about Bush. In many ways his presidency is a failure. His biggest failure was his inability to communicate. The bully pulpit is a president's most important tool. But only time will tell if his biggest, boldest and most controversial act - the elimination of Saddam Hussein's barbarous government in Iraq - will be a positive for the Middle East and the world. I think it will be.

al Qaeda is severely impaired, decimated really, and due to its actions in post-Saddam Iraq has lost favor in much of the Muslim world. Bush can take pride in the rightouness of that.



TJ Willms said...

Nice, concise, summary and I agree in large part. Johnson was, without question the most damaging influence emanating from the oval office in the twentieth century. None of the modern democrats would be caught uttering his name but they all seem to want to emulate his policy decisions. With the exception of Reagan it may indeed be too early to make a full and fair assessment of their real worth.