My New Years resolution this year is that Dan Riehl should stop being such a tool.
I give Bush a B and I could debate myself as to whether it’s a B+ or B-, so I won’t. I do think the arguments tend more toward the plus side in that, frankly.
Well, so much for this year. Actually, things were pretty much blown to hell on January 2nd., and survived until then only because a groggy Riehl spent the inaugural day of 2009 in bed yelling at his toes.
But apropos the B-/B+ distinction, I just think it’s funny every time to see the name ‘Bush’ and to watch the right’s self-styled eagles of Libertas and sober adjutant-birds of fact reëmbody Andrei Zhdanov and — pardon the diæreses1 — reëngage his notorious “struggle between the good and the better.” It’s a sign of how drastically things have descended the plumbing that Riehl can’t feign deliberations over whether Bush deserves a grade of A+++infinity+ or one of A+icecream+backrub++, but must, for appearances, advance the pretense of grading him only a little better than average, before refusing on principle to do so.
Speaking of Zhdanovian hackery, do you think there’s another noteworthy Bush encomium over at Hinderaker’s place? I honestly haven’t looked yet,2 but I think there will be! Let’s go see.
Woot. You know, for years, Hindy has been stealing stuff from us when he thinks no one is looking. By inductive reasoning, we can determine that there must have been a post here while I was away to which he added some essment, and that it was titled,
President Bush: An Ass
Jokey jokey ha ha. But back to Hindy:
President Bush leaves office mostly unloved, with some poll respondents saying that they consider him one of our worst presidents ever.
See, that’s how ours started too.
This in itself is odd. Generally, our worst Presidents have been one-termers, for obvious reasons: James Buchanan, Jimmy Carter, Herbert Hoover (if you buy into the myth). But George W. Bush was re-elected rather easily in 2004. Thus, if he really was one of our worst Presidents, either the electorate was subject to mass hypnosis, or something must have gone seriously wrong in his second term.
If we strip away the partisan hysteria, it’s pretty clear that Bush was a reasonably good President, not an epochally horrible one. Let’s start with domestic policy.
Serious now. In terms of art, it ought to be said that the greatness of a Pastor Swank, of a Mark Noonan or a John Hinderaker — the quality which raises them above the howling roil of right-wing authoritarians, of spite retailers, blowhards, closeted gay ministers, cranks, Bible lickers, of nerds-gone-bad, of flag humpers, pseudo-intellectuals, chair-based saucer investigators, of stern-bodiced rape fantasists, of millennarians, Know-Nothings, Free Silver enthusiasts, jingoes, Oreos, Foursquare McPhersonites, splinter Baptists, pseudo-Methodists, Pentecostal highway parishioners, of cynical purveyors of purpose-driven things and of AMWAY, of Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, Graham’s miracle flour, Kellogg’s abstinence-promoting Corn Flake Cereal, or other products unevaluated by the FDA that are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease; of Goldwater idolators, ‘Scoop Jackson liberals,’ McCarthyites, Yankees fans, Likudniks, the mean of spirit, dupes, chumps, Dartmouth grads, shysters, four-flushers, dog-kickers, self-dealers, Professors of X at James Madison University, wingnut welfare skillet-lickers and beak-wetters; of wingnut welfare high-rollers, pimps, queens, bathroom-stall fellators, and generational dependents; of certain former or current WWF/WWE personalities and/or karate movie stars and/or minor Baldwin brothers, convicted Watergate felons, washed-up Red Sox pitchers, and/or 1970s Detroit-area rock musicians, as well as unnh and gaah, not to mention hunnh — isn’t solely in making up things that aren’t true, but often in fact in forgetting things that are.
Because, for instance, someone who just walked into this whole ongoing drama might look at Hindy’s paragraph above, and be like, “Jimmy Carter!? Why, what a cheap shot — and what’s this thing about ‘if you buy into the myth about Hoover?’ And then look at how he… Ooh, the nerve of some people.” And yes, sure, there’s that. But worst-president lists were a bit of a thing a couple of years ago, based on various surveys of historians, and while Hindy’s list starts uncontroversially with James Buchanan, it continues by carefully eliding certain personages, most signally a two-term Republican president named Richard M. Nixon, who was re-elected in a historic landslide in 1972 despite certain irregularities. Hindy’s special genius is in pretending not to know things. Let’s skip ahead a bit.
While his stewardship of the economy was generally good, Bush fell down in other areas of domestic policy. His sponsorship of comprehensive immigration reform and the Medicare drug benefit and his acquiescence in ridiculous levels of federal spending are all black marks. They are balanced by Bush’s excellent judicial appointments and his management of a strikingly scandal-free administration.
The last time we saw that construction, it was ‘extraordinarily scandal free,’ and the context was the epic, multi-part schooling of Powerline on that very subject, executed not by a snark blog, but by David Kurtz and Josh Marshall at TPM. The last episode is here, and apparently Hinderaker still doesn’t know about any of this.
The next time Marshall and Hinderaker crossed paths, it was apropos this astonishing claim:
In the eight years he has been President, it is remarkable how few gaffes or verbal blunders [George W. Bush] has committed. If Obama doesn’t raise his standards, he will exceed Bush’s total before he is inaugurated.
Back to the current analysis, though: Can you spot what Hinderaker is pretending not to know in the following passage?
In foreign policy, the terrorist attacks dominated, perhaps too much. Few would have predicted on September 12, 2001, that there would be no more successful attacks on American soil or even against American interests abroad, yet that is what happened.
As we noted here, President Bush’s strong anti-terrorist policies stopped a long string of successful terrorist attacks that stretched back to the late 1970s. His record in this respect is truly extraordinary, and he deserves an enormous amount of credit for it.
You see how he does it?
With hindsight, the beginning of the end for Bush was his unwillingness to defend himself when he was attacked for the “sixteen words” in his State of the Union address–words that were indisputably true. The same thing happened after Hurricane Katrina, the event that got his second term off on the wrong foot. In truth, the federal response to Katrina was both the largest and the fastest response to any natural disaster in world history. Yet Bush was never willing to stand up to his critics and make the case in his own defense.
That tendency to turn the other cheek was, in the end, fatal. Bush never cared much about politics.
Awesome are his powers.
Everything considered, I give the Bush administration a B-.
There’s a punchline here, but my head is spinning too fast to locate it.
2 I really hadn’t looked yet.