Friday, January 16, 2009

The Real Bush Legacy

On January 12, 2009, outgoing President George W. Bush gave the last press conference of his presidency. In it, he reminisced about his view of the last four years, joked with the press corps, and blatantly ignored the longest-serving member of the White House press corps, despite the fact that she was front row center with her hand raised the whole time.

He made some intersting statements. He never admitted responsibility for anything that happened: he claimed that the economy was tanking, for example, because he "inherited a recession."

When asked to revisit whether there were any mistakes he had made, he managed to come up with three this time around:
1. "putting a Mission Accomplished on a aircraft carrier"

2. "could I have done something differently (during Katrina), like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge."

3. "I believe that running the Social Security idea right after the '04 elections was a mistake."
So, one purely cosmetic thing he did, one purely cosmetic thing he didn't do, and one substansive issue, but one that he completely failed to do when he tried. But at least he's learned to prep for questions that he wasn't able to answer the first time around. (Unlike, say, Sarah Palin.)

Weirdly, in talking about his third mistake, he said "As an aside, one thing I proved is that you can actually campaign on the issue and get elected. In other words, I don't believe talking about Social Security is the third rail of American politics."

Yeah, George. Sure. Two things, though.
One - you didn't "campaign" on it, you started actually working on privatizing after the 2004 election. (You even mentioned that ten seconds earlier. Please don't spin around that fast any more - you'll make yourself dizzy.)

Two - George, they shut you down on this issue, even after your stage-managed "town hall" meetings. Do you know what "third rail" really means?
He followed that up with two "disappointments."
Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency. Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment. I don't know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were -- things didn't go according to plan, let's put it that way.
He wasn't responsible for Abu Ghraib, his policies or those of his cabinet didn't lead to the abuse of detainees: it was just "didn't go according to plan." And the non-existance of WMDs, despite having been briefed repeatedly that those weapons weren't there, wasn't really a "mistake" - just a "disappointment."

In response, Marketwatch published a column entitled Seven Most Horrible Things About Bush Presidency, subtitled "Commentary: An alternative to commander-in-chief's view of his time in office." It starts:
Contrary to the president's own assessment of his tenure earlier this week, it was an astonishing eight years - and not in a good way. The country suffered two recessions, and two shooting wars. The government botched its response to a brazen attack by terrorists on two cities, and then four years later utterly failed to react when another city was consumed by a natural disaster.

The president took on tyranny by embracing torture. He fought a war for freedom by trampling human rights. He enriched the already rich, excused their excesses, and then bailed them out of trouble and handed us the bill.

He politicized everything, promoted incompetents, and -- whenever things got tight -- appealed to our basest instincts of fear, greed, ignorance and hate.
Bush had all the luck of Jimmy Carter, the attention to detail of Ronald Reagan, the adaptability of Lyndon Johnson, the abiding respect for the Constitution of Richard Nixon, the humility of Teddy Roosevelt, the rhetorical skills of Calvin Coolidge, the fiscal restraint of Franklin Roosevelt, the cronyism of Warren Harding, and the overreaching idealism of Woodrow Wilson.

And his election had all the legitimacy of Rutherford Hayes'.
It's a blistering commentary - I recommend you read all of it. And since 2005, MarketWatch has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dow Jones, along with the Wall Street Journal and several other internet properties. So it would take a truly cynical mind and a blatant rewriting of history to say that MarketWatch is a "liberal bastion."

Despite the Bush Legacy Project struggling to spin the positive aspects of the 43rd president's time in office, I think it's pretty clear what Bush's actual legacy is going to be.

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