"You don't get any feeling of somebody crouching down in the bunker. This is either extraordinary self-confidence or out of touch with reality. I can't tell you which."
--Irwin M. Stelzer, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute
"I find him serene. . . . I know President Johnson was railing against his fate. That's not the case with Bush. He feels he's doing what he needs to do, and he seems to me at peace with himself."
Seven years into his presidency, and as his approval ratings continue their slide toward the mid-twenties, George W. Bush has awakened to the realization that all may not be well with his historical legacy (though he's certain to be long remembered).
Thus, with all the assiduous energy of the well-connected D- minus student cramming for that big exam, Bush is racking the brains of a cadre of elite eggheads, who struggle to make clear to him the distinctions between good and evil, the "lessons of history" (as if these are going to be laid bare in a few bull sessions), and to answer that most vexing of questions, "Is it the whole of America that the rest of the world hates, or is it just George W. Bush?"
From The Washington Post article:
And yet Bush does not come across like a man lamenting his plight. In public and in private, according to intimates, he exhibits an inexorable upbeat energy that defies the political storms. Even when he convenes philosophical discussions with scholars, he avoids second-guessing his actions. He still acts as if he were master of the universe, even if the rest of Washington no longer sees him that way.
Bush is fixated on Iraq, according to friends and advisers. One former aide went to see him recently to discuss various matters, only to find Bush turning the conversation back to Iraq again and again. He recognizes that his presidency hinges on whether Iraq can be turned around in 18 months. "Nothing matters except the war," said one person close to Bush. "That's all that matters. The whole thing rides on that."
These are the questions of a president who has endured the most drastic political collapse in a generation. Not generally known for intellectual curiosity, Bush is seeking out those who are, engaging in a philosophical exploration of the currents of history that have swept up his administration. For all the setbacks, he remains unflinching, rarely expressing doubt in his direction, yet trying to understand how he got off course.
Perhaps his unflinching reluctance to entertain "doubts in his direction" might in part explain "how he got off course." Would someone remind me, exactly when was he on course?
Well, in the interest of broadening the president's historical horizons, I will provide quotations from a series of historians who were asked to complete the following statement:
George W. Bush is the worst president since . . .
HOOVER: “I would say GW is our worst president since Herbert Hoover. He is moving to bankrupt the federal government on the eve of the retirement of the baby boom generation, and he has brought America’s reputation in the world to its lowest point in the entire history of the United States.”
HARDING: “Oil, money and politics again combine in ways not flattering to the integrity of the office. Both men also have a tendency to mangle the English language yet get their points across to ordinary Americans. [Yet] the comparison does Harding something of a disservice.”
McKINLEY: “Bush is perhaps the first president [since McKinley] to be entirely in the ‘hip pocket’ of big business, engage in major external conquest for reasons other than national security, AND be the puppet of his political handler. McKinley had Mark Hanna; Bush has Karl Rove. No wonder McKinley is Rove’s favorite historical president (precedent?).”
GRANT: “He ranks with U.S. Grant as the worst. His oil interests and Cheney’s corporate Haliburton contracts smack of the same corruption found under Grant.”
“While Grant did serve in the army (more than once), Bush went AWOL from the National Guard. That means that Grant is automatically more honest than Bush, since Grant did not send people into places that he himself consciously avoided. . . . Grant did not attempt to invade another country without a declaration of war; Bush thinks that his powers in this respect are unlimited.”
NIXON: “Actually, I think [Bush’s] presidency may exceed the disaster that was Nixon. He has systematically lied to the American public about almost every policy that his administration promotes.” Bush uses “doublespeak” to “dress up policies that condone or aid attacks by polluters and exploiters of the environment . . . with names like the ‘Forest Restoration Act’ (which encourages the cutting down of forests).”
EVER: The second most common response from historians, trailing only Nixon, was that the current presidency is the worst in American history. A few examples will serve to provide the flavor of such condemnations. “Although previous presidents have led the nation into ill-advised wars, no predecessor managed to turn America into an unprovoked aggressor. No predecessor so thoroughly managed to confirm the impressions of those who already hated America. No predecessor so effectively convinced such a wide range of world opinion that America is an imperialist threat to world peace. I don 't think that you can do much worse than that.”
“Bush is horrendous; there is no comparison with previous presidents, most of whom have been bad.”
“He is blatantly a puppet for corporate interests, who care only about their own greed and have no sense of civic responsibility or community service. He lies, constantly and often, seemingly without control, and he lied about his invasion into a sovereign country, again for corporate interests; many people have died and been maimed, and that has been lied about too. He grandstands and mugs in a shameful manner, befitting a snake oil salesman, not a statesman. He does not think, process, or speak well, and is emotionally immature due to, among other things, his lack of recovery from substance abuse. The term is "dry drunk". He is an abject embarrassment/pariah overseas; the rest of the world hates him . . . . . He is, by far, the most irresponsible, unethical, inexcusable occupant of our formerly highest office in the land that there has ever been.”
“George W. Bush's presidency is the pernicious enemy of American freedom, compassion, and community; of world peace; and of life itself as it has evolved for millennia on large sections of the planet. The worst president ever? Let history judge him.”
“This president is unique in his failures.”
Unique in his failures . . . now there's a legacy for the ages.
Which is not to say that condemnation from intellectual quarters has been unanimous. William Kristol has just recently revealed that Bush's presidency is likely - through the historical lens - to be viewed a major success.
News flash! This stunning redemption will be gained through victory in Iraq.
Hey, if only I could've thought of that . . .