at NRO that Sophia sent, with my interspersed comments.
Rethinking George Bush? The American people are warming to Bush and cooling to his successor.
September 16, 2010 12:00 A.M.
Former president George W. Bush left office with the lowest approval ratings since Richard Nixon. So, for nearly two years, Pres. Barack Obama won easy applause by prefacing almost every speech on his economic policies with a “Bush did it” put-down.
But suddenly Bush seems okay.
Last week, the president did the unthinkable: He praised Bush for his past efforts to reach out to Muslims. Vice President Joe Biden went further and blurted out, “Mr. Bush deserves a lot of credit.” Biden topped that off with, “Mr. President, thank you.” [LA replies: So, is Hanson joining in Obama’s praise of Bush for “reaching out to Muslims”? Does Hanson think that “reaching out to Muslims” is what we need to do?]
Even liberal pundits have now called on Bush to help Obama defuse rising tensions over the so-called Ground Zero mosque and Arizona’s illegal-immigration law. [LA replies: In other words, left-liberal dhimmis are recognizing Bush as one of them, and Hanson thinks that this development justifies Bush. Because liberals now like Bush, the conservative readers of NRO should like him too.]
What’s going on? [LA replies: indeed, what’s going on—with Hanson?]
For one thing, recent polls show an astounding rebound in the former president’s favorability—to the extent that in the bellwether state of Ohio, voters would rather still have Bush as president than have Obama by a 50–42 margin. Nationwide, Obama’s approval ratings continue to sink to near 40 percent—a nadir that it took years for Bush to reach. It has become better politics to praise Bush than to bury him. [LA replies: There’s nothing astounding about a rise in Bush’s approval rating. He has been out of office for almost two years. Is Hanson saying that because the fires of Bush hatred have (naturally) declined, that means that Bush’s presidency was better than it seemed at the time?]
Iraq seems to be on the road to success, with a growing economy and a stabilizing government. Don’t take my word on that; ask Vice President Biden. He recently claimed that the way Iraq is going, it could become one of the Obama administration’s “greatest achievements.” Obama himself seconded that when the former war critic called the American effort in Iraq “a remarkable chapter” in the history of the two countries. [LA replies: Hanson says that “Iraq seems to be on the road to success.” But that’s what the Bushbots have been saying since April 2003! Our Iraq policy is always on the road to success! Iraq is always just about to become a democracy! Victory is always just around the corner! In reality, all that happened, after years of calamity under Bush, was that because of the surge (which began only after our forces had been in Iraq for a period of time greater than our involvement in World War II), and, more importantly, the Sunni awakening which led to the the defeat of al Qaeda in Iraq, violence declined enough to allow the U.S. combat forces to leave without instantly plunging Iraq into chaos and mass sectarian murder. There is no success in Iraq in prospect.We have created a non-functioning sharia Muslim state.]
Then there are the growing comparisons with Bush’s supposed past transgressions. Compared with Obama’s, they’re starting to look like traffic tickets. Take the economy and the War on Terror. Americans were angry about the Bush-era deficits. But they look small now, after Obama trumped them in less than two years. [James P. sends this comment: “In comparison to Obama’s profoundly insane and destructive liberal policies, Bush’s somewhat-less-extreme insane and destructive liberal policies somehow begin to seem sane and constructive to Hanson.”]
For six years of the Bush administration, Americans enjoyed a strong economy. So far, there hasn’t been a similar month under Obama. Bush had a one-time Wall Street meltdown, but Obama’s permanent big-government medicine for it seems far worse than the original disease. [LA replies: Again, because we are now under a ruinous anti-American leftist president, that, in Hanson’s mind, makes Bush a good president. Hanson’s worldview is framed by his negative repulsion from the left, not by a positive attraction to conservatism. According to Hanson, that which is not leftist and horrible is good. Also, in reality, it was Bush’s ruinous leadership that led to the election of Obama, something the Bush supporters always forget.]
If Hurricane Katrina showed government ineptness, so did the recent BP oil spill. Maybe such problems in the Gulf were neither Bush’s nor Obama’s fault alone, but are better attributed to the inept federal bureaucracy itself—or to freak weather and human laxity.
On the War on Terror, Obama has dropped all the old campaign venom. Bush’s Guantanamo Bay detention facility, renditions, tribunals, intercepts, wiretaps, predator-drone attacks, and policies in Afghanistan and Iraq are no longer dubbed a shredding of the Constitution. All are now seen as national-security tools that must be kept, if not expanded, under Obama. [LA replies: All these things done by Bush were necessary. Obama, facing reality, had to adopt them too. I agree with Hanson that this does justify these aspects of Bush’s leadership, which of course I have always supported.]
In comparison with Obama and his gaffes, Bush no longer seems the singular clod whom his opponents endlessly ridiculed. The supposedly mellifluent Obama relies on the teleprompter as if it were his umbilical cord. His occasional word-mangling (he pronounced “corpsman” as “corpse-man”) and weird outbursts (he recently complained that opponents “talk about me like a dog”) remind us that the pressures of the presidency can make a leader sometimes seem silly.
Bush now seems cool because he has played it cool. The more Obama and Biden have trashed him, the more silent and thus magnanimous he appears. Bush’s post-presidency is not like that of Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton—both of whom criticized their successors and hit the campaign trail—but similar to that of his father, who worked with, rather than harped about, Bill Clinton. That graciousness not only has helped George W. Bush in the polls but seems finally to have mellowed out Obama as well. [LA replies: Yes, Bush has been silent as an ex-president. But there was nothing cool about him when he was president. Then, he sounded like a neocon Napoleon on steroids … sort of like the way Hanson himself used to sound.]
Criticism of Bush got out of hand in the last few years of his term. Writing novels or making documentaries about killing the president, or libeling him as a Nazi, is not the sort of politics that we want continued during the Obama years. So it makes sense before the general election to halt the endless blame-gaming, before what goes around comes around.
The frenzy of Bush hatred and Obama worship that crested in the summer of 2008 is over. We now better remember the Bush of Ground Zero who had a megaphone in his hand and his arm around a fireman than the Texan who pronounced “nuclear” as “nucular.” Meanwhile, hope-and-change now seems to offer little hope and less change.
America woke up from its 2008 trance and is concluding that Bush was never as bad, and Obama never as good, as advertised. [LA replies: notice again how Hanson’s entire reference point is not conservatism or good sense, but the insane left. To say that the insane left’s denunciations of Bush were overdone, is not to say that Bush was a good president. But Hanson, geared completely (though negatively) toward the left, thinks that if he has disproved the left’s vicious lies about Bush, he has proven something positive about Bush. He has not. By conservative standards, and by objective standards, Bush was a disaster. But Hanson doesn’t know how to argue by conservative or objective standards, because he doesn’t have any. In typical neocon manner, he defines conservatism and the good as that which is not the insane and evil left.]