2 Jan

Bush Reconsidered…We’ve reached the point for some perspective on the much-derided 43rd president.

Victor Davis Hanson @ NRO:

George W. Bush left office in January 2009 with one of the lowest job-approval ratings for a president (34 percent) since Gallup started compiling them — as compared to Harry Truman’s low of 32 percent, Richard Nixon’s of 24 percent, and Jimmy Carter’s of 34 percent — and to the general derision of the media.

At times the venom accorded Bush in popular culture reached absurd — and even sick — levels. Alfred A. Knopf, for example, infamously published Nicholson Baker’s Checkpoint, a pathetic riff on shooting Bush. Gabriel Range’s unhinged 2006 “docudrama,” The Death of a President, focused on an imagined assassination of President Bush (imagine the outcry should any filmmaker today update thattopos). A sick Charlie Brooker op-ed in the Guardian called for another John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald to kill Bush. Jonathan Chait of The New Republic more or less permanently ruined his reputation by writing an adolescent rant on “the case for Bush hatred,” one that began creepily with “I hate President George W. Bush.” Try substituting another president’s name for Bush’s and see what the reaction of The New Republic would be.

All that hysteria once led to Charles Krauthammer’s identification of “Bush Derangement Syndrome” — a pathology in which the unbalanced seemed to channel all their anxieties, frustrations, and paranoias onto George W. Bush. And yet, following 9/11, Bush had calmly led the nation and enjoyed one of the highest positive appraisals of any president since the advent of modern polling, when for months he registered a 90 percent approval rating; indeed, he averaged a 62 percent approval rating over his first four years.

Yet, as with all presidents, with time and a successor come perspective. So it is not hard to see why the out-of-office Bush’s likability ratings are slowly inching back up — most recently to 46 percent. For reflection on Bush’s eight years in office, take a look back at the six aspects of his presidency that harmed his popularity most — Iraq and its attendant controversies, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, the so-called Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols, the September 2008 financial meltdown, the chronic budget deficits, and the general impression that Bush was singularly inarticulate and prone to embarrassing gaffes.

“Bush lied, thousands died,” was a popular mantra that followed from the absence of stockpiles of WMD in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — the chief casus belli of the Iraq War. But looking back, quite apart from the politics of the moment, we now remember that Congress had approved 23 writs authorizing the removal of Saddam Hussein. The pro-war speeches of John Kerry and Hillary Clinton were simply amplifications of President Clinton’s signing into law of the 1998 “Iraq Liberation Act,” in which were outlined in graphic detail the dangers of the Hussein WMD arsenal. We do not know what exactly happened to those weapons, but perhaps the end sometime soon of the Bashar Assad regime in Syria — amid rampant rumors of a sizable WMD depot — could shed some light on prior cross-border traffic between Assad and Hussein. More important, Saddam Hussein’s oil-rich Iraq never became another North Korea or Iran. His removal also had a salutary effect in convincing Moammar Qaddafi to dismantle his own WMD program, and may have helped to convince Assad to leave Lebanon. In any case, Saddam was the first of many Middle Eastern strongmen to fall.

The 2007 Bush decision, opposed by most in Congress and many in his own party, to implement the surge proposed by David Petraeus and his advisers saved Iraq — at least in the sense that at the time of the abrupt departure of U.S. troops at the end of 2011, Iraq was a mostly quiet country, with a burgeoning rate of GDP growth, and that it escaped the violence of the Arab Spring. For all the conspiracy talk of “No blood for oil,” the United States seems to have ensured both that Iraqi petroleum bidding was transparent and that American oil companies were not much involved.

Barack Obama in 2008 ran on Iraq as the “bad” Bush war (he had called for all U.S. troops out by late 2008), while supporting Afghanistan as the necessary UN/NATO–sanctioned conflict. Yet Obama’s tenure coincided with an enormous upswing in American deaths in Afghanistan (630 total fatalities during Bush’s eight years; 1,543 during Obama’s first four), with relatively light fatalities in Iraq (264 deaths) from 2009 through 2012. Indeed, Americans were to die in Afghanistan during the Obama administration at over five times the monthly rate during the Bush years — for a variety of reasons still poorly understood.

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About Curt

Curt served in the Marine Corps for four years and has been a law enforcement officer in Los Angeles for the last 24 years.

8 Responses to Bush Reconsidered…We’ve reached the point for some perspective on the much-derided 43rd president.

  1. Wordsmith says: 1

    To compliment this:

    Our topic today is how George Bush destroyed America. Or, more precisely, how the Left says he did. Naturally, their solution is for America to join the ranks of European social democracies. It’s the only way to not to repeat “the mistakes that got us here in the first place.”

    The Left and their Old Media amplifiers tell a simple story: George Bush inherited frrm Bill Clinton a strong economy and a balanced budget. He proceeded to commit national arson by deregulating Wall Street, cutting taxes for the rich, and fighting two needless wars.

    The long fuse of Bush’s fiscal folly finally struck dynamite in late 2008, blowing Clinton’s Camelot economy to bits. President Obama has struggled boldly—against Republican obstruction– to fix problems so bad not even a modest genius like Bill Clinton could have fixed them in a single term. Clinton modestly admitted this in his convention keynote. So, steady on the transformational path. It’s the only way Forward to redistribution paradise and state allocated happiness.

    It’s a measure of the current mood that this narrative has yet to get much pushback from battered conservatives. They’re suffering post traumatic stress from the election, and pre-traumatic stress, bracing for the preordained blame if America dives off the cliff a gleeful president seems to be gunning for.

    It’s a shame, because the tidy Bush tale is mostly false and grossly incomplete. It’s little more than a team shout for Democrats, media cheerleaders, and partisan supporters. For that purpose, it’s quite effective, smearing conservative economic positions and providing perpetual cover for the cascading failure of Obama’s liberal policies: The worse things are, the more it will prove how badly Bush screwed things up. Forever, says Madeline Albright.

    The fog of national amnesia and unreason hides a lot, and denies the complexity that obviously exists. A nation’s—and president’s–economic success depends on many variables, including business climate, currency and credit strength, a reasonable fiscal balance of taxing and spending, and more. The president doesn’t exclusively control any of the variables. He jockeys for influence among other factors, including Congress, the Fed, the business cycle, and unpredictable world events.

    Viewing the big picture, Clinton was very lucky; Bush was very unlucky; and Obama is making it worse.

    Clinton’s record can’t be assessed out of context: six of his eight budgets were Republican documents (recall the pre-banana republic era, when Congress actually passed national budgets, and the media would have savaged congressional leaders who refused); his economy and tax revenues were buoyed on the twin bubbles of early dot.com euphoria and Alan Greenspan’s loose exuberance; and after his ’94 rebuke by voters impelled him to declare big government dead, he generally governed moderately, playing strategic small ball, promoting global trade, and keeping largely out of the way of industry and the economy.

    Also important, Clinton famously lamented he missed the kind of earth-shaking events that can lend presidential “greatness,” but his economic record plainly benefitted from serving in a relatively uneventful decade.

    This is not to deny Clinton political “credit” for the prosperity America enjoyed. That’s how the game works. Presidents gain and lose stature for serendipitous reasons. But in debating policy choices, the Clinton years are no endorsement of the Obama agenda, far from it.

    Too, if the charge is irresponsible deregulation, Bush deregulated very little. It was Clinton who signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall, allowing depository banks to participate in commercial banking and equity ventures. This broke firewalls that had protected depositors for decades.

    Perhaps most critically, Clinton pumped risk and volatility into the finance and housing sectors. He pushed hard on banks to loosen standards and expand home loans under Carter’s Community Reinvestment Act. He authorized government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac to buy subprime securities. That created a market for bundled mortgages. Thus, Clinton greatly expanded lucrative incentives for “predatory lending” that critics would in time blame fully on the private sector.

    All of this contributed to the dynamite that exploded in 2008. The smoke and soot are on Bush, but the fingerprints are Clinton’s.

    Far from the simple epitaph “tax cuts and two wars,” Bush presided over an extraordinarily turbulent and challenging time for America. The economy endured severe blows quite well. The early internet mania was already tapering, when, months into his term, Bush was called to lead the nation from the smoldering ruins of September 11. The consequences included economic convulsions. Travel and tourism stopped cold and were choked for months. The first surge of the internet bubble popped for good. IPO’s that had pumped out garage-based millionaires dried up. Economic activity and tax revenues dropped sharply. Airports and travel resumed slowly and warily.

    It’s surprising that jobs and the economy were as resilient as they were. Critics charge the Bush tax rate cuts didn’t create jobs. But there was job growth, and in context, they may have offered vital incentive for an economy reeling from so many body blows. They certainly have as fair claim to the Obama phrase of “jobs created or saved.”

    Bush was not a significant deregulator. Apart from a prow-growth tax policy, he wasn’t a fiscal conservative. Movement conservatives chafed at his big spending, big government initiatives. Importantly, though, Bush and some congressional Republicans raised concerns about the growing risk of Fan and Fred. For their trouble, they were bitterly denounced by Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and others.

    If Bush wasn’t a limited government conservative, neither was he a credit balloonist. The fury hit in 2008, on Bush’s watch. He, and his party, understandably answered for it at the polls. But the disease that hit us was not mainly a symptom of the deficit spending liberals denounce Bush for. Rather, the infection flowed from bad loans, inflated portfolios, inflationary fed policy, and the moral hazard of a tax-backed safety net for bad bankers.

    The stigma for our credit crisis and slow recovery now falls not on fiscal moderates like Bush, but on tea partiers, populists, and free market advocates who just want government to tax and spend less and take its boot off the economy. Meanwhile, the banker friends of Bill and now Barack, the Bob Rubins, Jon Corzines, Tim Geithners, and Goldman Sachs of the world are covering for, and slapping each others’ backs, and laughing all the way to the tax-payer backed bank.

    The mistakes that got us here, indeed.

    ReplyReply
  2. johngalt says: 2

    @Wordsmith:

    To add to this, Word, I am linking my posting on the comparison of tax rates;
    http://floppingaces.net/2012/12/21/a-comparison-of-tax-rates-reader-post/

    In it I compared the two tax rates being most talked about, the evil Bush tax rates, and the Clinton tax rates, during their times of economic growth, and found that the Bush tax rates increased government revenues at a higher rate than did the Clinton tax rates. The narrative of the left is easily destroyed by those who really look into the details and don’t just parrot the talking points of the left.

    As well, a comparison of a ten year, constant 3% GDP growth period of the two tax rates reveals that the Bush tax rates garner roughly $2.2 TRILLION more in government revenue than does the Clinton tax rates, which liberal/progressives love to bring up in discussions on what tax rates should be. $2.2 Trillion. That is no small potatoes even when you are talking about $40+ Trillion in government spending over that same ten year period.

    The left’s narrative on Bush has been wholly made-up. Manufactured by inventive minds and eaten up by the masses, especially as the last thing they saw from Bush was an economy in shambles from the Housing and Banking bubbles bursting. Bush “got lucky” that 9/11 happened on his watch, where he could benefit from the response and action taken. At least, that is the idea the liberal/progressives wish us to believe. The liberal/progressives in the Democratic party, likewise then, benefited from the implosion of the markets at the end of Bush’s presidency, which has served over these past four to five years to propel the most progressive, most socialist of them, into power in DC. I imagine that it will continue to do so as the people, in general, aren’t very astute when it comes to economics and politics.

    ReplyReply
  3. Greg says: 3

    “The Left and their Old Media amplifiers tell a simple story: George Bush inherited from Bill Clinton a strong economy and a balanced budget. He proceeded to commit national arson by deregulating Wall Street, cutting taxes for the rich, and fighting two needless wars.”

    I always appreciate a concise, accurate summary.

    It’s useful to remember that republicans had controlling majorities of both the House and Senate for 12 consecutive years, and had a republican president in the White House for 6 of those years; that extensive deregulation of banks and the financial industry already had been accomplished by the time Bush arrived in the White House, and that the lowest tax rates in decades had already been in place for six years at the time the sh-t hit the fan in 2008. Basically, republicans had “optimized” conditions in accordance with their economic and tax theories, and those conditions had been in place long enough to have an effect. The nation is still trying to deal with the results.

    Republicans should focus entirely on rational efforts to balance the budget for a while. Most of the general public understands the need for that, and it could help the GOP to get some traction again. Trying to rationalize and sell the same positions that just cost them an election isn’t going to work. Nor is it going to work to try to put all blame for the accident on the party that wasn’t even in the driver’s seat.

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  4. FAITH7 says: 4

    I’m not Rich. I work…it [was] the end of the year….and, I received a small ‘bonus’ from my company…. which was very nice….Until…

    The Government swooped in and took 35% of it…then…”the Government” left me a ‘few dollars’ [what is the dollar worth these days?] for working hard and doing a good job….

    But in the eyes of many [losers] I’m the Greedy One for wanting to keep more of my bonus check that “I” earned through my hard work….

    Think about that…35% and the dollar is worth HOW MUCH??? These days??

    Socialists/Dems/Libs know no bounds and have no boundaries when it comes to taking other peoples money …

    When is it enough??? When will it end??? AT 40%?? – 45%?? – 50%???… ????

    I will say it again…I was doing a lot better economically and in my frustration level and in many, many other ways when Bush was in Office…Not Greg nor any other Lib that comes here or anywhere can sway me from that FACT…I have read others saying the same thing elsewhere as well…

    ReplyReply
  5. liberal1(objectivity) says: 5

    @johngalt: Here’s an alternative, Republican view:

    ” Bush Tax Rates (10%-35% with a median of 26.5%): Finally, the George W. Bush tax rates show a clear downward trend in revenue, although the results are muddied by the two recessionary periods that occurred in 2001 and 2008. But even discounting those recessionary periods, it’s clear that tax revenue trended downward as a share of GDP.”

    Here’s my documentation: http://heathenrepublican.blogspot.com/2012/12/the-effects-of-tax-rates-on-revenue-and.html

    Where’s yours?

    ReplyReply
  6. Aqua says: 6

    @Greg:

    Nor is it going to work to try to put all blame for the accident on the party that wasn’t even in the driver’s seat.

    Oh, there is plenty of blame to go around. We have decades of democrat rule in the House and the Great Society. We have failure of both parties to deal with Freddie and Fannie when we knew there was a problem. We have the repeal of Glass-Steagall signed into law by Bill Clinton. We have republicans trying to out democrat the democrats in spending during the Bush Years. We have Bush pushing spending, creating new departments and unfunded mandates. In my opinion, Bush was an domestic economic disaster, just like his father. And Dennis Hastert is the worst republican Speaker in all of history. The only reason Hastert isn’t the worst Speaker overall is because of Pelosi.

    ReplyReply
  7. Skookum says: 7

    We have limited traction in the media; although, the Left is in a continuous state of dramatized outrage over talk radio and Fox News, it is through the wondrous boob tube and the nearly complete control of the indoctrination process known as public education and the university system that they are able to influence so many and control the narrative.

    The Hanson article illustrates the situation as does the Mitchell article, but it is this quote that sums it up:

    Bush was often awkward in public expression, but his “nucular” seems no worse than Obama’s “corpse-men.” He mangled sentences and aphorisms, but Obama has more than trumped that with his bows to foreign monarchs and strange pronouncements, from referring to 57 states to mocking the Special Olympics. An Internet search of Bush and Obama gaffes yields comparable results to a search for those committed by Bush I, Reagan, Carter, and Ford. Bush’s time-off chain-sawing on his arid Texas ranch was a far cry from the Obamas’ vacations in chic Costa del Sol or Martha’s Vineyard, and Bush ceased playing golf in 2003 in deference to American soldiers fighting and dying abroad. In contrast to Bush’s 24 rounds of golf in eight years, wartime president Barack Obama has now played 110 rounds in four years.

    What is different is not the degree to which the two Harvard alumni at times seemed confused in the limelight, but that the partisan media were determined to suggest that the similarly accruing lapses were incidental to Obama’s genius, but a window into Bush’s imbecility. Scandal-wise, Bush experienced no Watergate, Iran-Contra, or impeachment. The Scooter Libby media circus — a trial for a crime that was not a crime, and to which someone else had earlier confessed — seems minor in comparison to the secretary of the Treasury’s avoiding his taxes, the HHS director’s being mired in several controversies, the EPA director’s using an alias to hide official communications, and assorted lethal scandals like Fast and Furious and Benghazi, along with the tawdry GSA and Secret Service disclosures.

    Bush’s aid to Africa to combat the AIDS epidemic saved millions of lives. He was a strong proponent of increasing gas and oil development, and he made good appointments to the Supreme Court. The work of Justices Roberts and Alito so far is more impressive than that of Justices Sotomayor and Kagan.

    Obama’s “millions of green jobs” has led to boondoggles like Solyndra, the cancelation of the Keystone pipeline, and inane administration quips about wishing for American gas prices to match European ones and for skyrocketing rates for coal-produced electricity. In his debates with Mitt Romney, Obama did not refer to his wind- and solar-power subsidies, but instead took credit for increased U.S. fossil-fuel production — although oil and gas companies had found huge new finds on private land despite, rather than because of, the Obama administration.

    George W. Bush was not as dismal a president as the popular culture and media once assumed — a fact that will grow clearer as the age of Obama continues.

    It is tyranny, but we are just beginning to see the impetus. The Leftists are now beginning to hint and make threats against those with conservative philosophies, it is only a matter of time before they begin to flex their collective power. It is about control, greed, power, and wealth (for the elite).

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  8. johngalt says: 8

    @liberal1(objectivity):

    Where’s mine? I explained it in detail in the topic I posted on Dec 21, and then linked here.

    I can see, from your link, that the period used for your info is not accurate, in the first place, since they used both 2001 and 2002, which were prior to the passage of the Bush tax rates. Also, they used the period from 2008-20011, which, while they were under the Bush tax rates, they included a year of negative growth which skews the entire period.

    In effect, the period they used for Bush started off with two years of Clinton tax rates, and ended with a recessionary period.

    Meanwhile, I specifically noted that the revenue growth numbers I came up with were during the GDP growth periods under both Bush and Clinton. In fact, I left off 2000 for Clinton because of the ‘dotcom’ bust, which would have given a skewed result for his numbers.

    Please read my posting, Lib1. And then do the math for yourself. It’s quite enlightening, if you truly wish to apply objectivity to the matter. Somehow, though, I doubt that you will, and instead insist on using the numbers from your link, which do not show the actual effect of the different tax rates, per percent growth in GDP, during periods of moderate GDP growth. You have to compare apples to apples to get an accurate picture, Lib1, and your link doesn’t.

    ReplyReply

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