Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Personal Aside: Weighing in on Bush.



George W. Bush will be regarded one day…long after most of us are dead (at least I)…as an extraordinarily gifted president. Just how I will detail later. Oh, not that he didn’t have faults. As Ben Jonson wrote of Shakespeare: “Players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing whatever he penned, he never blotted out a line. My answer hath been—would he had blotted a thousand.”

I wish Bush had blotted many things. For one, his record of not vetoing a single bill in his first term. I hated his excessive spending, his weakening education reform in deference to Teddy Kennedy, his very strange alliance with Richard M. Daley (giving the mayor all the federal money he needed for O’Hare expansion instead of supporting a third airport, while getting nothing in return), his definition of “compassionate conservatism” as encompassing higher federal expenditures and aping liberal excess, I am still waiting for Bush to redeem himself in my eyes by granting a full pardon to Scooter Libby since Pat Fitzgerald’s conclusion he lied (that the late Tim Russert told him about Valerie Plame’s employment with the CIA) when Russert’s memory could well have been as fallible as Libby’s.

But all this Byzantine stuff was far beyond the purview of Fitzgerald’s quest (since the prosecutor knew WHO leaked the news and in fact told everyone who also knew to shut up about it)…a bizarre circumstance. Still, despite all this, Bush managed on a commutation of Libby’s prison term: also bizarre. In that connection I hope in the short time he has remaining as president, Bush pardons Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, border agents who have served 2-1/2 years thus far for discharging their weapons during a struggle with a real criminal, Osvaldo Aldrete Davila who left behind 743 pounds of marijuana as he fled back to Mexico.

Indeed, I fault Bush for naming an AG like Alberto Gonzales who sanctioned the outrage of listing Patrick Fitzgerald with other district attorneys who were purportedly doing a “mediocre” job—an outrage since Fitzgerald is genuinely one of the greatest and most fearless prosecutors of our time. I fault Bush’s retreat from Reagan’s goal of reduction of farm subsidies. I profoundly regret his support of an expanded prescription drug feature of Medicare which is leading critics to predict this program alone will be $8 trillion in the red over the next 75 years.

That Having Been Said…

That’s all the blotting I can think of at the moment—but these things are greatly overbalanced by Bush’s resoluteness and courage as a wartime president and…not any less important…as a fearless supporter of pro-life initiatives which to my way of thinking defines the titanic battle to restore traditional god-cognizant culture in the United States. The first job of a president is to preserve the peace and liberty of the United States. No other president…I do not exclude Ronald Reagan from this…could have measured up better than George W. Bush. The WMD issue should be brushed aside—because WMDs WERE there…undeniably…in the form of biological weaponry. At such a time following September 11 you want a president who is firm, not equivocating. No less an authority than Bernard Lewis, the unrivaled expert on the Middle East, has said that until Bush made his decision on Iraq, the consensus among Arabs and Islamics was that they could perpetrate anything and get away with it. No more, wrote Lewis. No more. Which is certifiably the reason why for the remainder of Bush’s two terms, this country suffered no further attacks on its mainland.

Unlike many, I do not fault his conduct of the war. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, was impotent in early forays: the Khobar Towers bombing, the attacks on our embassies in East Africa and the USS Cole. The most impressive event in our national defense in my own lifetime of 80 years was Bush’s brilliant reconstituting of the American strategy vis-à-vis the Islamic world. Was the Iraq War brilliantly prosecuted? Not at first—but at the end, decidedly yes.

All wars are run as an untidy business. Dwight Eisenhower was called back to Washington, D.C. to account for short-sightedness in the North African campaign…before he went on to become the architect of the greatest invasion force in history. I well remember when I was 17 and fully cognizant of the conduct of World War II, the German counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge in December, 1944 through January, 1945. The Christmas of 1944 was a dismal one for this country. We would gather by the radio to hear Gabriel Heatter begin his news commentary on Mutual Broadcasting, “ah, there’s good news tonight.”

I remember when he began his commentary, “oh, I’m afraid there’s bad news tonight!” And bad news it was. Allied forces were overconfident and relied on sloppy reconnaissance. Nineteen thousand Americans died, an unsurpassed death toll in U.S. history for one battle. For a time it looked like the Germans would succeed in their goal in the forested Ardennes mountains in Belgium, France and Luxembourg…their goal being to split British and U.S. forces in half, to encircle and destroy four allied armies and capture Antwerp—triggering a pressure in the West to negotiate a peace treaty favorable to Nazi Germany.

I remember the talk then in behalf of cutting and running and negotiated peace. There was talk in some quarters of impeaching Franklin Roosevelt and pressuring him to recall Eisenhower who critics said was “responsible for this disaster.” But no wars run smoothly. Just as Lincoln found his general only after firing incompetents one by one until he came upon a relatively underrated general with a drinking problem, Ulysses Grant only in 1864, a year before victory, Bush had to let Donald Rumsfeld (a friend of mine) go and turn to another defense secretary...only after he secured a pledge from a skeptical Robert Gates that Gates would support a surge (something Gates was on record as opposing earlier)—leading Gates to find a new general, David Petraeus…one who prosecuted the war with diligence—even though the news media, disinterested because we are winning, focuses away from it.

The salient point is this: it looks very much like Iraq will become a democracy and the foremost ally of the U.S. which could well be a turning point in the war on terror. Therefore, rising to the challenge when we were attacked and providing a courageous defense of our country will give George W. Bush extraordinary status in years to come. If you compartmentalize presidents by accomplishments as does the historian Alvin Stephen Felzenberg does in “The Leaders We Deserved” [Basic Books, 2008], you will find that in the future Bush will rank with Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt in prosecution of war—topping Harry Truman whose effort in Korea led to a futile, negotiated peace by others. Now to other compartments…

The Economy.

Bush tax cuts initially turned a near-recession inherited from Bill Clinton to prosperity. His income tax rates went down for the first time since 1986. In addition he cut taxes on capital gains, dividends and estates and enlarged the child tax credit. These steps led to prosperity for most of his two terms. The recession…which may well become depression…occurred on his watch for which he will receive largely undeserved blame—but it is a fact, largely unobserved by the bitterly biased mainstream media, but this is the 11th recession of the World War II postwar period and the 33rd in U.S. history.

While it is undeniable that Herbert Hoover worsened the economic climate by a tax hike and protectionism, a case cannot be made…no matter what Barack Obama has stated…that the reason for the severe downturn was caused by George W. Bush. If as Obama charges “deregulation” caused it…which it did NOT…deregulation was in effect before the advent of George Bush. Alan Greenspan who failed to see the crisis was in office as Fed chairman before Bush came on the scene. Beyond this, there is no doubt that Bush tried to avert the crisis of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac only to meet steadfast opposition from the Democratic majorities in Congress—including Barney Frank.

It is too early to judge whether Henry Paulson or Ben Bernanke have worsened the crisis—although there is no doubt in my book that Paulson’s stop-go tactics have not helped. We simply don’t know whether the recession will worsen to depression. If it does, assuredly Bush…whether he deserves it or not…will wear the collar. Until that judgment is made, Bush’s reputation…as prime defender of the U.S. against global terrorism…will dominate his legacy.

Largely uncovered by the secular media, however, is another great accomplishment—uncovered because the media are hugely unsympathetic. That is the slow redemption of the possibility of American cultural traditionalism reflected in wise and courageous pro-life steps taken by this president.

Pro-Life Accomplishments.

One must start off by marveling at the pro-life consistency that the president has shown—a greater consistency than was demonstrated by Ronald Reagan, assuredly. It begins with his fore-square appointment of two magnificent justices to the Supreme Court—Sam Alito and John Roberts. Bush’s record is , as Edward Whelan (president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center) has said, 2 for 2. Reagan’s was only 1 for 3 (Antonin Scalia being a very good pick)…and frankly with all deference to Reagan, there was an ample opportunity for the 40th president to avoid choosing Sandra Day O’Connor whom everyone alert knew was a pro-choice leader in the Arizona legislature.

(Mike Deaver and others saw the opportunity in appeasing the secular media by becoming the first president to nominate a woman to the high court. The liberal media never credit things like that when they are done by a conservative president…anymore than it has noted that Reagan was the first to have an African American national security adviser or that Bush II was the first to have a African American woman secretary of state. It means nothing to the media which only celebrate actions done by Democrats. In fact the media believe that the natural custodians of the federal government are Democrats and when Republicans take over, they are temporary usurpers.) Earlier this year I asked Ed Meese how Anthony Kennedy…a keen disappointment…made it through. Meese answered that Kennedy had attested to and insisted he was a pro-lifer. The blandishments of the media…stating that “Kennedy is capable of growth”…known as the Greenhouse effect, named after the Times’ Linda Greenhouse…was responsible.

Against this average…and that of his father who scored 1 for 1 (Clarence Thomas, an excellent appointment and David Souter a bad one), Bush performed very well—signally, in fact. Unfortunately Bush was not given any further opportunities to name Justices so the social conservatives (Roberts, Scalia, Thomas and Alito) are outnumbered by one with the feckless Anthony Kennedy bouncing like a rubber ball between the factions. Bush can count himself lucky that he was spared Harriet Miers—and only the engendered opposition of social conservatives and talk radio prevented it. She was chosen just as Sandy O’Connor was—based on preconception that an appointment must be a woman.

Finally there can be no doubt that a heroic…I use that word unqualifiedly…stand was made in defense of life beyond judicial appointments. He signed the ban of partial birth abortion and the Born Alive bill which Obama wantonly killed as judiciary chairman in the Illinois senate. He stood off very strong pressures from the left on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and by doing so, stalled for enough time that science developed alternative means.

There is no doubt that since abortion and the exploitation of innocent unborn life has become an issue, George W. Bush…of all the presidents…has compiled the finest record.

This is long enough for now. More evaluations later.


  1. I concur in your opinion. While President George W. Bush may be much maligned as he prepares to vacate the office, an objective verdict rendered by future historians will probably rate Bush 43 as "near great" or "very good."

  2. Don't forget to comment of his most obvious Failure

  3. Yes Tom, Bush carried your Neo-Con banner high and in return caused the Republicans to lose the House, Senate, and ultimately the Presidency. You call that success?
    How naive can you be? And now under Obama the Social Conservative agenda will be smashed. I hope you are proud in your infinite delusion.

  4. Greatness is a term that will never be used to characterize George Bush. He is just as small as he appears. As the kids would say, "Bush is what he is" --nothing more. He is a man of limited interests and abilities. He is and was a man completely out of his depth.

  5. It baffles me how such a learned man as Tom Roeser can strain to see in GWB what is not there. 8yrs of Bush has given us Obama and a Democratic majority.

  6. As to Abortion. GWB was clearly Pro-Life in spirit, less so in the flesh or action. Even the appointments of Roberts and Alito was more of a reprieve than a triumph. Left to his own instincts and judgements, Bush would have given us Pro-CHOICERS H.Meyers and R. Gonzalas.

    Hardly Remarkable