Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Guest Post: The BeeMaster defends Bush

This is a first for Fosco: a guest post! And a conservative one! You may know Fosco's old friend, The BeeMaster, from his good-natured conservative comments on posts here at Fosco Lives! Recently, The BeeMaster asked Fosco if he would be willing to publish a defense of Sarah Palin on this blog; Fosco was intrigued and accepted. In the Inaugural hubbub, The BeeMaster changed his mind and offered instead a positive evaluation of the Bush Presidency.

Needless to say, Fosco doesn't agree with most of what The BeeMaster argues below. However, Fosco does think it's worthwhile to have this kind of debate. The blogosphere is typically ideologically fragmented, with sites for conservatives and sites for progressives. This arrangement has its benefits, of course; however, sometimes it's nice to hear from someone who disagrees with you (without being too disagreeable). Anyway, thanks to The BeeMaster for his interest in the blog and his hard work in preparing this guest post. Please give The BeeMaster your attention and I'll see you all again tomorrow afternoon.

First of all, great thanks to The Fosco for allowing me to guest blog on Fosc Olives! A blog is a personal space, not a public forum. So it shows great confidence in his own positions that Fosco can tolerate diversity of opinion in his blog. While I attempt to comment on several blogs, Fosc Olives! is one of very few that allow (even polite) objections. I appreciate and am very careful not to ruin that privilege.

I had originally asked Fosco to guest blog on the subject of Governor Sarah Palin but decided nobody really cares right now. Should she become relevant again, you may hear my take on “Governor Moosemunch.” Instead, on Bush’s last day as president, I thought I might make some comments on the Bush legacy.

First of all, the partisan hysteria and the avalanche of abuse and ridicule will fade. And history will probably hand down a far more positive judgment on Bush's presidency than the immediate, knee-jerk loathing we are witnessing today. For instance Ronald Reagan, ridiculed by the media as senile (at best) or corrupt (at worst) now is regarded by the general public as one of our most beloved presidents.

Fair or otherwise, I think presidents are eventually remembered for one, sometimes two items. Sort of a major/minor thing:

FDR: Wheelchair. WWII.
Truman: The atom bomb. Got us into Korea.
Eisenhower: Bald. General in WWII.
Kennedy: Assasinated. Started the space program.
Johnson: Took over after Kennedy. Got us deeper into Vietnam.
Nixon: Watergate. Visited China.
Ford: Pardoned Nixon. Clumsy.
Carter: “Malaise” speech. Builds crappy houses. (runners up: Camp David accord, Iran hostages)
Reagan: “Evil empire.” Star Wars. (runners up: Iran/Contra, Cut taxes)
Bush I: Gulf War, “Read my lips”
Clinton: Monica, “I feel your pain.” (runners up: Impeachment, Health care fix attempt, Government shutdown)

I’m not saying they should be judged on these things. Truman, for instance, should also be remembered for the Marshall Plan, Kennedy his fiscal conservatism (especially tax cuts to stimulate the economy), and Johnson his passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the help of Republicans when Democrats (including Al Gore Senior) voted against it.

Back to GWB. September 11th will forever be regarded as the defining moment of his presidency, and history will look in vain for anyone predicting that the people murdered that day would be the last ones to die at the hands of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists on American soil over the following seven years.

The decisions taken by Bush in the immediate aftermath of that moment will be pored over by historians for the rest of our lifetimes. One thing they will doubtless conclude is that the measures he took to lock down America's borders, scrutinize travelers, eavesdrop on terrorist suspects, work closely with international intelligence agencies and (especially) taking the war to the enemy has foiled dozens, perhaps scores, of murderous attacks on America. There are many people alive today who would not be but for the passage of the Patriot Act.

The next factor that will be seen in its proper historical context in years to come will be the true reasons for invading Afghanistan in October 2001 and Iraq in April 2003. The conspiracy theories believed by m any (generally, but not always) stupid people - that it was "all about oil", or the securing of contracts for Halliburton, and so on - will slip into the obscurity from which they should never have emerged had it not been for comedians like Michael Moore.

Instead, the obvious fact that there was a good case for invading Iraq based on 14 violated UN resolutions, massive human rights abuses and unfinished business following the interrupted invasion of 1991 will be recalled.

Similarly, the cold light of history will absolve Bush of the worst conspiracy theory accusation: that he knew there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. History will show that, in common with the rest of his administration, the British government, Saddam Hussein's own generals, the French, Chinese, Israeli and Russian intelligence agencies, and of course the CIA, everyone assumed that a murderous dictator does not voluntarily destroy the WMD arsenal he has used against his own people. And if he does, he does not then expel the UN weapons inspectorate looking for proof of it, as he did in 1998 and again in 2001.

Question: When the president said to the nation that the mission was to attack Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons program; when the president said that Saddam must not be allowed to threaten his neighbors or the world with nuclear arms, poison gas or biological weapons; when the president said “We've got to act now and we can't allow Iraq to be free to retain and begin to rebuild its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs in months and not years;” When the president said all that to the American people, was the president lying? Yes or no?

Does it change your answer to learn those were President Clinton’s words from 1998 when he addressed the nation the day he bombed Iraq? Discuss.

Bush assumed that the coalition forces would find mass graves, torture chambers, evidence for the gross abuse of the UN food-for-oil program, and also WMDs. He was right about each but the last, and history will place him in the mainstream of Western, Eastern and Arab thinking on the matter.

With his characteristic openness and at times almost self-defeating honesty, Bush has been the first to acknowledge his mistakes - for example, tardiness over Hurricane Katrina - but there are some he made not because he was a ranting right-winger, but because he tried too hard to win bipartisan support.

For example, the invasion of Iraq should have taken place months earlier, but was held up by Bush’s waiting to find support from UN Security Council members, like France, that had ties to Iraq and hostility toward American involvement. We didn’t strike Iraq until eighteen months after September 11th, hardly a “rush to judgment” and plenty of time for Saddam to remove WMDs of which there is some evidence he did.

History will also take Bush's verbal fumbling into account, reminding us that Ronald Reagan also misspoke regularly, but was still a fine president. The first MBA president, who had a higher IQ and grade-point average at Yale than John Kerry, Bush's supposed lack of intellect will be seen to be a myth once the papers in his presidential library are available.

Films such as Oliver Stone's W, which portray him as a spitting frat boy who eats with his mouth open and is rude to servants, will be revealed by the diaries and correspondence of those around him to be absurd travesties of this charming, interesting, and personable history buff.

George W. Bush has done more for AIDS and malaria in Africa than any other president. And certainly for the women of Afghanistan by saving them from Taliban abuse, degradation and tyranny. And homosexuals in Iraq who are no longer subject to the death penalty as under Saddam Hussein.

When Abu Ghraib is mentioned, history will remind us that it was the Bush administration that imprisoned those responsible for the horrors. When water-boarding is brought up, we will see th at it was used on only three suspects, one of whom was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Al Qaida's chief of operational planning, who divulged vast amounts of information that saved hundreds of innocent lives. Whether this tactic--it creates a drowning sensation--is torture is a matter of debate. John McCain and many Democrats say it is. Bush and Vice President Cheney insist it isn't. In any case, it was necessary.

Lincoln once made a similar point in defending his suspension of habeas corpus in direct defiance of Chief Justice Roger Taney. "Are all the laws but one to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" Lincoln asked. Bush understood the answer in wartime had to be no. Some might even study the Geneva Convention and learn such combatants are not eligible for its protections. And as such, even if prisoners were tortured, it wouldn't be a war crime. As Charles Krauthammer said recently, "Those are precisely the elements which kept us safe and which have prevented a second attack."

There is an aspect of Bush’s decision making that merits special recognition: his courage. Time and time again, Bush did what other presidents would not have done and for which he was vilified and abused. In a recent interview he said he refused to “bail out” the Republican party in 2004 by withdrawing from Iraq because it wasn’t the right thing to do. That -- defiantly doing the right thing even if it hurts -- is what distinguished his presidency.

Mistakes are made in every war, but when virtually the entire military, diplomatic and political establishment in the West opposed it, Bush insisted on the surge in Iraq that has been seen to have brought the war around, and set Iraq on the right path. Today its gross domestic product is 30 per cent higher than under Saddam, and it is free of a brutal dictator and his rapist sons. Even Barack Obama finally, under duress, had to agree.

Sneered at for being simplistic in his reaction to September 11, Bush's visceral responses to the attacks of a fascistic, totalitarian death cult will be seen as having been substantially the right ones.

The number of US troops killed during the eight years of the war against terror has been fewer than those slain capturing two islands in World War II, and Britain has lost fewer soldiers than on a normal weekend on the Western Front. As for civilians, there have been fewer Iraqis killed since the invasion than in 20 conflicts since World War II. Keep in mind we occupied Japan ten years after WWII, and the Japanese were a homogenous and civilized society! Also after WWII, Germany remained split with Allied power supervision for over forty years. During the 2008 campaign, Obama promised “immediate” withdrawal, but Vice-President Joe Biden last week said our presence in Iraq will continue until 2012. In other words, during their entire term.

Iraq has been a victory for the US-led coalition, a fact that the Bush-haters will have to deal with when perspective finally, perhaps years from now, lends objectivity to this fine man's record.

He won’t be remembered for them but there are other achievements. In 2001, he jettisoned the Kyoto global warming treaty so loved by Al Gore, the environmental lobby, elite opinion, and Europe. The treaty was a disaster, with India and China exempted and chaos the certain result. Everyone knew it. But only Bush said so and acted accordingly. In doing so, he stood against global warming hysteria. He slowed the movement of this worldwide hoax, providing time for facts to catch up with the dubious claims of alarmists. Thanks in part to Bush, the supposed consensus of scientists on global warming has now collapsed. The skeptics, who point to global cooling over the past decade, are now heard loud and clear. And finally a rational approach to the theory of manmade global warming is possible.

The credit crunch, brought on by the Democrats in Congress insisting on home ownership for non-creditworthy people, will initially be blamed on Bush, but the perspective of time will show that the problems at FannieMae and FreddieMac started with the deregulation of the Clinton era. Bush (and separately, Senator McCain) attempted to increase oversight but was thwarted by Democrats (including Barney Frank) that called such accountability “racist.”

Yet another achievement was Bush's unswerving support for Israel. Reagan was once deemed Israel's best friend in the White House. Now Bush can claim the title. He ostracized Yasser Arafat as an impediment to peace in the Middle East. This infuriated the anti-Israel forces in Europe, the Third World, and the United Nations, and was criticized by champions of the "peace process" here at home. Bush was right.

Another success was No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the education reform bill cosponsored by America's most prominent liberal Democratic senator Ted Kennedy. The NEA, school boards, even conservatives adamant about local control of schools -- they all were and are still against it. It requires two things they oppose, mandatory testing and accountability.

Kennedy later turned against NCLB, saying Bush is shortchanging the program. In truth, federal education spending is at record levels. Another complaint is that it forces teachers to "teach to the test." Um, the tests are on math and reading; they are tests worth teaching to.

The Medicare prescription drug benefit, enacted in 2003. It's not only wildly popular; it has cost less than expected by triggering competition among drug companies. Conservatives have deep reservations about the program. But they shouldn't have been surprised. Bush advocated the drug benefit in the 2000 campaign because if he hadn't acted, Democrats would have, with a much less attractive result.
Then there are John Roberts and Sam Alito. In putting them on the Supreme Court and naming Roberts chief justice, Bush achieved what had eluded Nixon, Reagan, and his ow n father. Roberts and Alito made the Court more conservative. And the good news is Roberts, 53, and Alito, 58, should be justices for a long time.

Bush also strengthened relations with Asian democracies (Japan, South Korea, and Australia) without causing a rift with China. On top of that, he forged strong ties with India. An important factor was their common enemy, Islamic jihadists. After 9/11, Bush made the most of this, and Indian leaders were receptive. His state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2006 was a love fest.

How does Bush rank as a president? We won't know until he's judged from the perspective of two or three decades. Judging the “sophomoric invective” recently I don’t think there’s any place for his place in history but to go up.

Barack Obama was not my choice. But still we can all celebrate the pageantry of the quadrennial, peaceful transfer of power that gives everybody another shot in four short years. I firmly believe this is one reason we have such a peaceful society and elections don’t result in riots in America. I’ve been depressed on inauguration day before. All of us have one time or another. Yet we don’t take up arms with each other except in words and ideas. I’m grateful I have been able to do that with you today.

May God bless President Barack Obama, the United States of America, and my friend Fosco.


Anonymous said...

Fosco published my text verbatim, so the errors are all mine. (Is "fascistic" even a word? Is Australia really an Asian country?)

The BeeMaster

FOSCO said...

I can definitely confirm that "fascistic" is a word. In fact, my college roommates had a big argument about that word once. But it turns out to exist.

As for Australia, that's actually an interesting question. There is some suggestion that, at least psychologically, Australians are more like Asians than you might think.

I did a light edit for typos, but there wasn't anything else needed. I'm a fan of light edits... :)

Thanks again, BeeMaster

Anonymous said...

From my aussie friend Lynelle:

No, Australia is a separate continent! However it is considered to be part of Oceania - not a continent but a region of the Pacific Ocean comprising of:

* Australia
* American Samoa
* Christmas Island
* Cocos Island
* Cook Island
* New Zealand
* Norfolk Island
* East Timor
* Fiji
* Indonesia
* New Caledonia
* Papua New Guinea
* Solomon Islands
* Vanuatu
* Micronesia
* Guam
* Kiribati
* Marshall Island
* Nauru
* North Mariana Island
* Palau
* French Polynesia
* Nive
* Pitcairn
* Samoa
* Tokelau
* Tonga
* Tuvalu
* Wallis & Futuna

The BeeMaster

todd said...

There's a lot here that I disagree with, but the first thing that jumps out at me is this:

@BeeMaster: For instance Ronald Reagan, ridiculed by the media as senile (at best) or corrupt (at worst) now is regarded by the general public as one of our most beloved presidents.

You're using two entirely different metrics here. Reagan left office with a 63% approval rating [1], so the (unfathomable to me) public opinion of him is unsurprising.

[1] Incidentally, the only President with a higher approval rating when leaving office? William Jefferson Clinton, with 65%. [2]

[2] Check it out, a footnoted blog comment.

todd said...

Before moving on to other points, I have one final thought on the popularity of Ronald Reagan.

After the Watergate unpleasantness, Congress enacted new guidelines to open up the office of the President somewhat. Records were to be withheld for 12 years and then generally disclosed to the public (Subject to all the usual FOIA limitations).

Bush changed the process, blocking release of Reagan's records, later blocking his father's.

Yesterday Obama moved to restore release of documents after the 12 year period. Presumably Reagan's and Bush Sr.'s records will now finally become available; various political reporters, scholars, and historians will be submitting a plethora of FOIA requests today.

How this release will affect history's outlook on Reagan and Bush Sr. I can only speculate.

thetravellor said...

There is a lot I disagree with in your commentary, but I will only discuss the two biggest issues.

1) You state that ostracizing Yasser Arafat was the right move without providing the basis for that conclusion. Yes, there were elections in the West Bank & Gaza, won by Hamas. However the results of those elections were criticized and not recognized by any major power. Both sides have now become further entrenched in their demands and violence has only increased in the last few years. I can't see how anyone would characterize this as a success.

2) You discuss the success of No Child Left Behind. This program has been evaluated by thinktanks both on the right and the left, with everyone concluding that it is a terrible law, the negative effects of which have been compounded by under-funding. While federal funding for education may be at it's highest levels (I don't have the time to fact check that assertion), NCLB imposes many costly burdens on schools and has not been accompanied by the necessary increase in funds. It's call an unfunded mandate. I have friends who specialize in education policy and who work in the various think tanks here in DC (on both sides of the political divide) and the majority have concluded that NCLB is bad law and does not improve kids' education.

I leave the rest of my contentions for another time...