Friday, October 14, 2005

miserable failure

So a poll has found that most Americans consider George Bush's presidency to be a failure.

Not too surprising, given the state of things in Iraq and in Louisiana, the price of gas, the return of the economy to a recession, and GOK what else. Still, I can imagine Karl Rove or someone complaining about the fickle public. Just four years ago, Bush had record approval ratings. Now, two wars, two Supreme Court justices, forty-seven vacations and an economy later, everyone hates him.

In all seriousness, if I had been polled, I'd be one of those people who says it's too early to tell. Much as I've disagreed with some of the president's policies and attitudes, you need the perspective of distance that only history can bring to really judge things like this. Lincoln was regarded at the time as one of the worst presidents of the nation's history, and nowadays he'd win an election for best-ever president, hands down. Bush has had a run of bad luck in some of the things that have gone down during his presidency: an unprecedented terror attack, a Category 5 hurricane, and a tremendous energy crunch, just to rattle off a few things outside his control.

Still, he's managed to get Saudi Arabia to actually hold municipal elections, he did oust the Taliban from Afghanistan, and that country even now is having democratic elections. He also removed Saddam Hussein, which is a good thing, although he did so under apparently fabricated or exaggerated pretenses and without a clear strategy beyond that. Iraq is now sliding briskly toward civil war, but if they actually hold elections and the country starts to stabilize, Bush might come out ahead on that too.

My best friend notes that at the time, Licoln appeared to be noncommital, diffuse, unorganized, too forgiving, and insufficiently proactive. But for all that, someone of a different mold would have split the nation in two, either by being weak like Buchanan, and unable to stop secession, or too strong and opting to crush the South rather than reintegrating it. Lincoln's temperament preserved the Union.

If Bush weathers the latest beatings to his standing and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq result in the emergence of democratic republics there, it's possible that Bush might break even or even pull out slightly ahead.

But that does seem to be the story of Bush's life, doesn't it? Just squeaking by. A man can become president, but that doesn't change who he is.

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