By Victor Volsky
IT’S BUSH’S FAULT
Nobody would be surprised if the next time a hurricane hits the U.S. President Obama would blame the devastation on George W. Bush. Whatever the nature of the bad news, Obama invariably points to Bush, his live shield relieving him of all responsibility. But in one respect Obama would be right to find fault with his predecessor. Bush was indeed partially to blame for the disaster that was his presidency. He did a great deal of damage to himself, to his presidency as well as to the Republican brand.
George W. Bush came to power determined to rule as a gentleman, sticking to the good manners imbibed from childhood in the household of Barbara and George Sr. He studiously ignored the slings and arrows from the Bill Clinton crowd and their allies in the media. He insisted on showing good will to his predecessor and the Democratic opposition by keeping quite a few Clinton political appointees in place to demonstrate that he was not just a Republican president, but the president of the entire American people. Contrary to his expectations, the opposition didn’t appreciate the gesture. The Democrats pocketed the favor and went on the mudslinging offensive against the new president.
He took the duties of his office seriously and thought, erroneously, that the opposition shared his views - a typical mistake of decent people projecting their own thinking onto others. But the Democrats did not share the 43rd President’s attitude. He perceived the presidency as a chance to serve the country, while the opposition saw it as a social engineering tool and a source of patronage. He believed that politics stopped at the water’s edge, but the Democrats knew better and went right on sabotaging his foreign policy.
He thought that the barrage from the left was just a game, that at the end of the day the adversaries would shake hands and be pals again. But the Democrats were dead serious. Vilification of the President as a nincompoop who had come to power by hook or by crook; who was “selected” rather than elected and was thus illegitimate, was the centerpiece of their game plan for returning to power. And as luck would have it, the “dolt” refused to fight back and virtually surrendered to his tormentors. He thought his noble intentions would be appreciated, while they interpreted his inaction as a sign that he did not think his position worth defending by any means necessary, thus proving them right.
When it became apparent that a protracted war in Iraq was in the offing, the Democrats in Congress turned viciously on the President. He could have forcefully reminded the country how warlike those self-same Democrats had been, how they had fallen all over themselves to show their support for the President, how the Senate Democrats had insisted on voting for the war not once, but twice, to prove their hawkish disposition. But he kept mum and listened in dignified silence as the Joe Bidens and Hillary Clintons castigated the President and did everything in their power to thwart the war on terror he valiantly carried on in the face of bitter opposition. He thought of the national interest, they thought of their political advantage. And since he did not fight back, their whoppers, magnified a thousand-fold by the megaphone of the mainstream media, took hold in the popular imagination and became accepted history.
He watched the media betraying, one after another, the most vital state secrets, such as the NSA terrorist surveillance program, the CIA secret prisons and the disruption of terrorist financing through the Belgian “SWIFT” consortium to name just a few, but, again, did nothing to put an end to this bacchanal of treason. It was nothing short of aiding and abetting the enemy and on the face of it prosecutable, but the President’s respect for the First Amendment was too great to try to “muzzle” the media.
Didn’t Bush realize that by his passivity he was in effect condoning and encouraging the press intent on brining him down? Maybe he did, but his staid upbringing and lofty views took the upper hand. Gentlemen stay above the fray, stiff upper lip and all that. Meanwhile the media who openly boasted of their disdain for patriotism went right on helping the Al-Qaeda, boisterously celebrating each revelation damaging to their country, awarding each other the Pulitzer Prizes and patting themselves on the back at the sight of their enemy’s discomfiture. Yes, indeed, it was Bush, not the Islamist terrorists, whom they saw as their enemy. People are rarely capable of panoramic vision; the goal right in front of them looms as large as to reduce everything else to insignificance.
The list could go on and on, but the picture is clear. George W. Bush is an honest, honorable, patriotic gentleman. That acerbic genius, Heinrich Heine, once made a sarcastic observation, “Honesty is a wonderful thing if everybody around me is honest and I am the only one who is dishonest.” In that sense Bush was a dream come true for unscrupulous opponents. His enemies must have been thanking their lucky stars to be blessed with such as ideal adversary, who insisted on scrupulously observing the Marquis of Queensbury Rules, while being hit below the belt.
FDR’s Secretary of War Henry Stimson reportedly reacted to the news that U.S. cryptographers had broken the Japanese diplomatic code by archly observing, “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.” As a private citizen, he certainly was entitled to his view; as Secretary of War, he hurt his country by reveling in his arrogant goodness. National interest was paramount and should have trumped personal predilections. So, too, Mr. Bush had every right to behave as he saw fit; but President Bush had no right to stick to his private code of honor if it ran counter to the national interest.
The only silver lining in this sad story is that it should be treated as a parable with a moral. As the wise Romans used to say, “Forewarned is forearmed.” The next Republican to become President (hopefully, next November) should study the travails of the 43rd President as an object lesson. If, following Bush’s example, he chooses to play footsie with the “loyal opposition”, he will inevitably run into the buzz saw of calumny, lies and subversion that would doom his presidency. His chances of success would be much greater if he demonstrates his willingness to give as good as he gets. Otherwise we’d better prepare for another shipwreck.
Bush wanted to be loved
and respected. He indulged his enemies, but they reciprocated with
hatred and disdain. Niccolo Machiavelli warned his Prince that it is
better to be feared than loved. Karl Rove, on the other hand, advised
his President not to respond to the attacks, turning the other cheek as
befits a nice Christian gentleman. If I were to bet whose advice is more
realistic and offers a better chance of success, I would put my money on
the 16th century Florentine rather than the 21th century Texan whom
President George W. Bush called “my brain” (and who belatedly admitted
that his advice had been ruinous).