December 18, 2013
Comparing the Failures of Bush and Obama

Can President Obama learn anything from the most significant failures of his predecessor? Are the failures of the Bush and Obama Administrations alike in any ways? These are the questions Ron Fournier has taken up over at National Journal. “Claiming a mandate he never had, the newly reelected president foisted a bold agenda upon Congress and the public, then watched it collapse within months—a victim of scandal, cynical opponents, and his own hubris,” he writes. “That was George W. Bush in 2005. Or was it Barack Obama this past year?”
As the article continues it purports to show parallels between George W. Bush circa 2005 and Barack Hussein Obama today. Decide for yourself whether you’re persuaded. What struck me was the way that President Bush’s failures were identified and characterized. With a few exceptions, the focus was on political mistakes that the Bush White House purportedly made, stuff like “assuming that victory came with spoils,” and pursuing domestic agenda items like social security reform. Fournier also argues that Bush was thwarted by a partisan opposition.
My assessment of Bush’s failures is very different in emphasis. Erroneous political assumptions? Items on his domestic agenda that he prioritized without success? They’re inconsequential compared to his catastrophic mistakes of substance. 
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Comparing the Failures of Bush and Obama

Can President Obama learn anything from the most significant failures of his predecessor? Are the failures of the Bush and Obama Administrations alike in any ways? These are the questions Ron Fournier has taken up over at National Journal. “Claiming a mandate he never had, the newly reelected president foisted a bold agenda upon Congress and the public, then watched it collapse within months—a victim of scandal, cynical opponents, and his own hubris,” he writes. “That was George W. Bush in 2005. Or was it Barack Obama this past year?”

As the article continues it purports to show parallels between George W. Bush circa 2005 and Barack Hussein Obama today. Decide for yourself whether you’re persuaded. What struck me was the way that President Bush’s failures were identified and characterized. With a few exceptions, the focus was on political mistakes that the Bush White House purportedly made, stuff like “assuming that victory came with spoils,” and pursuing domestic agenda items like social security reform. Fournier also argues that Bush was thwarted by a partisan opposition.

My assessment of Bush’s failures is very different in emphasis. Erroneous political assumptions? Items on his domestic agenda that he prioritized without success? They’re inconsequential compared to his catastrophic mistakes of substance.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

October 18, 2013
Conservatives Misunderstand What Went Wrong Under Bush

The Tea Party is composed largely of Republicans who supported George W. Bush when he was the GOP standard-bearer, voting for him twice and criticizing him far less frequently than they defended him, only to rebel against his record at the end of his second term. At that point, partisan loyalty and shared hatred of liberals finally gave way to the realization that the GOP’s time in power was a disaster for conservatives.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]

Conservatives Misunderstand What Went Wrong Under Bush

The Tea Party is composed largely of Republicans who supported George W. Bush when he was the GOP standard-bearer, voting for him twice and criticizing him far less frequently than they defended him, only to rebel against his record at the end of his second term. At that point, partisan loyalty and shared hatred of liberals finally gave way to the realization that the GOP’s time in power was a disaster for conservatives.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

September 6, 2013
Obama and the End of the Imperial Presidency

In 1973, Arthur Schlesinger wrote about the tendency in American history for the president to assume sweeping powers in times of war and crisis. The balance of power established by the Constitution gets upended; Congress and the courts take a back seat; and the executive makes decisions about life and death largely unchecked. He called this “the imperial presidency.” Today, with President Obama turning to Congress to endorse a military strike on Syria, the imperial presidency is beginning to wane.
It’s about time. The 1990s seemed to presage a return to a more balanced government, with Cold War defense spending slashed and “the peace dividend” contributing to a more balanced budget. But then 9/11 happened; America launched a war on terror; and the rest, as they say, is history.
The imperial presidency has some justification in times of acute peril. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 certainly justified some degree of unilateral executive action, as did in its way the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. And few would argue that at times of all-out war, with the country fully mobilized to fight a genuine threat such as Germany and Japan during World War II, ceding powers to the executive branch is imperative.
Read more. [Image: Claudio Bresciani/Reuters]

Obama and the End of the Imperial Presidency

In 1973, Arthur Schlesinger wrote about the tendency in American history for the president to assume sweeping powers in times of war and crisis. The balance of power established by the Constitution gets upended; Congress and the courts take a back seat; and the executive makes decisions about life and death largely unchecked. He called this “the imperial presidency.” Today, with President Obama turning to Congress to endorse a military strike on Syria, the imperial presidency is beginning to wane.

It’s about time. The 1990s seemed to presage a return to a more balanced government, with Cold War defense spending slashed and “the peace dividend” contributing to a more balanced budget. But then 9/11 happened; America launched a war on terror; and the rest, as they say, is history.

The imperial presidency has some justification in times of acute peril. The immediate aftermath of 9/11 certainly justified some degree of unilateral executive action, as did in its way the financial crisis in the fall of 2008. And few would argue that at times of all-out war, with the country fully mobilized to fight a genuine threat such as Germany and Japan during World War II, ceding powers to the executive branch is imperative.

Read more. [Image: Claudio Bresciani/Reuters]

March 20, 2013

Ten years ago this week, the United States invaded Iraq. These two stories by James Fallows are essential to understanding the consequences of that decision.

The Fifty-First State? (Nov. 2002): Months before the invasion began, Fallows warned of the difficult responsibilities America would face as an occupying power. Was the U.S. prepared for a long-term relationship?

Bush’s Lost Year (Oct. 2004): “As a political matter, whether the United States is now safer or more vulnerable is of course ferociously controversial. That the war was necessary—and beneficial—is the Bush Administration’s central claim. That it was not is the central claim of its critics. But among national-security professionals there is surprisingly little controversy. Except for those in government and in the opinion industries whose job it is to defend the Administration’s record, they tend to see America’s response to 9/11 as a catastrophe.”

November 19, 2012
The Future of Conservative Foreign Policy

The Republican Party needs a new message on foreign policy that is true to the conservative principles of the base and yet has a broad appeal to the American public. It so happens that one already exists, has a proven track record of electoral success, and is only slightly used: the ”humble foreign policy” that candidate George W. Bush espoused during the 2000 campaign but abandoned with the Global War on Terror and the Iraq invasion.
Bush’s wisdom during the October 12, 2000 debates is striking in hindsight. “If we’re an arrogant nation,” he warned, “they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”
Now, to a large degree, that’s platitude rather than policy prescription. But it’s the right mindset from which to approach policy analysis.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

The Future of Conservative Foreign Policy

The Republican Party needs a new message on foreign policy that is true to the conservative principles of the base and yet has a broad appeal to the American public. It so happens that one already exists, has a proven track record of electoral success, and is only slightly used: the ”humble foreign policy” that candidate George W. Bush espoused during the 2000 campaign but abandoned with the Global War on Terror and the Iraq invasion.

Bush’s wisdom during the October 12, 2000 debates is striking in hindsight. “If we’re an arrogant nation,” he warned, “they’ll resent us; if we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we’ve got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”

Now, to a large degree, that’s platitude rather than policy prescription. But it’s the right mindset from which to approach policy analysis.

Read more. [Image: Reuters]

September 28, 2012
Even George W. Bush Is More Popular Than Mitt Romney

A Bloomberg poll released this week finds 49 percent of likely voters see Bush unfavorably while 46 percent see him favorably. That beats Romney’s results — 50 percent see him unfavorably and 43 percent view him favorably, as the Dallas Morning News' Tom Benning points out. This poll does not appear to be an outlier in showing Romney’s unpopularity.

Read more. [Image: AP]

Even George W. Bush Is More Popular Than Mitt Romney

Bloomberg poll released this week finds 49 percent of likely voters see Bush unfavorably while 46 percent see him favorably. That beats Romney’s results — 50 percent see him unfavorably and 43 percent view him favorably, as the Dallas Morning News' Tom Benning points out. This poll does not appear to be an outlier in showing Romney’s unpopularity.

Read more. [Image: AP]

June 25, 2012
Maurice Sendak Fantasized About Blowing Up George W. Bush

We loved Maurice Sendak’s work, so it wasn’t without a little cringing that we read this excerpt from his soon-to-be-published interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal in which he fantasized about killing George W. Bush. Sure, Sendak was known to be a cranky old guy, but this is downright nasty stuff. From the interview:

SENDAK: Bush was president, I thought, “Be brave. Tie a bomb to your shirt. Insist on going to the White House. And I wanna have a big hug with the vice president, definitely. And his wife, and the president, and his wife, and anybody else that can fit into the love hug.”

Yikes. And then there’s this:

SENDAK: You would have forgotten about it. It would have been a very brave and wonderful thing. But I didn’t do it; I didn’t do it.

Read more. [Image: AP]

Maurice Sendak Fantasized About Blowing Up George W. Bush

We loved Maurice Sendak’s work, so it wasn’t without a little cringing that we read this excerpt from his soon-to-be-published interview with Gary Groth in The Comics Journal in which he fantasized about killing George W. Bush. Sure, Sendak was known to be a cranky old guy, but this is downright nasty stuff. From the interview:

SENDAK: Bush was president, I thought, “Be brave. Tie a bomb to your shirt. Insist on going to the White House. And I wanna have a big hug with the vice president, definitely. And his wife, and the president, and his wife, and anybody else that can fit into the love hug.”

Yikes. And then there’s this:

SENDAK: You would have forgotten about it. It would have been a very brave and wonderful thing. But I didn’t do it; I didn’t do it.

Read more. [Image: AP]

June 14, 2012
Game of Thrones Showrunners Apologize For Putting George W. Bush’s Head on a Spike

With a speedy apology following a half-day bloguproar, you can bet that the folks running HBO’s of Game of Thrones totally regret impaling the 43rd president’s head on a spike. Or at least, regret saying it was him on a DVD commentary track. ”We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch… so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush,” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said in an apology statement picked up by The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg. “We meant no disrespect to the former President and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.” 
Read more at The Atlantic Wire. [Image: HBO]

Game of Thrones Showrunners Apologize For Putting George W. Bush’s Head on a Spike

With a speedy apology following a half-day bloguproar, you can bet that the folks running HBO’s of Game of Thrones totally regret impaling the 43rd president’s head on a spike. Or at least, regret saying it was him on a DVD commentary track. ”We use a lot of prosthetic body parts on the show: heads, arms, etc. We can’t afford to have these all made from scratch… so we rent them in bulk. After the scene was already shot, someone pointed out that one of the heads looked like George W. Bush,” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss said in an apology statement picked up by The Hollywood Reporter's Lesley Goldberg. “We meant no disrespect to the former President and apologize if anything we said or did suggested otherwise.” 

Read more at The Atlantic Wire. [Image: HBO]

April 24, 2012
"George W. Bush, in my opinion, did a fantastic job as president over eight years, facing a set of circumstances during those eight years that are different from the circumstances that a President Romney would face."

Marco Rubio, on George W. Bush.

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