Kristol: "Why Bush Will Be a Winner" -- let's debate his statements

Ok, there’s always way more then enough Bush debating, but the reason I am starting this one is because William Kristol has written a much better than average defense of the Bush presidency (note: requires free registration at the Washington Post.)

Supporting his statement, he offers up: first that there have been no further terrorist attacks on U.S. soil (which I feel is one of his more specious assertions), second that despite the deficit the economy is robust and its performance has defied the dire pronouncements of critics (which is true, but for how long?), and third:

This third assertion I think is absurd. I haven’t read the “benchmarks” report he refers to, but I follow the situation in Iraq with a fair degree of assiduity, and it seems to me that there is no possible positive outcome anywhere in the foreseeable future. But let’s leave that for debate…

Kristol follows this with extolling the Medicare prescription drug reforms, praising the choices for the Supreme Court, and insisting that Bush has had significant successes in the realm of anti-terrorism and foreign policy in general:

That statement seems to me to be fairly obvious cherry-picking. Conventional wisdom, and my opinion based on evidence, is that American prestige abroad is at a nadir, but that’s another point to debate. I think he may be right that Medicare drug reforms have gone fairly smoothly–although I think the healthcare situation in American remains a mess overall–and few can argue that his supreme court appointees are highly competent: whether you like them depends on your own political disposition. I think they’re a threat to values I hold.

A small nugget of criticism:

Assume makes an ass out of … well, anyway. This seems to me to be unduly optimistic. I also still strongly feel that the unnecessary (at the outset) Iraq war has distracted the efforts in Afghanistan, where one sees a resurgent Taliban and very little signficant western control (or western-backed control) over broad sections of the county. The situation in Pakistan–in terms of the spawning of terrorists–is worse than it was, as even Kristol agrees.

Kristol posits successes in Iraq, champions General Petraeus as the man for the job, and praises the effectiveness of the troop surge. Frankly, I’m not seeing it. Although Petraeus may be the man for the job, it’s all but a hopeless set of tasks placed before him. When Kristol writes: “We are routing al-Qaeda in Iraq, we are beginning to curb the Iranian-backed sectarian Shiite militias and we are increasingly able to protect more of the Iraqi population,” I want to shout, “cite?” in good SDMB form. I’m not buying it.

He concludes with:

His supposition is probably correct, but I cannot share a favorable view of “the odds.” I think the odds are it will take many, many years before there is any kind of success the U.S. claim in Iraq, and I think failing and giving up (with spin that it was success, in good Vietnam style) is more likely than any true success, especially before the 2008 election. I do give even odds that a Republican wins in 2008, whatever is happening in Iraq.

Let’s debate those odds!

There are many points here. I’d like to provide some direction to this debate: pick a point or two, or three, and please let’s keep this civil. No sarcastic one-liners, ad hominem blasts at people who post here, or snarky comments. Kristol provided a mature, sensible, cogently written defense. I think it’s flawed, but I think it deserves a mature, sensible, and cogent response, whether in favor or against.

And please no “ho-hum a another Bush thread.” Yes, it is, and if you don’t want to participate, you don’t have to. I just ask you to not drop a turd on my thread, please.

I think Bush has been positive for the economy. Kristol is reaching when he brings up the “no more terrorist attacks on the United States.” I think while we have improved counter terrorism, I think a successful terrorist attack is hard to pull off in any case, I mean there hasn’t been that many major ones in the entire history of the United States. He is right that things haven’t been as bad as doom sayers were predicting on 9/12, but people tend to overreact in general.

I think Roberts and Alito are both fair men, and that is why I think even many liberals will not view them completely in a negative light; I think they are both accomplished and competent. So we agree basically on this. I also agree that his prescription drug reforms have gone well.

I agree Kristol has cherry picked concerning our foreign relations. I think some of our foreign relations have gone better than conventional wisdom suggests, but there have still been some glaring foreign policy failures on Bush’s part. We do still get along fairly well with Germany and France as Kristol mentions, but our shared interests are so deep that despite the little spats we get in with the Europeans from time to time, it really is such a deep relationship it wasn’t realistic to expect it to fall apart even if managed worse than it has been.

I agree that Iraq has distracted us from Afghanistan. This doesn’t make me think we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq, only that we should have in general kept focus on Afghanistan as well as devoted more troops to Iraq initially. It was a tall order, but not one we weren’t capable of filling. Rumsfeld bears a great deal of blame for vastly underestimating the number of feet needed on the ground.

I don’t feel like digging up the cite right now, but look in the “Iraq Government Misses All Targets” thread, I posted a link to a press conference given by Lt. General Ray Odierno who is in charge of combat operations in the Baghdad area. There are other press conferences from military leaders and the general consensus is we are making serious gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, and there is evidence we are being supported by local groups as well (and Odierno clearly states we are not arming those local groups–that they already have arms.) Pretty much everything you have asked for a cite for, is remarked upon to some degree by Odierno.

That doesn’t mean the surge is working and even if it works, the military goals are “make Baghdad more secure.” That is designed to bring about an environment which fosters political reconciliation between Iraq’s political leaders. Even if we make Baghdad more secure there is no guarantee that will lead to bigger and better things.

I think I said Republicans have something like a 49% or 50% or 51% (some meaninglessly centrist number) of winning the White House in 2008, I think despite the troubles the GOP is facing as a party history has shown Presidential candidates often find success even if their party is apparently in bad shape (Truman in '48, not only did he win but his beleaguered party made a big comeback, too.)

I find it hard to guess at any of the odds. I prefer to wait and see how things work out, maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t. I think it is too early to say in light of the change in strategy.

Kristol has made his points. To these I will add one from history.

In 1953, it was far from obvious that the Truman presidency would ever be seen as a successful one. Today, with the consideration of history, we conclude that in important ways it was.

We are very close right now to the Bush presidency. Certain of his decisions may be seen in time as even bigger mistakes than we now see them. Certain of them may be seen as correct ones that his critics demonized for well meaning but horribly misguided reasons. Right now we don’t really know, but I suspect the answer will surprise a lot of people here.

Please excuse the ad hominem, but when was the last time William Kristol was right about anything?

I mean, his track record in prognostication ain’t so hot.

Not just that, BG, but Billy hitched his wagon to Dubya’s star a long time ago and, by saying that Bush will be vindicated, he is saying that he, too, will be vindicated. Completely self-serving.

I very much doubt that Mr. Kristol is on drugs, he almost certainly didn’t take a good solid bong hit before typing this drivel.

Let our nations youth be warned by his example.

According to former Doper Hamadryad, someone on Fark referred to that piece as “Kristol Meth.”

The part I can’t understand is, why did the WaPo feature such a worthless piece of drivel in their Outlook section? It’s as if the people running the newspaper can’t bear to let go of the hope that their boy (king) wasn’t a total fuckup after all.

Yeah, and while people laughed at Ford, they also laughed at a lot of blithering idiots.

IOW, there’s no reason why anyone should be impressed with that argument.

Ironically Ford’s star ALSO seems to be rising lately. I saw a show on the History Channel about all the presidents and Ford came off pretty well…and according to them many historians are re-thinking his presidency and what he did and didn’t do (as well as the BS about him being clumsy and a ‘blithering idiot’ of course :stuck_out_tongue: ).

That said, I seriously doubt that Bush II is going to be looked back positively by history. Though Mr. Moto POINT is a valid one. We are all too close to events (and too partisan and prejudiced in our outlook towards this administration) to rationally judge how history is going to look at our times. For that matter, as I’ve said before, we are all too close to CLINTON’S presidency and the events during that time to rationally judge how history will view things.


Truman had a lot of capital to fall back on, though, once the dust settled (although who knows, maybe stem cells will adulate Bush for his defense of their civil rights). Also, Truman’s reputation was bound to improve once it became apparent that his most prominent detractors, McCarthy and MacArthur, were both actually kind of nuts. Scottish Republicans: a terrifying combination in any decade.

I venture to say that history will consider Bush comparable to Truman in one regard at least: as a cautionary tale against extrapolating success from approval ratings. “What male U.S. President had the highest-measured popular approval in history? Surprise-- it was George W. Bush, at 93% in 2001! However, today, with the consideration of history, we conclude…”

Oops! I was speaking of Henry, not Jerry. :slight_smile:

We may have no clue how history may think of our times, but this Administration will be a no-brainer.

Actually, that is true. And since history is largely written by the winners, it partly depends on who wins some longish-term debates.

But the thing about Clinton is, there’s plenty of material in his Presidency for fans of multiple persuasions, and critics of multiple persuasions, to work from.

With Bush, it’s hard to see how history bails him out. Maybe if we soon find some incredibly cheap fix for global warming, it’ll forgive his neglect of the biggest problem of our time. Maybe the next President will get New Orleans rebuilt, so that the half-vacant shell of the city doesn’t linger for decades, rebuking Bush just by its presence. Maybe a magic pony will miraculously fix the mess he’s left in the middle of the Middle East.

This one, to use the famous phrase attributed to George Tenet, is a slam-dunk. Even the people who, 40 years from now, believe GWB had the right idea, will admit he fucked it all up terribly.

9/11 drove us nuts. The fever is passing. Happily, it didn’t cost us as much as it might have, but it sure cost a bunch of other folks a lot. Pretty much everything.

One of the hypothesis that gets us around certain oddities of Quantum Physics is called the Many Worlds Hypothesis. In that view, there are an infinite number of outcomes from any situation. So I guess there is some scenario, in that sense, where it’s possible that Bush will come out a winner.

Having just finished David Weber’s Hell’s Gate and the sequel Hell Hath No Fury, I’d have to say that this will be in a universe so far removed from us as to be at the opposite end of the chain…

(yes, its an obscure reference…just what popped into my head when I read your comment John).


Dropzone got it in one. Kristol and his ilk picked Dubya years ago as the one who would bring “adults” back to Washington. They HAVE to dance with the one they brought.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. To give up on him, they would have to give up on all the crap they have been spewing for the last six years, and admit that the failure of the administration is their failure as well. He needs to succeed for them to succeed.

Luckily, they are what is known as “very serious people indeed,” and keep getting invited back to the news shows for analysis. As long as they can keep saying that the Bush administration is a success, it will become so. These pundits just have to keep hammering the point home, and history will come around.

Keep shoveling that manure, Bill. There has to be a pony in there somewhere.

Wow – you all are a lot harsher on Mr. Kristol than I was. I truly think it’s one of the better Bush defense screeds out there, though I utterly disagree with its conclusions, and find many of its assertions specious.

But his main point, that if there any possibility of future success in Iraq, and if a Republican wins in 2008–I still think his main assertion might be correct: Bush=winner.

It all hinges on whether the situation in Iraq is recoverable in a way that saves face for the U.S. I have a very hard time believing that is a likely outcome, but it’s also not impossible, is it?

Anyway, I certainly am on the side of hoping and thinking it likely that Bush will be regarded in the future as a failure.

Again, I’m going to flat out say that you don’t know, I don’t know, and we’re both too close to the question to tell how history will judge. We may each have our opinions, but they are speculation on both sides.

Here’s a cite for the aforementioned Gallup Poll. And lookee here - at the same points of their presidencies, Bush and Truman have exactly the same approval rating.

Now, were you alive in 1951, would you have been among the majority of Americans who griped and groaned at the administration and the war that wasn’t going well, or would you have defended Truman in conversation?

In 1993, of course, a fine and sympathetic biography of Truman by David McCollough was a runaway bestseller. What kinds of books will be written about George Bush in 2049? What tone will they take? How will they sell?

Truman’s controversial policies were things like NATO, the CIA, the Marshall Plan, recognizing Israel, de-segregating the military, not having a war with the Soviet Union, not having a war with China, downplaying McCarthyism, and enforcing civilian control over the military - basically plans where there was an initial short-term debit in return for a long-term benefit. So Truman’s reputation grew as people began to see the benefits of his actions over the years.

I predict Bush’s legacy will be the opposite. He’s generally followed the path of least resistance - going for short-term benefits without consideration of the long-term debits. In some cases, like Iraq, we’re already seeing the problems while he’s still in office. In other cases, like civil liberties and science, we’ll be seeing more and more of the consequences of Bush’s bad decisions in the years following his administration.

I predict that Bush’s reputation is still at a relative high - its real nadir will be ten years from now when people look back at his administration.


For some reason, I envisioned the captain of the Titanic, turning to his second in command as they hear the shrieking of metal on ice, and saying, “We’re just too close to this. We have no idea how this will turn out in the end.”

Sometimes, it takes willful blindness to not see what is going to happen.