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George Bush's Legacy

 
 
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 07:13 am
George Bush shrugs off his significant unpopularity by a belief that history will judge the Bush Legacy more generously. So how will history judge the Legacy of George W Bush?

There's the obvious in presiding over the response to 9/11 and his invasion of Iraq. I think that's going to be judged by history the same way it's judged now so what I'm most curious about is whether his Reaganesque "starve the beast" economic policy will strategy work.

Starving the beast is a strategy in which the central economic policy is dictated by tax cuts. Proponents of conservative fiscal policy advocate reductions in government (the "beast") social spending and fight those who prefer bigger government but Reagan showed that you can try to circumvent the debate by reducing taxes and increasing non-social (e.g. military) spending.

Bush took this page from the Reagan playbook and ran with it like no president has ever done. He cut taxes and increased spending on tomorrow's dime in record fashion.

Will his legacy be a fiscal policy coup for conservatives? My take is no, it will just add to national debt like US fiscal irresponsibility always does until such time as it is no longer sustainable. And that particular disaster, when it comes (and I don't think I'll see it), is not going to be Bush's legacy but America's.
 
djjd62
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 07:30 am
i'm no fan of reagan, but bush is kind of the anti-reagan

reagan came to power in the midst of a recession and in his 8 years helped start the economic growth of the 90's and helped effectively end the cold war

bush has squandered the economic boom of the 90's and helped launch what might be the next world war
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 08:57 am
I dissent from our Canadian friend in that Ray-gun deserves no credit for "winning the cold war." The Soviet Union had already invaded Afghanistan, and had already increased its military presence in eastern Europe and in particular in the Baltic states before Ray-gun ever took office. The expensive military hardware development programs which, along with these military deployments, helped to sink the barque of the Soviet economy (already a leaky and unseaworthy vessel) were begun well in advance of the Ray-gun ear. The T-72 tank began production and the end phase in development in 1971, and was "on-line" as the main battle tank by 1973, eight years before Ray-gun took office. There was no significant modification to the T-72 unitl the T-90 in 1993, well after Ray-gun took office, and a post-Soviet era design which dismally faliled to keep up with western technological development. The MiG-29 "Fulcrum" fighter, designed as an air-superiority fighter, although it did not enter service until 1983, was in development from the early 1970s, as well. Sukhoi began development of the Su25 close air support fighter in the mid-1970s, and it was introduced in 1981, the year Ray-gun took office. The Su25 saw the most extensive use of any aircraft in Afghanistan, given the nature of the combat there.

All of these military developments were a part of the "swan song," if you will, of Leonid Brezhnev, and were begun without reference to Ray-gun. That Ray-gun (or, alternatively, Pappy Bush) "won" the cold war has entered the popular imagination as historical myth mascarading as historical reality. It will be as likely to remain the popular belief as is the notion that Lincoln began the American Civil War, or that FDR knew about the attack planned on Pearl Harbor, but allowed it to happen to suit his policy.

The economic mess which the Shrub is leaving behind will not likely, in my never humble opinion, be much of a factor in determining his "historical legacy." These types of messes are sorted out rather more quickly than the military fiascos for which he was responsible. Especially if McCain is elected in November, the "neo-con" foreign policy legacy, with its emphasis on American military presence in the places of strategic interest to American capitalists will be what history chiefly remembers the Shrub for--and the more so as globilization begins to dominate the foreign policy decisions of the G8, as well as having such a profound effect on local economic realities.

The Shrub screwed the pooch in Afghanistan by basically bailing out of there after some show business efforts (largely meaningless) in Waziristan, because he was so eager to go after Iraq. Even then, he created much of the mess his successor will inherit in Iraq because of the attempt to do that invasion tourist class. It is bad enough to have an ill-justified militarist foreign policy without coupling that with a witless desire to accomplish so much on the cheap. Even if McCain does not win the White House, it's going to be damned difficult to get out of Iraq gracefully, and we will still be faced with two major prolems in Afghanistan. The first is that the Taliban are resurgent, despite what Brit and American propaganda may say--enough so that the Afghans themselves in places like Helmand province no longer wish to be seen to cooperative with NATO forces, because those forces cannot guarantee their security. The second problem is that the Shrub and Rummy, so eager to get going in Iraq, basically saw to it that the same old dirty war lords whom the Taliban has run out of power in the mid-90s, the one thing about the Taliban which the Afghan people really appreciated, were put right back into power, on the tired, old and discredited principle that what "these people" need and want is strong leadership. That has, more than any other factor, discredited the Karzai government with the people of Afghanistan. There is also the peripheral issue that we support people such as Musharraf in Pakistan in pursuance of the "neo-con" foreign agenda, and the problem that conservatives in the United States who don't give much thought to these matters, or study the nations with whom we deal have been prepared to treat this administration's propaganda as gosel.

I believe that the Shrub will be remembered, and disparaged, historically for the results of what passed for foreign policy at his house.
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hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 09:22 am
I Think Bush will go down as the product of a nations failed political process, as what happens when the people refuse to conduct their duties as citizens responsibly and when corruption in Washington reaches the tipping point. Bush is the leader we deserved, a product of our times, yet another warning to the nation that something is deeply wrong with American society.

That so many make this as being about Bush, who think that when we get a new leader all will be fine, is proof that we don't get it. It is not yet morning in America, we are almost all still asleep. God, help our kids.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  3  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 02:45 pm
Too early to say, and how Iraq turns out in the next ten years or so will figure most prominently in the formulation of his legacy.

I agree that his legacy will have virtually no economic component. Hyperbole notwithstanding, he will not be leaving an economy in a state of depression, nor, arguably, even recession. His tax cuts and excessive spending were hardly something new and transformative.

If Woodrow Wilson has managed to avoid a legacy of The American Tyrant, it's hard to imagine how Bush might irrespective of all the caterwauling about constitutional assualts we've heard during his tenure.

9-11 clearly was a transformative event in American history, and it is likely to maintain a position of significance in the historical consideration of our country going forward. Since Bush was the president on 9-11 he will probably be assured a place in history becuase of it. My sense is that his connection to the event will be seen in a positive light, not least of all because there has not been another event during his presidency.

Beyond this, his legacy will be tied to Iraq, without much of a downside. Iraq is not Vietnam, and what American president's legacy has been dominated by Vietnam? LBJ perhaps, but less and less so over time.

If a free and democratic Iraq leads to a transformation of the region, Bush will get a big share of the credit. If it doesn't, it's not going to wipe out his 9-11 credentials.

Iraq could, possibly, launch him to historical greatness, but if it doesn't he won't be much more than a fondly remembered footnote thanks to 9-11.
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 05:03 pm
Hawkeye and setanta have pretty much nailed it.
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Green Witch
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 05:14 pm
Finn, do you also believe in unicorns?
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Bi-Polar Bear
 
  0  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 06:06 pm
I believe he'll go down in history as a immature self centered scumbag who presided over an incredibly corrupt government and left a huge debt for future generations. A man who wounded, perhaps fatally, our standing in the world as a global power and on a personal note a deeply flawed, immature borderline sociopath with no intellectual curiosity, and an alcoholic personality.

I wish he would go down in history as the only president ever executed for crimes against humanity... but of course he will die rich and comfortable in his bed.
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Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 06:11 pm
The Village Idiot
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shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Sun 8 Jun, 2008 06:16 pm
hawkeye10 wrote:
I Think Bush will go down as the product of a nations failed political process, as what happens when the people refuse to conduct their duties as citizens responsibly and when corruption in Washington reaches the tipping point. Bush is the leader we deserved, a product of our times, yet another warning to the nation that something is deeply wrong with American society.

That so many make this as being about Bush, who think that when we get a new leader all will be fine, is proof that we don't get it. It is not yet morning in America, we are almost all still asleep. God, help our kids.


^ That was so good.. I had to see it again .
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joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 06:02 am
Re: George Bush's Legacy
Robert Gentel wrote:
There's the obvious in presiding over the response to 9/11 and his invasion of Iraq. I think that's going to be judged by history the same way it's judged now ...

Maybe, but then again maybe not. At the end of his presidency, Harry Truman had lower approval ratings than even GWB. Like Bush, people disliked Truman because of a shaky economy and an unpopular war, yet Truman's reputation has recovered quite nicely. Of course, it helped that Truman's policy of containment proved to be the correct course for the Cold War, but that wasn't obvious at the time and it only paid off about forty years after Truman left office. Furthermore, Truman's reputation was significantly enhanced by the 1975 one-man show Give 'Em Hell, Harry!, starring James Whitmore. I'm not sure if GWB is a suitable subject for a one-man show, though -- after all, who would play Cheney?

If a President McCain keeps American troops in Iraq, and if, by some miracle, Iraq is transformed in the next four years into a peaceful, functioning democracy, then I think historians will have to reevaluate Bush's entire presidency. William McKinley's decision to take over the Philippines as a colony certainly looked better after the US carried through on its promises to give the islands their independence, even though that event took place more than four decades after McKinley's assassination. Hell, McKinley even ended up on the $500 bill:

http://www.moneyfactory.gov/uploads/500_green_face.jpg

So we may have something like this to look forward to:

http://prosites-lottofun9.homestead.com/files/gb200frnt.jpg
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cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 06:19 am
If Obama is elected, in four years, Bush will be given sainthood.

Of course, the upcoming civil war may have something to do with it...
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 06:21 am
Rockhead wrote:
The Village Idiot


Saw a great bumper sticker a few years back:

"Somewhere in Texas, a village is missing its idiot."
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 06:25 am
I think Joe's evaluation suffers from an assumption that the Filipinos were automatically better off having been granted their independence. I don't think life got truly better until Marcos was gone, which was three generations after the invasion, and it ain't so great now--just not as bad as it once was.

McKinley benefits from the historical ignorance of Americans. That being said, i think McKinley was basically a decent man with decent instincts, but no more perception than was common among white, middle class men of his day, and i don't think he was particularly bright.
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cjhsa
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 06:26 am
Setanta wrote:
... i think McKinley was basically a decent man with decent instincts, but no more perception than was common among white, middle class men of his day, and i don't think he was particularly bright.


Negro, please....
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 07:48 am
Setanta wrote:
I think Joe's evaluation suffers from an assumption that the Filipinos were automatically better off having been granted their independence.

No, that's not my assumption at all. Indeed, I'm sure that, in certain respects, the average Filipino was worse off after independence. My point, though, is that McKinley's reputation was enhanced when America followed through on its promise to grant the Philippines its independence -- a rather noteworthy achievement when compared with the records of other colonial powers.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 9 Jun, 2008 08:05 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Setanta wrote:
I think Joe's evaluation suffers from an assumption that the Filipinos were automatically better off having been granted their independence.

No, that's not my assumption at all. Indeed, I'm sure that, in certain respects, the average Filipino was worse off after independence. My point, though, is that McKinley's reputation was enhanced when America followed through on its promise to grant the Philippines its independence -- a rather noteworthy achievement when compared with the records of other colonial powers.


I understood you to be saying that, and as regards McKinley's reputation (if that were even an issue in 1938), is a sound statement, insofar as the American public are concerned, and to whom i have already referred as being historically ignorant. McKinley, himself, however, was dead within three years of the invasion, and being replaced by Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., was very likely soon forgotten. People who do remember, and who are not historically ignorant, however, were not likely to have felt any greater admiration for McKinley because of events over which he had no control.

I wouldn't care to say if Filipinos were worse off after independence, although i think you might be right. McArthur is alleged to have said that if he were a Huk, he'd be a rebel, too (the Huks being the Hukbalahaps, who continued to fight for equitable land distribution right up until the 1960s; source for this remark is Manchester, The American Caesar).

The question is what Bush's historical legacy will be. That can be seen on at least two levels. The first would be in the popular imagination. I suspect that whatever popularity he actually enjoys now will wane, much as Reagan's did after he was long gone from office. The other level will be that of those who are well-informed, or who attempt to inform themselves well. At that level, i doubt very much that McKinley's reputation was enhanced by Filipino independence, and i rather doubt that Bush's reputation would be enhanced, or his foreign policy vindicated if there is a quick resolution to the Iraqi mess.

I also will freely admit that my opinion is that any "resolution" to the Iraqi problem will probably be illusory, in that a truly democratic regime in Iraq will necessarily be Shi'a-dominated, and will therefore, if not sooner, at least in the long run, be a nightmare for the Sunni minority. If a Shi'a-dominated government were to seek to impose of the Kurds, they'd have a serious fight on their hands with well-armed and veteran fighters. At the same time, a Shi'a-dominated government would be obliged to deal with an increasingly bellicose Turkey because of the Kurds. Finally, a Shi'a-dominated Iraq would be the first state in the region after Iran with that complexion, and circumstance would probably drive them into the arms of the Persians, politically speaking. Their only other natural allies in the region would be Hezbollah, which alleges to speak for the Shi'ites of the Lebanon. The Muslims of the Lebanon are not a majority, but are the largest single confessional group along such vague lines, the majority of Muslims being Shi'ite, with those divided among the twelver and the sevener Shi'ites, the former being the largest Shi'ite group.

Regardless of how a possible McCain presidency might proceed, the future for Iraq will be complex and will be governed more by the relationship with Tehran than with Washington. Shrines such as the that to Ali in Najaf in Iraq put Iraq in the position in the Shi'ite world that Saudi Arabia occupies in the general Muslim world with the shrines in Mekka and Medina.

So, although you may be right with regard to a short-term, general attitude toward Bush on the part of those who are not terribly well-informed, i doubt that the same conditions apply to Bush's legacy over the long-term, or among those who are well-informed. None of that is to suggest that you are yourself poorly-informed. I make no comment on a subject about which i haven't much information.
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Finn dAbuzz
 
  2  
Reply Tue 10 Jun, 2008 11:18 am
Green Witch wrote:
Finn, do you also believe in unicorns?


We shall see won't we?

Any attempt to define a sitting president's legacy almost always fails due to temporal myopia.
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JTT
 
  1  
Reply Thu 12 Jun, 2008 09:33 pm
Finn dAbuzz wrote:
Green Witch wrote:
Finn, do you also believe in unicorns?


We shall see won't we?

Any attempt to define a sitting president's legacy almost always fails due to temporal myopia.


You must type totally by feel, Finn. Smile
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fishin
 
  1  
Reply Fri 13 Jun, 2008 06:10 am
Setanta wrote:
McKinley benefits from the historical ignorance of Americans.


That "historical ignorance" is pretty evident in many of the anti-Bush rants that are widely circulated too.

There has been a "survey" of a few hundred self-selected historians floating around claiming Bush is the "worst President ever!" but I suspect that when the dust settles and the wider body of historians set about writing the history books, that assesment will be significantly moderated. For one thing, both sides will have their opportunity to state their cases instead of only hearing from a self-selected group. Secondly, they'll be forced to review the records and prove their cases to their peers instead of offering anonymous opinions based on their current political beliefs.

Once the heavy publishing starts in earnest and those works are peer-reviewed many of the claims that Bush was the "First President ever to..." or the "Only President ever to..." will disappear.

I suspect his legacy will be largely built on the heated divide between left and right and Iraq more than anything else.

Bill Clinton's legacy is already turning out to be much less than his supporters claimed (and more than his detractors claimed...) it would be when he was leaving office. I suspect much of the same will happen with Bush.
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