For those who haven’t heard, members of President Bush’s inner sanctum (Karen Hughes, Karl Rove, etc.) have been charged with putting together the Bush Legacy Project — a pack of exaggerations and euphemisms to describe his deplorable tenure in office.
The “legacy” seems largely built upon the notion that George W. Bush maintained a level of decorum and dignity while President, in contrast to his immediate predecessor. So — Bush managed to get by without having sex with a White House intern. We should applaud his honor and dignity.
The fact that he oversaw the illegal expansion of Executive Power and sanctioned warrantless wiretapping and torture — to name just a few of his transgressions — should not be considered when measuring decorum.
Bush’s success at keeping the American people safe in the seven years since September 11, 2001 is also at the top of the legacy project’s list. But, as many bloggers (including Steve Benen and Matt Yglesias) have discussed, what matters is that Bush’s team absolutely failed to protect the American people BEFORE 9/11. Benen:
First, this is plainly false. In the fall of 2001, someone (presumably scientist Bruce Ivins) launched an anthrax attack on the country using the U.S. postal system. Five people were killed, 17 were injured, and millions had the bejesus scared out of them. Why so many like to pretend this didn’t happen is a mystery to me.
Second, Gillespie focuses on “our homeland,” but it’s worth noting that U.S. troops have been subjected to terrorist attacks overseas, as have our allies.
And third, this notion that evaluating Bush’s legacy on counter-terrorism should start on Sept. 12, 2001, is just odd. Gillespie and others seem to be arguing, “Just so long as one overlooks the terrorism that killed 3,000 people in 2001, Bush’s record on domestic security is excellent.”
He goes on to quote Yglesias, who deserves repeating here:
The vast majority of Americans to have ever been killed by foreign terrorists were killed under George W. Bush’s watch. As Gillespie says, whether or not a president succeeds in preventing foreign terrorists from murdering thousands of American citizens is an important part of that president’s record. And Bush took office on January 20, 2001. Nine or so months later by far the largest terrorist attack on American soil was perpetrated. That’s a fantastically enormous failing. If you only look at Bush’s final seven years, you’ll see that he was as good as every other president at preventing terrorist attacks. And if you include his entire presidency, you’ll see that he was by far the worst.
History is a funny thing. We really have no way of knowing how the future will judge George W. Bush — if we allow such nonsense to saturate the airwaves, his legacy will be definied this way, at least for a certain segment of the population that wants to believe it.
We’ve discussed lately how history will judge this administration — I’m tempted to believe Bush will be remembered as a dunce, whose intellectual failings were exploited by wilier, Machiavellian men (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz).
Cheney himself, in an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, said September 11th was the high point of the past 8 years — it was a moment that allowed Cheney to vest so much power in his office, to accomplish goals the neocons had long hoped for, and to completely fool Bush into believing such goals were worthy.
Do I think Bush should be absolved of all blame? Certainly not. If he had woken up at some point he had the power to stop the power mongering — as he did when he fired Rumsfeld after the 2006 midterm elections, without telling Cheney, and authorized his diplomats to persue anew a realist foreign policy — history might have been different.
Only time will tell, I suppose.