Dubya Reconsidered

The Telegraph is known in the UK as a "right-wing" newspaper (though here in the US it would qualify as very much a centrist or even left-wing publication), and even then is not exactly known for being a cheerleader for George W. Bush. So it's interesting to see that even Dubya's British critics are beginning to reconsider his awfulness, especially in light of how bad Obarmy is by comparison:
He was certainly more socially liberal than some critics give him credit for. No Child Left Behind, whatever its faults and funding, was a centralised attempt to raise educational standards across the board. 
A new prescription drug benefit scheme may have been expensive (though Bush himself argues its cost has been exaggerated) but its aim was to make medicines more affordable for the elderly. 
Bush failed in his most ambitious social reform of immigration law, but he was defeated primarily by the Right of his party, not the Democrats. 
The Obama administration may blame Bush for the crippled economy it inherited, but it has for the most part been unable to rescind his tax cuts and indeed believes in extending them for all but the richest. For the time being, the tax argument has been won by conservatives. Liberals may have berated Bush for the security policies of his “war on terror”, but they have been continued and in some regards expanded by President Obama. 
Writing in the Washington Post recently, Jennifer Rubin argued that “Bush seems to be a more accomplished Republican figure in the Obama era”, while summarising his successes. 
Bush himself has told the Dallas Morning News, in an exclusive interview, that he still stands for the “compassionate conservatism” that he ran on in 2000. 
“I’m comfortable with what I did,” he said. “I’m comfortable with who I am.” 
On the debit side, the list remains heavy. His tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq produced budget deficits, which were compounded by a recession and economic stimulus spending. Bush inherited a $5.7 trillion debt, which became a $10.6 trillion debt, and bequeathed his successor an economy on the verge of collapse. 
Obama duly expanded health care and stimulus spending, endured a second recession, deepening the debt still further. 
As Factcheck.org points out, both presidents are to blame for taking the debt to record levels. Indeed in Washington they both occupy the broad middle ground, where most presidents find themselves.
I can't say that I think much of this admittedly mild effort at historical balance and revisionism. To me, the 43rd and 44th Presidents might as well be one and the same. The only thing that changed between the two administrations was the degree of awfulness, not the awfulness itself. George W. Bush was not, and is not, a conservative in any meaningful sense of the word. He is and has always been a progressive. His "compassionate conservatism" and his constant efforts to reach out to Hispanic voters were deliberate strategies designed to take into account the realities of this country's changing electorate, but were no less disastrous for that.

And yet, there are still certain things I admire about Dubya. As President, he was far more willing to work with the opposition than his successor (though that is not a Good Thing given that government in this country is essentially a choice between degrees of evil and stupid). I never got the sense that he was trying to fundamentally reshape this country. I always got the impression that he was, if nothing else, a good and decent man trying to do what he felt was right in an indecent time.

I do not excuse any of the mistakes he made, and they are legion. His insistence on foreign adventurism in Iraq was inexcusable. His attempts to bypass the Constitution are unforgivable. The fact that he signed the bloody PATRIOT Act into law, and allowed the many abominations it has since spawned to live, is enough to destroy his legacy. His health care bill for old people was just plain stupid. His insistence on centralising education through NCLB was another example of progressive stupidity that has made things unequivocally worse, not better.

Despite all of these things, his abuses of civil liberties were nowhere near as bad as Barack Obama's. His successor took Bush's three wars and turned them into five or six, and now this country is potentially looking at American involvement in Chechnya at a time when America simply cannot afford any further strain upon the public fisc. Obarmy basically tossed the Constitution into the shredder and has happily carried on since as the blithering idiot that he is; Bush, despite his public image as a bumbling buffoon, is actually very intelligent and extremely well read.

I believe that future generations will look back at Barack Obama and George W. Bush as basically one and the same, with the first simply representing a more extreme level of stupidity and danger than the second. But I believe that history will also be kinder to Dubya than it will be to Obarmy. President Jackass entered high office as a messianic figure, and completely failed to deliver the goods to his loony left-wing base. For that, at least, we should be profoundly grateful; if the current POTUS wasn't a lazy, mentally insipid, politically ham-fisted, incompetent fool, life would be unimaginably worse than it already is.


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