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Question for liberals: in retrospect, what do you think of George W Bush? (1 Viewer)

timschochet

Footballguy
So last night I was watching an episode of a TV drama from 2003, and Gloria Steinem, playing herself, gave a speech attacking George W Bush as a terrible President and a terrible human being, to great applause from a liberal audience. And I remembered that attitude. I remember an op-Ed piece by a prominent progressive writer in the LA Times that compared Bush to Hitler and asked whether or not armed resistance might become necessary. 

I was not a fan of Bush’s presidency. I opposed the Iraq War (though uncertain at first.) I blamed him for Katrina (I’ve come to believe over time I was unfair about this.) I detested his anti-gay, anti-science positions. On the other hand, I never saw him as dangerous to the republic the way I view our current President. And I have since reconsidered some things. Bush did more to fight AIDS in Africa than any President before or since. In terms of his treatment of migrants, refugees, and undocumented immigrants, he was far more humane than either Obama or Trump. And I believe now that George W Bush was a good,  well meaning person who honestly tried to do his best for the nation. 

So while this thread is open to everyone my question is for liberals and progressives: is it time to reassess George W Bush? 11 years after the end of his Presidency, how do you view it now? 

 
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timschochet

Footballguy
Still a terrible President, just looks like Thomas Jefferson when compared to Trump.

How many lives were lost in Iraq? 100,00?

How many trillions were spent?
You contradict yourself here. 

If unnecessary war is the worst crime that a leader may commit (and that’s not a statement I’m prepared to argue with) then Bush can’t be Thomas Jefferson compared to Trump. Bush would have to be far worse than Trump, right? 

 

Henry Ford

Footballguy
You contradict yourself here. 

If unnecessary war is the worst crime that a leader may commit (and that’s not a statement I’m prepared to argue with) then Bush can’t be Thomas Jefferson compared to Trump. Bush would have to be far worse than Trump, right? 
Where did he say that?

 

Hawkeye21

Footballguy
I didn't think he was a good President and I didn't think he was very smart.  The man was a terrible speaker and did not sound very intelligent.  As a person he seemed like a good guy.  I saw some behind the scenes stuff of him on 9/11 and gained some respect for him for how he handled that day.  He doesn't seem like a scumbag like Trump is.

 

Murph

Footballguy
The invasion of Iraq is the single worst decision any president has made in my lifetime. Combine that with unlawful detention, torture, warrantless surveillance, an economic meltdown, and probably a bunch of stuff I'm forgetting he's easily in the bottom 5  for worst president ever. He makes Trump look good by comparison.

 
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AAABatteries

Footballguy
Bush seems like a decent guy who listened to his advisors who gave very bad and (probably) illegal advice.  Trump seems like a horrible human being who doesn't listen to his advisors and comes up with the very bad and (probably) illegal ideas all on his own.*

*probably listens to Miller

 
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TobiasFunke

Footballguy
Useful idiot. But he bought off in some really draconian policies. 
That's what I think too.

His two arguably ugliest sins were the brainchild of others.  Iraq War was Cheney, of course.  And his 2004 reelection campaign revolving around opposition to gay marriage was Rove- Bush knew enough to mostly avoid public statements during the campaign but Rove coordinated a massive effort to gay marriage on 2004 ballots in swing states to draw out bigoted conservatives.

To this day it amazes me that anyone ever voted Republican again after the Iraq War and the 07-08 financial crisis, which wasn't caused by Bush but was a product of lightly regulated market forces, not to mention the whole anti-gay rights thing which looks abhorrent a decade later. The financial crisis should have been the death knell for the GOP's version of invisible hand capitalism, and I guess maybe it kind of was given the direction the party has taken in recent years. But it's also kind of amazing that people voted Republican after Iran-Contra and I actually did it a couple times myself, so :shrug:

 

The General

Footballguy
Well, he really wasn't elected the first time so kind of off to an unfortunate start.

I hate what he did after 9/11. All the "you are either with us or against us" bull.

Before that he was just lining up to be a typical Republican.

 

Skoo

Footballguy
Because you can’t say Bush is far better than Trump but then charge him with a crime far worse than Trump. That doesn’t add up. 
Bush looks like Thomas Jefferson as far as not being a complete disgrace to the office and the country on a daily basis. He was an idiot too, Trump is just THAT much dumber.

Doesn't mean GWB wasn't a terrible President. They're both terrible, for different reasons.

 
So last night I was watching an episode of a TV drama from 2003, and Gloria Steinem, playing herself, gave a speech attacking George W Bush as a terrible President and a terrible human being, to great applause from a liberal audience. And I remembered that attitude. I remember an op-Ed piece by a prominent progressive writer in the LA Times that compared Bush to Hitler and asked whether or not armed resistance might become necessary. 

I was not a fan of Bush’s presidency. I opposed the Iraq War (though uncertain at first.) I blamed him for Katrina (I’ve come to believe over time I was unfair about this.) I detested his anti-gay, anti-science positions. On the other hand, I never saw him as dangerous to the republic the way I view our current President. And I have since reconsidered some things. Bush did more to fight AIDS in Africa than any President before or since. In terms of his treatment of migrants, refugees, and undocumented immigrants, he was far more humane than either Obama or Trump. And I believe now that George W Bush was a good,  well meaning person who honestly tried to do his best for the nation. 

So while this thread is open to everyone my question is for liberals and progressives: is it time to reassess George W Bush? 11 years after the end of his Presidency, how do you view it now? 
The Republican Jimmy Carter, a good man but a bad President.  My analogy is to character, not intelligence.  There would be no analogy on that metric.

 

zftcg

Footballguy
First of all, it is axiomatic in our politics that we look back at previous presidents we opposed and soften our views, particularly in comparison to the current one. It was during W's administration that we started hearing the "Reagan couldn't get elected in today's GOP" takes, and under Obama the right suddenly found lots of things they liked about Clinton (at least until his wife started running). I guarantee you that in a few years (hopefully two), the right will discover Obama's virtues relative to that dastardly President Harris. (In fact, it scares the hell out of me to realize that 15 years from now, I may be saying, "Compared to President Ted Nugent, Trump wasn't actually that bad.") So with all of those biases in mind, I will try to give you my honest assessment of Bush.

On a personal level is probably where I've softened the most. Fifteen years ago I would have told you he was an SOB based on things like how he treated McCain in 2000 and just his overall demeanor of a spoiled rich kid who, to borrow a phrase Jim Hightower used to describe Bush Sr., "was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." A couple things have caused me to revise that assessment. One, it's become clear that he had a deep respect for the institution of the presidency. Two, whatever his policy choices after 9/11, his refusal to demonize Muslims was praiseworthy (though again, that's probably the kind of thing that stands out more in comparison to Trump). Finally, his behavior since leaving the White House has been exemplary. In that respect, I would compare him favorably to Bill Clinton and (especially) Jimmy Carter, who has done a tremendous amount of good in terms of charity but also seems at times like he resents whoever is currently in the White House and still thinks he could do a better job.

In terms of policy, I'll start with the good things: A decade ago I used to have a group of friends that I'd get breakfast with every couple weeks and talk politics. For our breakfast on the day of Obama's inauguration, the ground rules were that even though we were all liberal Democrats, we had to find nice things to say about Bush. The main things we came up with were PEPFAR, which really did do a lot of good in Africa, and more generally, Bush's tacit recognition during his second term that he had screwed up a lot foreign-policy wise and needed to dial things back a little: Condi as SoS, sidelining Cheney and Rumsfeld, etc. For a guy who was generally thought of as too stubborn to admit his mistakes, he deserves some credit for that recalibration. As for the surge in Iraq, I opposed it at the time, and I think a good chunk of its success was attributable to the "Sunni Awakening" already underway that led to more mainstream Sunni groups turning on al-Qaeda in Iraq, but overall the situation did improve there in 2007-08, so I give him some credit.

But of course the decision to go into Iraq in the first place was a monumental strategic error, one of the greatest in American history, and ultimately contributed to the Syrian civil war and ISIS, the refugee crisis, etc. It's hard to overlook that just because he did an OK job minimizing some of its failures a few years later. And yeah, maybe he got manipulated by Cheney in that respect, but of course he was the one who picked Cheney, so that's on him as well.

Economically speaking, the tax cuts were a horrible idea that turned a deficit into a surplus without delivering much of the promised economic benefits, the prescription-drug benefit was a massive giveaway to Big Pharma, and while he didn't directly cause the real-estate meltdown, it was a consequence of years of right-wing ideology. (One more thing I give him credit for: after initially appointing a couple of weak hacks as his first two Treasury Secretaries, he came to the belated realization that he needed a smart guy in that role, and basically gave Hank Paulsen the keys to the castle. Even better, Bush was smart enough to get out of Paulsen's way during the financial crisis. I don't agree with everything Paulsen did, but we were on the knife's edge and things could have gotten much worse than they did. The thought of Larry Kudlow and Steven Mnuchin muddling their way through a similar crisis under Trump gives me the heebie-jeebies.) And oh yeah, let's not forget Katrina. The hurricane itself obviously wasn't his fault, but he completely botched the response, mostly because he had an unqualified hack as head of FEMA.

Overall, presidencies are generally judged by whether they delivered peace and prosperity, and Bush did neither. So I don't see how you can describe his presidency as anything other than a failure. But on a visceral level, I'm not nearly as mad about it now as I was at the time.

 

Ilov80s

Footballguy
Oddly contradiction if we are comparing him to Trump. Bush was a better human being and more dignified. He had greater respect for our country and was much more intelligent and compassionate. However, Iraq was such an unmitigated disaster, many of key mechanisms of the economy were left unsupervised and civil liberties were stepped on to the point where I think Trump may actually be a less harmful President.

 

huthut

Footballguy
I think Trump is a worse president, but W was worse as president. Granted, he had 8 years to transfer money from the poor and middle class to the rich, while Trump has just had 3, but also spending trillions + lives lost in unnecessary wars has to rank up there pretty highly. Trump is also not competent enough to be as bad as W because his rotting brain jumps from topic to topic too frequently to actually get his terrible agenda done in an efficient manner. 

 

zftcg

Footballguy
Oddly contradiction if we are comparing him to Trump. Bush was a better human being and more dignified. He had greater respect for our country and was much more intelligent and compassionate. However, Iraq was such an unmitigated disaster, many of key mechanisms of the economy were left unsupervised and civil liberties were stepped on to the point where I think Trump may actually be a less harmful President.
Give him time ... actually, wait, don't give him any more time!

Seriously, you know there are already a ton of ticking time bombs that will inevitably go off in a second Trump term, if not sooner. Check out Michael Lewis' The Fifth Risk for an idea of what some of them might be.

Both Trump and the country have been very lucky that there have been no major external crises on par with 9/11, the subprime meltdown, or the Ebola outbreak since he took office. I have very little confidence that luck can hold much longer.

 

Dinsy Ejotuz

Footballguy
The thought of Larry Kudlow and Steven Mnuchin muddling their way through a similar crisis under Trump gives me the heebie-jeebies.
The fact that Trump has gone two+ years without facing an urgent matter that exposes his Administration's decision making in real time is incredible.

 

Henry Ford

Footballguy
Because you can’t say Bush is far better than Trump but then charge him with a crime far worse than Trump. That doesn’t add up. 
1. When did he say Bush committed a worse crime than Trump?  You said that.

2. That's not a logical conclusion. No single action defines the entirety of a life, or a Presidency.  Even Nixon isn't defined by Watergate.

 

Henry Ford

Footballguy
His response to 9/11 changed this country forever.  

I don’t think anything Trump has done will ever come close.  
Plus he pushed for (and got) prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients.  We can debate the fiscal responsibility of that, but there's no doubt it made a massive difference to a lot of people who really needed it.

 

Ilov80s

Footballguy
Give him time ... actually, wait, don't give him any more time!

Seriously, you know there are already a ton of ticking time bombs that will inevitably go off in a second Trump term, if not sooner. Check out Michael Lewis' The Fifth Risk for an idea of what some of them might be.

Both Trump and the country have been very lucky that there have been no major external crises on par with 9/11, the subprime meltdown, or the Ebola outbreak since he took office. I have very little confidence that luck can hold much longer.
Maybe but I can't predict the future, only judge based on what has happened. 

 

Ilov80s

Footballguy
Bush laid the #### table that Obama was supposed to fix. Obama was underwhelming. Now we have trump...
Obama was fine. The economy recovered, regulations were put in place to prevent a repeat. He got OBL. He had his failures as well but given all the Presidents of my lifetime, he was fine. 

 

Scoresman

Footballguy
Still dont like Bush as a President but he's my favorite ex-President by far.  I think it'd be fun to hang out with him, drinking beer, painting some portraits maybe take in baseball game.  

 

zftcg

Footballguy
Plus he pushed for (and got) prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients.  We can debate the fiscal responsibility of that, but there's no doubt it made a massive difference to a lot of people who really needed it.
He also signed McCain-Feingold, though it was later gutted by the Supreme Court. Both of those were cases of him bowing to political reality and signing laws pursuing liberal ends (even if, in the case of prescription drugs, they used conservative means). It's hard to imagine any bills like that passing today.

 

Ilov80s

Footballguy
I voted for Bush as well. I am certainly more liberal than I was then but I still mostly believe the core of what Bush ran on. His Presidency just was thrown totally off the rails by 9/11 and he handled it very poorly. 

 

zftcg

Footballguy
Still dont like Bush as a President but he's my favorite ex-President by far.  I think it'd be fun to hang out with him, drinking beer, painting some portraits maybe take in baseball game.  
He's a recovering (non-) alcoholic.

In terms of hanging out with ex-presidents, it's Clinton in a landslide. He's smart and also knows how to have fun. Obama would be interesting but also probably intimidating as hell.

I'll say one other good thing about Bush that I believed even at the time: I think he's a good dad. I remember his daughters were like 18 when he got elected, and there were a couple of incidents of them doing dumb kid stuff like getting caught with a fake ID. In general, I believe politicians' kids shouldn't get dragged into the spotlight, but I also felt the twins were mostly bringing this on themselves. Anyway, George and Laura handled it perfectly: the message was simultaneously "Leave our kids alone" and "We'll take care of this and there won't be any more problems." And as far as I know, there weren't.

 

The General

Footballguy
The painting stuff is interesting. Trump is such a galactic ### that any past president seems so much better. 

The Swift Boat, Gay Marriage wedge issues were really sleazy. He always struck me as an elitist, frat boy dope so I never got the wanting to have a beer with him vibe.

I don’t remember any of his issues he was really standing for except lowering taxes for the rich. I’m sure he had some.

 

whoknew

Footballguy
He's a recovering (non-) alcoholic.

In terms of hanging out with ex-presidents, it's Clinton in a landslide. He's smart and also knows how to have fun. Obama would be interesting but also probably intimidating as hell.

I'll say one other good thing about Bush that I believed even at the time: I think he's a good dad. I remember his daughters were like 18 when he got elected, and there were a couple of incidents of them doing dumb kid stuff like getting caught with a fake ID. In general, I believe politicians' kids shouldn't get dragged into the spotlight, but I also felt the twins were mostly bringing this on themselves. Anyway, George and Laura handled it perfectly: the message was simultaneously "Leave our kids alone" and "We'll take care of this and there won't be any more problems." And as far as I know, there weren't.


I disagree with this. Clinton seems like a really bad guy. The kind of guy who would grope a waitress or corner some girl at the bar and make her really uncomfortable and maybe assault her a little and then have a rich friend pay the girl off.

 

ren hoek

Footballguy
Plus he pushed for (and got) prescription drug coverage for Medicare recipients.  We can debate the fiscal responsibility of that, but there's no doubt it made a massive difference to a lot of people who really needed it.
I meant it in a bad way, Henry.  His response to 9/11- lying us into endless wars of terror, an expansive police state, mass surveillance, dismantling the Bill of Rights, taking advantage of a national tragedy to sell this country down the river to his PNAC neocon friends- changed this country forever.  It wasn’t an ‘accident,’ or an ‘honest mistake’- it was a deliberate crime against humanity. 

Nothing Trump has done will ever come close in my view.  

 

Amused to Death

Footballguy
Three "worsts" in US history happened under his administration:

  • The worst financial collapse since '29
  • The worst terrorist attack on US soil
  • The worst foreign policy decision
 
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wikkidpissah

Footballguy
The man who ruined America, the man who fronted for the ruining of America, whatever. The current POTUS is a fly on his lapel, damagewise.

 

kface

Footballguy
I think he wasn't a smart man. I think he was born into privilege and fell into the job

He did what he thought was right or what his advisers told him was right.  

Unlike Trump though i think inherently he's a good man

 

zftcg

Footballguy
Hitler happened on FDR's watch.  
I actually think there's an interesting parallel between Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Both represented a pretty major failure of intelligence that the president deserved maybe not blame but at least responsibility for, but as the country rallied around the flag and went to war, there was a tendency to swing too far in other direction and absolve him completely. The thing that always bugged me about Bush was that his supporters wanted him to receive all of the credit for what came after and none of the responsibility for it happening in the first place (this reached its reductio ad absurdium in 2016 when Rudy Giuliani(!) claimed, “Before Obama came along, we didn’t have any successful radical Islamic terrorist attacks inside the United States.”

So while I definitely don't blame Bush for 9/11, I do think he never properly faced accountability for it happening during his presidency.

 

sho nuff

Footballguy
W as a former President has been great for sure.  The stuff he does for veterans and his art and his relationship with Obama was interesting to see.

As president....made some monumentally bad decisions and was swayed by some very manipulative people he surrounded himself with.  And even despite that, I think he was trying to do good. It wasn’t about enriching himself or being all about himself. 

 

NCCommish

Footballguy
No need to reassess just because Trump knocked the bar to the ground. His admin lied us into a war that killed and wounded 1000s of US military members. Cost us a couple of trillion dollars. Didn't actually get Bin Laden. His domestic policies helped lead us to the brink of another Great Depression. He was a bumbler and not very intellectually curious. So yeah he still sucks.

 

Sabertooth

Footballguy
killface said:
I think he wasn't a smart man. I think he was born into privilege and fell into the job

He did what he thought was right or what his advisers told him was right.  

Unlike Trump though i think inherently he's a good man
18 years of war.  I don’t think a good man does that.  How many thousand people killed?  

 

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