William Kristol crept onto the Op-Ed pages of the Washington Post on Sunday and did the Numa Numa Dance in his Fruit of the Looms for the benefit of the Beltway’s tastemakers and trendsetters:
I suppose I’ll merely expose myself to harmless ridicule if I make the following assertion: George W. Bush‘s presidency will probably be a successful one.
”Further, I suppose I’ll be subjected to a certain degree of incredulous snickering if I pull down my pants in front of the cheerleaders and assert that I am equipped with a thick, corrugated, tubetacular man-handle that sways gently from knee to knee like the pendulum of a grandfather clock.”
Let’s step back from the unnecessary mistakes and the self-inflicted wounds that have characterized the Bush administration.
“Sure, George-Bob wore a loose, filmy negligee when he was drivin’ the thresher, and then when we pried him and his leg outta there, he put on a 12-foot long Isadora Duncan scarf and started runnin’ the wood-chipper, but I don’t think it’s fair to bring that stuff up when we consider his qualifications to operate power machinery.”
Let’s look at the broad forest rather than the often unlovely trees. What do we see? First, no second terrorist attack on U.S. soil — not something we could have taken for granted.
Well, unless you count the weaponized anthrax that killed five Americans, hospitalized 17 others, caused the evacuation of Federal buildings and the virtual paralysis of the Postal Service. But that mostly affected journalists, Democrats, and civil servants so it doesn’t really count.
Second, a strong economy — also something that wasn’t inevitable.
Unless you were a major contributor to the Bush campaign or the Republican party, then you were pretty much guaranteed the chance to go on a madcap, My Man Godfrey-like scavanger hunt through the U.S. treasury. And for the record, Bill, while the words “Bush Boom” may go down in history, I doubt it’ll be as a synonym for increased disposable income.
And third, and most important, a war in Iraq that has been very difficult, but where — despite some confusion engendered by an almost meaningless “benchmark” report last week — we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome.
And how do we measure success? Well, not by the benchmarks the president agreed to use as a metric, because neither we nor the Iraqis met any of those benchmarks, or even made any progress at all, and it’s impossible to measure nothing! So HA! Get yourself out of that logical cleft-stick, defeatocrats!
The economy first: After the bursting of the dot-com bubble, followed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we’ve had more than five years of steady growth, low unemployment and a stock market recovery. Did this just happen? No. Bush pushed through the tax cuts of 2001 and especially 2003 by arguing that they would produce growth. His opponents predicted dire consequences. But the president was overwhelmingly right. Even the budget deficit, the most universally criticized consequence of the tax cuts, is coming down and is lower than it was when the 2003 supply-side tax cuts were passed.
“Also, advanced kerning analysis has proved that the Cottingley Fairies were real!”
Elsie and Frances were proved overwhelmingly right.
Bush has also (on the whole) resisted domestic protectionist pressures (remember the Democratic presidential candidates in 2004 complaining about outsourcing?)“Remember when we actually thought that shipping jobs overseas might actually be a bad thing? Before we realized how helpful it was at fighting wage growth and efforts to unionize? Kinda makes you giggle now. It’s like when our dads all thought flouridation of the water would lead to widespread erectile dysfunction and communism in their children. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a communist.”
Meanwhile, 2005-06 saw the confirmation of two Supreme Court nominees, John G. Roberts Jr. and Samuel A. Alito Jr. Your judgment of these two appointments will depend on your general view of the courts and the Constitution. But even if you’re a judicial progressive, you have to admit that Roberts and Alito are impressive judges (well, you don’t have to admit it — but deep down, you know it).“Your lips say no, but your eyes say yes.”
What about terrorism? Apart from Iraq, there has been less of it, here and abroad, than many experts predicted on Sept. 12, 2001.Sure, it’s has increased every year of the Bush presidency, but I’m sure that on Sept. 12, 2001, certain experts panicked and predicted that by 2007 terrorism would become the dominant form of social interaction among American youth, with hijackings and suicide bombings replacing text messaging and speed dating.
So Bush and Vice President Cheney probably are doing some important things right.Like eating Quaker Oats oatmeal for breakfast. That’s the right thing to do.
The war in Afghanistan has gone reasonably well.
Exactly! Say you’re a football team, and you really kicked ass in the first half, racking up a comfortable lead while your defense stopped the opposition cold. There’s no real reason to return for the second half, is there? I mean, by that point, what have you got left to prove? You made your point, it’s time to move on to the next game. It’s not like the referees can decide you’ve forfeited, or anything.
Yes, with our ally Musharraf making deals that allow al-Qaeda to regroup in Waziristan, I assume that Bush will do something about this at sometime in the future and this time not screw it up or get bored and wander off to play with the dog, because the U.S. launching attacks on Pakistani soil would give the politically shaky Musharraf a huge boost of popularity with his own constituents, who are totally not hung up on pride or national sovereignty or any of that shit.Western Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf‘s deals with the Taliban are apparently creating something like havens for terrorists, is an increasing problem. That’s why our intelligence agencies are worried about a resurgent al-Qaeda — because al-Qaeda may once again have a place where it can plan, organize and train. These Waziristan havens may well have to be dealt with in the near future. I assume Bush will deal with them, using some combination of air strikes and special operations.
Over what? Hemorroids? Manchester United? His craving for macaroons?
But wait, wait, wait: What about Iraq? It’s Iraq, stupid — you (and 65 percent of your fellow Americans) say — that makes Bush an unsuccessful president. Not necessarily. First of all, we would have to compare the situation in Iraq now, with all its difficulties and all the administration’s mistakes, with what it would be if we hadn’t gone in. Saddam Hussein would be alive and in power and, I dare say, victorious…
…with the United States (and the United Nations) by now having backed off sanctions and the no-fly zone.Really? Clinton managed to keep the sanctions going and the no-fly zone in place, all Bush had to do was maintain the status quo. So is Bill implying that Bush is such a consummate bumbler that he can’t even successfully do nothing?
He might well have restarted his nuclear program, and his connections with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups would be intact or revived and even strengthened.Okay, he didn’t have any connections with al-Qaeda, but if we hadn’t invaded Iraq and killed him, he would have had lots of free time on his hands and maybe his wife would have nagged him enough that he finally would have gotten around to those projects he’d been putting off, like reseeding the lawn, and painting the kitchen cabinets, and building an atom bomb.
Still, that’s speculative, and the losses and costs of the war are real. Bush is a war president, and war presidents are judged by whether they win or lose their war.Or just suddenly start a war because Daddy’s the one who got to sleep in Mommy’s bed every night.
So to be a successful president, Bush has to win in Iraq.Which kinda brings us back to why the cheerleaders are laughing at your penis, Bill.
Which I now think we can. Indeed, I think we willI’ll go even farther, I think we have. And we should pack up and get home tout suite before we miss the party and walk in to find the joint empty except for some 4-F wolf in a zoot suit knocking back the last of the Blatz and pitching woo at our girl.
In late 2006, I didn’t think we would win, as Bush stuck with the failed Rumsfeld-Abizaid-Casey strategy of “standing down” as the Iraqis were able to “stand up,” based on the mistaken theory that if we had a “small footprint” in Iraq, we’d be more successful.“But I continued lying on national TV about how it was gonna work anyway.”
We are routing al-Qaeda in Iraq,Principally by declaring that anybody we shoot –Sunni, Shiite, small child — is a member of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Neat, huh? It’s not as easy to pull off in friendly fire cases, but we’re working on that.
…we are beginning to curb the Iranian-backed sectarian Shiite militiasOkay, we’re not, but the good news is they’re really not all that important, since a lot of the guys who are killing American troops are being bused in from our good friend Saudi Arabia.
…and we are increasingly able to protect more of the Iraqi population…from the hazards of overcrowding. It’s sort of like being an American bison in 1890. Where once you were packed horn to horn as you thundered across the plain, now you can really stretch out and enjoy the elbow room.
If we sustain the surge for a year and continue to train Iraqi troops effectively, we can probably begin to draw down in mid- to late 2008.“By which I mean, by then the country will have elected some Democrat who ran on a promise to withdraw from Iraq, so the important thing is to keep the war going full blast right up until 11:59 AM on January 20, 2009. After which, I’ll just have to lock myself in the bathroom and do what I can with my G.I. Joe’s kung fu grip.”
Bush has the good fortune of having finally found his Ulysses S. Grant, or his Creighton Abrams, in Gen. David H. Petraeus.Just curious, but when did this guy Petraeus becoming the second coming of Cincinnatus?
Following through to secure the victory in Iraq and to extend its benefits to neighboring countries will be the task of the next president. And that brings us to Bush’s final test. The truly successful American presidents tend to find vindication in, and guarantee an extension of their policies through, the election of a successor from their own party. Can Bush hand the presidency off to a Republican who will (broadly) continue along the path of his post-9/11 foreign policy, nominate judges who solidify a Roberts-Alito court, make his tax cuts permanent and the like?It may sound counterintuitive, but has Bill ever been wrong before? Not to hear him tell it, and since he’s never admitted to being wrong (and who but a sociopath would never admit to ever being wrong?) it must be true.
Yeah, okay. But FYI, Bill Bennett is betting that you won’t cover the spread.What it comes down to is this: If Petraeus succeeds in Iraq, and a Republican wins in 2008, Bush will be viewed as a successful president.I like the odds.
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