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June 07, 2007

Anything But Failure?

bushfail.jpg

I don't think it comes as a major shock to anyone at this point that the general consensus on the Dubya presidency is that it's a monumental sort of failure, the sort of all-round awful presidency you get maybe once a generation or so (excuse me while I go find a forest to knock on for that). Some folks have even gone so far as to declare it the worst presidency ever, although I continue not to be one of them (Buchanan's still got it, in my opinion), but however you slice it, it's pretty bad.

So here's an interesting thought experiment that I'd like for you to take seriously: in the 20 months or so that Bush has left in office, what would it take for Bush & Co not to be viewed as failures? Is there anything -- realistically, now -- that Bush and his administration can do at this point to salvage their reputations and their standing in history? If so, what is it?

Bear in mind that for this question you should answer from your own political/social point of view, not from the point of view you think I or others who frequent the site hold.

I'm genuinely curious as to what the opinions are out there. I personally don't hold much hope for Bush, et al to do anything other than fail even harder between now and January 20, 2009, but if any of you can see a different path, I'd love to hear about it.

Posted by john at June 7, 2007 04:23 AM

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Comments

Patrick in the Philippines | June 7, 2007 05:05 AM

Can't think of a single thing truly substantive for him to do. All I can come up with are simply one-off PR stunts.

Yam | June 7, 2007 06:10 AM

At this point I'm afraid that there is nothing that he can do to undo the damage he's done to both his personal credibility and to that of America.
Even twenty years down the line when all his geopolitical screwups are being blamed on the Administration of the day, he's still going to be the President who choked on a pretzel. There's not really a good come-back from that.
On the unnerving side, he could still pip Buchanan for worst president, he's already got the "In Living Memory" category nailed, why not shoot for the #1 spot.

Rhiannon_S | June 7, 2007 06:13 AM

Well, they could apologise for being such idiots, invest in a serious programme of US and worldwide health, science and education reforms, invite a UN force in to oversee the next set of elections, whistleblow on every corrupt business they've dealt with, apologise to France, get a serious social equality programme going and stop religious activists taking away other people's rights.

Then go and live on an island with only an underground room full of rum for company.

MWT | June 7, 2007 06:15 AM

They could resign...

MWT | June 7, 2007 06:15 AM

They could resign...

S Andrew Swann | June 7, 2007 07:04 AM

Anything Bush can do now? No.

However, if in the next five-ten years or so the Gulf region is home to a cluster of liberal democracies (not saying it's likely) its quite likely that Bush will get the credit-- akin to Reagan retroactively getting the kudos for ending the Cold War.

Patrick | June 7, 2007 07:19 AM

Win the War on Terre?

Oconorio | June 7, 2007 07:20 AM

What's frightening is that it is both trivially easy -- and consistent with previous behavior -- for this administration to make things worse, even catastrophically worse. There may be no way to save either this administration or this country from the consequences of its choices, but this administration could easily dig the hole far, far deeper.

Joe Sherry | June 7, 2007 07:28 AM

Hmm. After the election if we pulled out of Iraq immediately and it all fell apart and then we got attacked, Bush might be viewed as doing right (the counter argument is, of course, that things would be stable if Bush didn't invade).

b)in the next twenty months things stabilize and Bush himself is able to withdraw troops.

c)like an earlier poster said, the Middle East suddenly becomes a hotbed for democracy and it isn't clearly led by a democratic president.

Jess Nevins | June 7, 2007 07:34 AM

Let's see...they'd have to a) get the deficit back to the state it was when they got here; b) bring peace to Iraq; and c) restore civil rights in the U.S. to the state it was when they got here.

If they did all that, they'd have reached the point, more or less, of having accomplished nothing in two terms, rather than a negative accomplishment state.

Justme | June 7, 2007 07:45 AM

Oh, I think if he pulled off a settlement between Isreal and the Palestinians he might be able to distract people from failure. Or re-unification of Korea under a friendly, fairly elected ruler.

But truly, it's Nixon going to China. People will search for something to be positive about at his funeral, but that's it.

Steve Buchheit | June 7, 2007 07:55 AM

Let's see, economy is worse, world standing is down, loyalty statements have taken precedent over competance, secrecy is up, openess is down, Russia is making waves, autocracy has been tolerated and supported in our allies, political discourse is in the dumpster, deficit and debt are way up, pollution and business regulations have been loosened to the point of non-relevancy in some cases, citizen's right of redress limited, ignorance and intolerance given credit... hmm, nope, other than being wacked with some fairy-wand solution, I'm just hoping that it doesn't take the next two presidential adminstrations to claw our way back to where we were as a country and society in 2000.

chang, myspacier than ever! | June 7, 2007 08:20 AM

That you were up at 4:23AM posting this is curious.

I really think the damage is done. I can't think of anything except for public aplogy/execution, full disclosure of wrongs and acts committed, the release of the JFK files, UFO files and anything else that was swept under the rug.

Subsequent administrations are going to be spending decades rebuilding America's image after what the dumb hillbilly cokehead prezdennt and his administration has done to it.

Shrike58 | June 7, 2007 08:28 AM

I'll count my blessings if the administration doesn't start a war with Iran. A friend from Israel made note yesterday of an odd shutdown at the main international airport; it's probably nothing.

As for what would make a difference, bludgeon Israel into line on giving up their gains from '67 and seriously attempt to empower a workable Palestinian state. Six years ago I wouldn't have suggested that, now I find myself sounding like Vanessa Redgrave.

ucfengr | June 7, 2007 08:29 AM

I think it is too early to be able to make an accurate assessment of GWB's presidency. Setting aside the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for a moment, Bush has done some really good things. He got a drug benefit attached to Medicare; one that recipients seem to like, and hasn't busted the budget. This is something Democrats have been pushing for quite some time, but it took Bush to actually get it implemented. He also signed the No Child Left Behind Act, which has brought some increased accountability to our public school. Something Republicans have been pushing for. It has also helped to improve the availability of education services for special needs children. As the parent of an autistic child, I will always be grateful to Bush for promoting and signing the NCLB act and also the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), a related piece of legislation.

Getting back to our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, I think a lot of the problem is that we have forgotten what it is like to fight in a real war. Since Vietnam, our military engagements have been limited to very short and relatively bloodless (at least for us) engagements in Grenada, Panama, and Kuwait intermixed with low risk bombing campaigns in Serbia and North Africa. In Iraq, and to a lesser degree, Afghanistan, we are fighting a determined enemy, similar in martial philosophy (though not strength) to the Japanese of WW2. It is going to take time and a willingness to inflict and receive casualties to defeat them; something we may have forgotten how to do. This isn't Bush's fault, but he does have to operate under the constraints imposed by it. I am of the opinion that history could be kind to Bush, not unlike Truman, who was incredibly unpopular when he left office, but it will not happen overnight.

Stu | June 7, 2007 08:32 AM

Wow - tough ask John. How does a guy as tarnished as Bush redeem himself? I better preface my comments by indicating i'm not from the U.S, nor do i live there.

The republican administration are going to have to do a lot more than rescue a widdle girl's cat from up a tree.

Bush needs to somehow be seen as saviour - but not just for the US - He could either do it quickly by successfully dealing with a monumental occurence i.e. a first contact scenario - which is not something i'd put a $5 bet on (if it happened i hate to think this dimwit could represent the human race) - Alternatively he could go low key and create a long lasting legacy - introduce a program that alleviated 3rd world debt, or solved hunger, or made dvd programming possible without reading the manual.

Percy | June 7, 2007 08:39 AM

I don't think he can salvage his presidency now. Damage control maybe, but that would involve admitting mistakes which I don't think the Bush administration will do.

F-L | June 7, 2007 08:41 AM

Realistically? You like to make this tough, don't you?

Mark Erikson | June 7, 2007 08:43 AM

Hmm... all the comments so far seem to be coming from the left side of the fence. Lemme take a stab at things from the right.

I highly supported Bush in 2000, and definitely preferred him to Kerry in 2004. That said, I've developed a case of buyer's remorse in the last three years. Yeah, I'd still take him over Gore or Kerry, but I'm really not happy with the domestic policies he's put together, particularly with immigration.

I'm not concerned about our international image as such. The President's job isn't to make sure the US is on top in worldwide opinion polls, it's to do what's best for the US. Sometimes that means working with other countries, sometimes it means going our own way even if the rest of the world thinks we're nuts.

I'm not sure where I stand on the various anti-terrorism measures that have come out in the last few years. I think a lot of people are yelling about them too much, but I do feel concerned about where things are headed. Besides, asking the government to implement anything like that just guarantees it'll be done in the least efficient way possible.

I think one of the things that's bothered me the most is the sense of utter incompetence and incoherence that's come from this administration. There's been so much they could have done to get their message out, to explain to people what's going on and why things need to happen. And, while a lot of the "scandals" of the last few years have been attempts by the left to throw more egg on Bush's face, a lot of them really do have to be attributed to stupidity. Basically, as much as I hate to say it, I agree with every word in this post right here.

I'm rambling a bit, so lemme actually answer the question. IF Bush were to reverse course and kill the current immigration bill, throw all his weight behind actual enforcement of our illegal immigration laws and reform of the legal immigration system, and start putting serious pressure on Iran that it would be a Bad Idea to keep supporting terror and building nukes... then yeah, I might consider these two terms better than a near-complete loss.

And of course you realize this ain't gonna happen.

Christian | June 7, 2007 08:45 AM

I think Bush needs to crack down on some of these Sci Fi authors, who are posting their work on the internet for FREE!

It's treasonous, un-American behavior I tell you!

Jess | June 7, 2007 08:46 AM

Build a time machine to go back and enfranchise everyone in Florida whose vote didn't count.

David Moles | June 7, 2007 08:50 AM

Fire every political appointee in every government agency and replace them with people who have actual qualifications beyond a letter of rec from the Heritage Foundation.

Create a functional, fully-funded public works program to rebuild Louisiana and Mississippi on a scale not seen since the days of the WPA, and leave them both better off than they were before Katrina.

Close down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility and send any prisoners that can't be charged in civilian courts home with a personal apology on the White House lawn and a fat reparations check.

Admit that cutting taxes without cutting spending is raising taxes on future generations, then do something dramatic about it, like, say, defaulting on the National Debt, then resolve the resulting world economic crisis.

Apologize unequivocally for ever saying or implying that the situation in Iraq would improve materially in "the next six months", state clearly that Saddamn Hussein had fuck-all to do with 9/11, admit that the purpose of the invasion is and has always been to establish large permanent bases in the Middle East, allow that idea to be debated openly by Congress, the American public, and the world community, and win that debate.

I'm not holding my breath.

Steven H Silver | June 7, 2007 08:52 AM

There was a saying about Yasser Arafat that he never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity and I think the same can be said for George W. Bush. Every time I think he can't find a worse person to appoint for a position, he does, starting with appointing a man to be Secretary of Energy who had previously called for the eradication of the department (Spencer Abraham) to his new choice for Surgeon General who believes homosexuality is a disease that should be cured (James W. Holsinger).

Realistically, I don't think there is anything he could do to salvage his reputation in the long run, certainly not anything that could conceivably happen before he is allowed to return to "the anonymity he so richly deserves."

However, if the perfect storm were to occur...Osama bin Laden captured, a stable Iraqi government to emerge, his heavy-handed treatment of the bill of rights to clearly result in stopping another 9-11 level attack, and the United States manaing to avoid the tremendous debt he has saddled us with, it might be possible that his reputation will find some salvation.

But I never underestimate GWB's ability to make things worse.

Rachel | June 7, 2007 09:11 AM

To salvage their reputations in the short run? Not much. However, if the goal is to keep the executive branch in the party, it will probably get worse.

The candidates need something to push against. If they appear to be weak clones of the current administration, they cannot win. But if the Presidency goes waaaay off the deep end with extreme versions of their policies, the current candidates can offer a 'moderate' solution that is still pegged to the right of the spectrum.

So, what will we see? Push for another war. Religious ideologues appointed to offices that they can get entrenched into. Heavy handed policies that prey on 'the evil other side'.

In the short term, this administration would be despised. In the long term, they will be credited with maintaining the office for the party (if successful).

It's straterery.

Jeff Porten | June 7, 2007 09:12 AM

Realistically, there's not a damned thing Bush could do to improve my opinion of him between now and 2009. It's possible that future events could prove him right and me wrong, but I consider this to be in the same category as "it's possible that I might win the PowerBall". I think it's far more likely that a little history will repudiate him more thoroughly than he is today, which is the reaction I'm hoping for as it might improve the standings of civil liberties and diplomacy in American opinion.

I'm not sure that I agree that Buchanan was worse, for the following reason: like Hoover, Buchanan's failure was largely due to inadequacy in dealing with problems that built up before his presidency. Bush meets this low standard by not preventing 9/11 in the first place, and his ongoing inability to make any real improvements in national security against terrorism.

But Bush went beyond that: the war in Iraq is his own adventurism, and caused 1,000 problems that were unrelated to pre-existing conditions. Likewise, this strengthened Al-Qaeda and other enemies of America, in ways that are obvious even today. Buchanan only exacerbated the rifts that led to the Civil War; he did not (that I can recall) improve their military or diplomatic position. I can't think of an American analogue to Bush's failure here -- in fact, the most direct parallel I can recall is Saddam Hussein's instigation of the Iran-Iraq war.

Kate | June 7, 2007 09:23 AM

Honestly, I think its simple.

You need to sway public opinion in this matter, not necessarily cater to the political agenda of major bureaucrats.

1.) Apologize for being a lying administration in regards to the initial 'intelligence' in Iraq.
2.) Do this after you've gotten gas prices back down to under $2.00 a gallon.
3.) Announce a major overhaul of equipment for our troops in Iraq with the caveat, if they have to stay to maintain peace and democracy, we're going to give them the best we can and we've already shipped out the first crates.

In any realistic case, you're going to need some major apologies and gestures of good will, instead of possibly reigniting the cold war, waging war on everyone who flies under a different banner, and letting corporations bend over the consumer and even the worker.

The big man will have to impress the little man.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Nina Katarina | June 7, 2007 09:35 AM

Personally fly the fighter plane that shoots down the alien mothership, and die heroically.

Of course, with this lot, it'll probably turn out that he invited them here, and "Axis of Evil" sounds like the vilest insult in their language.

Todd | June 7, 2007 09:40 AM

Unconditionally admit he was wrong. Stepping off of the infallibility horse would go a long way.

Domestically, he should also fire Mr Cheney and Mr Rove, restore Posse Comitatus and other rights and withdraw all of his noxious 'signing statements.'

Internationally, he should admit his failure and fraud by holding real, just and fair trials (you know, the ones our founding fathers thought everyone, including our enemies deserved) for the persons held at Guantanamo Bay and other locations, offering redress to those who are clearly found to have been held unjustly.

I think that he should eat some humble to our allies he has snubbed by apologizing to them and by apologizing to the previous lawmakers and leaders/presidents/prime ministers who worked so hard to build the world he tried to break.

I think that an admission that the invasion of Iraq was merely part of a larger war for resources would be an even larger blunder than all of his previous ones (people aren't ready for this particular cup of coffee yet), but acknowledging that the current mess has been intentionally allowed because democracy wasn't really ever considered there would help.

Partition Iraq. Give Saudi, Kuwait, Iran and Turkey some bits and create a Kurdistan that constitutionally must remain at peace with Turkey.

And since we're dreaming big - find (and capture) Osama.

Branko Collin | June 7, 2007 09:43 AM

He'd have to die, and be raised from the dead by the hand of God three days later, so that he could continue to rule the country, but this time with a halo around his head.

John W | June 7, 2007 09:45 AM

Repeal all bans on stem-cell research

Cut back the salaries of every member of the senate and the house of representatives to be no greater than the average per-capita income of the US.

Everyone in the federal government who has any ties to Big Oil must immediately liquidate all of their assets and use those assets to pay off the full pensions of every former employee (below board level) of Enron. Then they and their extended families must move immediately to the most polluted land owned by the oil companies and live there for the rest of their lives.

Every soldier currently serving active duty will receive a 500% pay increase. Every solder who's tour of duty has been extended will be brought home immediately and replaced by a member of the senate or house of representatives (who, regardless of previous military experience, will start out at e4, or equivalent, using the equipment they have, not the equipment they wish they had)

...I could go on for days.

Sean | June 7, 2007 09:56 AM

Defeat an overwhelmingly huge extra-terrestrial invasion force by flying a jet fighter in a last ditch battle to free humanity... preferably on July 4th.

Other than that, history will judge him as truly, truly awful.

Naomi | June 7, 2007 10:01 AM

Dangit, Nina took my answer.

Except I was going to say that he needed to rally the human resistence in the event of a catastrophic attack by a vastly powerful alien race from space, and then dust off his Mad Piloting Skillz to personally fly the secret weapon into the alien mothership.

If he pulled that one off, the history books would probably mostly forget the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Nathan | June 7, 2007 10:01 AM

I still don't think we can walk away from Iraq. We broke it and we need to fix it.

Bush needs to look waaaaayyy beyond his inner circle and find someone who can do what George Marshall did after WWII.

A new plan needs to include:

1. admitting that practically everything done up to this point was wrong and we're embarking on a completely new course of action.

2. acknowledging that Iraq was an artificially created "nation" and that its people have always identified themselves more with tribal affiliation...not with some sense of nationhood.

3. acknowledging that we "conquered" Iraq (as opposed to "liberating it). We treated the people of France very differently than the people of Germany and Japan after WWII. There's a good reason for that. The fact that some people in Iraq acted thankful for "liberation" probably had a lot more to do with the natural wish to ingratiate themselves with the new boss than any real sense of new-found freedom. The reports I've read say that "spontaneous" celebrations only broke out in the presence of news cameras.

That's all I got. I'm just a citizen. What the hell do I know.

kevin | June 7, 2007 10:03 AM

Realistically, I don't think there is anything he could do to make himself loko better to history.

New Orleans ceased to exist as a major American city -- fixing that would help, but I don't see how he could make that happen.

He has completely destabilized the Middle east in a bad way -- nothing he can do in the next year and a half will fix that, especially since he wont remove troops from Iraq.

Al Qaeda is a growing problem -- that comes from his polices, both in the sense that his actions make it easier for terrorists to recruit and in the sense that the US has no moral standing in the world anymore, making it harder for even friendly governments to aid us. Since he and his personality are the root of those problems, I doubt he can solve them.

He could realistically start to make improvements in the quality of media in the country (break up media conglomerates) and socila inequality (universal health care and education introduce some progressivism into the total tax package in the country, push fair trade deals) but while those things are important, I don't think they would come anywhere near outweighing the other disastors.

He could, also, catch and try Bib Laden. But now, after six years, after Iraq, after Al qaeda has rebuilt itself, I am not sure that history will think it much of an accomplishment -- though it would allow his supporters to claim his presidency wasn't a complete disaster.

Two years ago, he could have turned this around, so to speak. I think that even if he were willing to make changes -- something he is not emotionally mature enough to do, apparently -- by now there are far too many large scale messes for him to have a hope of history as ever seeing him as one of the worst presdents in the nation's history.

Chip Cade | June 7, 2007 10:06 AM

The only thing that will salvage this President's historical legacy is a secure, democratic Iraq in 10 years. If that happens, all else will be forgiven or at least gently forgotten; if it doesn't happen, that disaster along with everything pointed out by the other posters will be combined and he will be a regular top-3 contestant for "Worst President in US history" for the next two hundred years.

What can he do in the remaining twenty months to make that happen or at least make it more likely? Painting a big red dot in the middle of my forehead for people to take aim at, and specifying that I'm not addressing domestic policies at all, here goes:

1. Make sure the power stays on and the water stays clean and readily available for ordinary Iraqi's; put another way, focus on the infrastructure. Water, sewer, power lines, phone system. People over there will think a lot more of the US if tangible, everyday ordinary things are better than they were under Saddam. Announce and publicize this focus.

2. Be honest with the American people (this is the least likely thing to occur). We are locked in a generational struggle, and he needs to say so, clearly. It is going to last beyond his presidency, and beyond the next presidency. It is truly a battle of hearts and minds, and we should be focusing on the hearts and minds we can work with. We can make things better for ordinary folks, and (most importantly) we can and should be educating the people who are going to be educating the next generation of Iraqi's. Announce a version of "no child left behind" for Iraq. Get the schools up and running, make sure they are adequately staffed and funded WITH A STRICT NON-RELIGOUS CURRICULUM, and amazing things will happen when those kids start graduating. The mullahs won't like it, because they will see it as missing out on the chance to indoctrinate the next generation. Too bad. Children are shaped by their environment, for better or worse, and Bush should ensure that the US takes control of that environment. Religion is for parents to teach.

Yes, it's overly simplistic. It's still true; are you going to change the mind of the 18 year old shooter, or the five year old with a stick?

3. Increase economic opportunity. Start a "TVA" program, announce public works, hire Iraqi's to do the work with a living wage. Does anybody think a lot of people won't line up for jobs if they were available over there? I hear the screams about "costs" now, but which is cheaper? A 10 man marine team in a Stryker for the next ten years, or 100 Iraqi's using picks and shovels?

4. In line with #3, increase the micro-loan program, and (deep breath) appoint Tony Blair President of the World Bank. I can't think of anything that would do more, with less, to repair relations with the Europeans and for that matter the rest of the world. A lot of people don't like him, but he is respected, he's available, and, here's the kicker, HE WOULD PROBABLY BE GOOD AT IT.

So there's my four step, 20 month "patch on history" program for Mr. Bush and his administration. There is no quick fix, he needs to kick-start a cycle that spirals up instead of down. And I don't think there's a chance in hell any of it will happen, or at least with any competence.


John H | June 7, 2007 10:09 AM

In a word, nothing...

Brian Postow | June 7, 2007 10:10 AM

I think that the question itself is flawed... I think that there is nothing that they could do to make the (right minded) people who think that his presidency is a failure think otherwise. Most of them have made up their mind already.

OTOH, you are totally missing the 25% of the population who think that W is the *BEST* president in history (maybe second to Reagan). Again, there is nothing that he can do to change their minds either...

Jeremiah | June 7, 2007 10:12 AM

Hm. Well if he did this I would be inclined to not hate him...

1) Pres Bush should come out on national television and say, word for word, "I lied about Iraq. I am sorry. It was never about WMDs. It was never about terrorism."

2) Promise to leave Iraq within a year, and urge congress to (re)pass a bill as such.

3) Move troops back to Afghanistan and fight the terrorists there

4) Go to the UN and apologize to the world for Iraq, especially France, who was right all along.

5) Go to Iran and apologize to the middle eastern world for Iraq

That would be a very good start...you said realistic. I think this is very *possible* to do. I highly doubt Bush is capable of straightfowardly apologizing and saying he was wrong. But it is in the realm of possibility :) Barely.

Laurel | June 7, 2007 10:12 AM

His head could explode.

theophylact | June 7, 2007 10:15 AM

Does not compute.

Vardibidian | June 7, 2007 10:21 AM

The only thing that I can remotely believe is that somehow somewhere in the government-funded research and design labyrinth, there are half-a-dozen things that if combined properly will be the Magic Bullet for dealing with global climate change. Someone could theoretically discover this in the next six months, and Our Only President could have an environmental epiphany and ride that Bullet into history, putting the might of the federal government into making those Bullets and distributing them.

Then, in fifty years, when we are routinely using the Bush Bullets to—what? Float our coastal cities? Zap hurricanes down to zephyrs? Ship goods and people by instantaneous low-power TransMat? Colonize Titan?—people might say that the bastard got something right, anyway. Of course, this goes largely against what I think Our Only President is like, and against how I think technological advance works, and so on. But it’s kinda plausible, isn’t it?

Thanks,
-V.

Buck | June 7, 2007 10:37 AM

They could all fall upon their swords for the good of the Republic.....

Realistically, as others have indicated, excise the weird NASCAR/Elvis/Jesus/South Fork Ranch infection from the body politic. This would pretty much mean firing everyone from Cheney on down to the myriad unqualified minions cranked out by Pat Robertson's "university" and "law school," et al. Actually take responsibility for the mistakes that they have made and try and engage not just 50% of Americans in looking for a solution.

As to some other specifics: America's reputation worldwide isn't just about how many kids will sign our yearbook at the end of the year. We really do need allies if we're going to try and undercut the boost that the administration has given to the recruitment of radical fundamentalist Muslims.

Talk to a teacher about the No Child Left Behind Act. Many refer to it as the No Teacher Left Employed Act- it's more about breaking teachers' unions and turning them from educators into curriculum implementors.

And as an immigration attorney, I can say that the hydra proposed right now as immigration reform is a unreasoned mess. I'm all behind enforcing the laws on the books, but only if ICE goons are going to start kicking down upper middle class suburban doors at 4:00 am and waiving guns in little kids' faces while going after the employers of the illegals with the same diligence as they do after the guys cutting grass and shingling houses.

Randy Johnson | June 7, 2007 10:56 AM

There's nothing that will turn things around. Because he'll never admit to anything but that we "stay the course and everything will be alright."

Clay | June 7, 2007 11:22 AM

If he put forth proposals that would simplify the tax code while keeping it progressive. Pretty much anyone that earns say, 2 times the poverty level shouldn't be paying any income taxes.

Meaningful Social Security reform. It is a multi-generation transfer of wealth, and with the declining

An actual fiscally responsible budget that is balanced, and stops billing our kids for the things we buy today.

A decent trade policy, one that doesn't open our borders to floods of cheap imported goods that drive small manufacturers out of business. I'm not uber-protectionist, but considering the state of American manufacture, we've got to do something. We can't all make a living selling things to each other. It'd be nice if we actually inspected a higher percentage of the goods that do come over to avoid contaminants.

Stop confusing the war on terror with the war on Terra. Substantial improvements in environmental policy, including enforcement of financial and other penalties on polluters, improved clean air and water standards, reasonable protection standards for lands already in federal hands, and restoration projects for areas of the country where the population is shrinking.

He could veto the immigration reform bill, and insist on pretty strict penalties for employers of illegal aliens, including the back taxes and fines and penalties for paying below minimum wage (in many cases). In fact, a penalty to them for the fact that their importing of illegal and cheap labor has depressed wages for us all. The ooze up theory of wage benefits as it were.

That'd help some anyway.

Chewie | June 7, 2007 11:33 AM

Dang, John, you've stirred up a little hate-fest here. Let me speak up on Mr. Bush's behalf, if only to break up the monotony.

Yes, Iraq is far from peaceful. But progress is being made and the story is far from over. As others have noted, it's going to take years before we know how this story ends. If Iraq does turn into a functioning democracy (akin to, say, Mexico), Bush will deserve some of the credit.

You also have to respect (as even likely future President H.R. Clinton does) that we've suffered no attacks on American soil since Sept. 11. Clearly someone's doing something right there.

Domestically, consider that Bush'economic policies (lower taxes, low interest rates) have helped produce extremely low unemployment and record stock highs. Five years of strong economic expansion is damn noteworthy, especially considered in the aftermath of both the bursted tech bubble and 9/11.

I'd point to No Child Left Behind, the appointment of Chief Justice Roberts, and major increases in anti-AIDS funding to sub-Saharan Africa as at least qualified successes.

Whatever Bush has done (or failed to do), he certainly hasn't dragged us into economic disaster (see, e.g., Hoover, Jimmy Carter), or fired up a civil war (Buchanan).

What can he do to improve his historical standing?

1) See to it that we finish the job in Iraq. There's that old rule about cleaning up your own messes. The appointment of Gen. Petraeus was a good start.

2) Secure the borders. Our borders by land, sea (the ports), and air (the TB guy) are still far too porous. Any immigration bill must ensure for adequate enforcement of existing laws.

3) Pursue a policy of energy independence. Here's something foreign policy realists and environmentalists should both be able to get behind.

4) Turn off the spigot of govt spending. With a Democrat-controlled Congress, perhaps he'll reconsider his profligate ways.

Plenty of time to get moving. For better or worse, January 2009 is still a long way off.


Carol Elaine | June 7, 2007 11:53 AM

Realistically? Nothing.

Many folks here have posited some fine suggestions that I can't build upon, but I don't see any of it happening, because I don't see Bush suddenly deciding to live in a reality-based world. Same with Cheney, et al. As theophylact said, "Does not compute."

However, what would really make me happy would be for Bush, Cheney, Rove and friends implement some of the suggestions mentioned above (Kate, David Moles, Todd, John W and Rhiannon_S all have great ideas), then surrender to law enforcement officials, admit all criminal and treasonous acts, and become safely ensconced in the federal penal system for at least the next thirty years.

Wouldn't make me like them any more, but I might find a modicum of respect to send their way.

PixelFish | June 7, 2007 11:55 AM

Well, he could start by NOT going into Iran and backing off of that very firmly.

Is it possible for him to go to UN, and say, "Hey, we fucked up. We went in without your support. We'll accept censure, but help us stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan." (Iraq may be the big screw up that it is, but hello, Afghanistan??? A female radio station owner just got shot there. People who were able to come out after the Taliban got briefly ousted are now in danger. The Taliban are re-establishing themselves. And we just half-assed the job we did there, even MORE than Iraq, I'd say. It's just that most of our troops are in Iraq so we have more casualties coming out of there.)

Rescinding the Patriot Act.

Revamping No Child Left Behind.

HEALTH CARE! Do you realise how much health care could have been funded from the money poured into Iraq?

And for heaven's sake, stop acting like you have a mandate from God. Because you don't.

SAP | June 7, 2007 12:10 PM

Honestly? Resign and check into Leavenworth Penitentiary, and that goes for every last member of his administration.

Then lose the key.

JD | June 7, 2007 12:12 PM

To truly not be seen as a failure would be extremely difficult. But to the general "lowest common denominator" crowd he just needs to catch Osama and have him tried and executed on live TV.

Jim | June 7, 2007 12:24 PM

I tend to agree with much of what Mark Erikson wrote (in his comments at 8:43 this morning) except that I think Bush's screw-ups go back to the very beginning of his time in office (and the Republicans should have selected McCain in the first place). However, I think that even if the Iraqi mess were to be suddenly solved with both Sunni and Shia uniting to drive out al-Qaeda, etc. (and oil prices dropping to thirty dollara a barrel and Putin deciding he wants Russia to be a democracy and the Palestinian Authority renouncing terrorism and violence... and continue to add as many other unlikely events as you wish) -- it would not matter, because the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party" suffers terminal Bush Derangement Syndrome and they know that Bush is far worse than Hitler and Satan combined. Bush could announce that he was adopting the entire 2004 Democratic Party Platform and the Democrats would immediately denounce every plank in that platform as being totally evil.

Ron | June 7, 2007 12:31 PM

Create a South Africa styled Truth Commission to which he and everyone else publicly admit and renounce all of their criminal behavior. Fixing the damage will take a long time. The first step is to acknowledge and make the crimes public to attempt to ensure that it cannot happen again.

Corby K | June 7, 2007 12:37 PM

Die

John Scalzi | June 7, 2007 12:38 PM

You want Cheney in charge?

Chewie | June 7, 2007 12:52 PM

Har! An oldie but a goodie.

Dr. Phil | June 7, 2007 12:53 PM

Twenty months is a long time. The one problem with near-term prognostication is that events come clear out of the blue and paradigm shifts happen. 9/11 occured just a few months into the Bush presidency. You can argue otherwise all you want, but "we the people" didn't see that one coming, which is why -- coupled with 24 hour constant video replay -- things shut down and haven't been quite the same nearly six years out.

I suspect there is better than a 50-50 chance that "something" will happen in the next twenty months that really isn't on our radar screen at all, which will have the opportunity for the White House to either punt, wallow or rise to the occasion and could be the defining moment of the Bush presidentcy.

I mean really, before a couple of weeks ago, when was the last time you thought about TB? Or blowing up fuel dumps at airports? Or the concept that a less-than-two-day "hunger strike" could get you out of jail? Two years ago, thought Putin would talk about aiming nuclear tipped missiles towards Europe? Three years ago, that Israel could "lose" a war in Lebanon? Four years ago, when I was actually in Tallinn, Estonia to have lunch, that they could be the victim of a national DNS attack over a toppled statue? Five years ago that a major U.S. city could be effectively wiped off the map in a natural disaster broadcast on live TV and its remaining citizens left on their own?

Commenters here may be stumped as to what to do next, but "something" will come up. It always does.

That's why I write my SF in the 25th to 30th centuries -- I can control what happens that far out. (grin)

Dr. Phil

PS - And on June 23rd, Switzerland will host the America's Cup ocean yacht racing regatta and try to defend against New Zealand. Off the coast of Valencia, Spain, seeings as Switzerland has no ocean shores. Is this one of the signs of the Apocolypse?

Steve | June 7, 2007 12:56 PM

Realistically? Probably not. However, I gave this some thought and outlined a 12 step program that could help their recovery. Here goes:

1 Find WMD’s in Iraq.

2 Reveal that Bin Laden has been sitting in Guantanamo all along.

3 Broker a lasting peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians.

4 Reveal that the deficit was actually an error in arithmetic.

5 Install universally beloved governments in Iraq and Afghanistan causing a cessation of all violence.

6 Revoke the patriot act.

7 Surrender the entire Bush family fortune to support Stem Cell research.

8 Close the doors to Guantanamo and send everyone home.

9 Surrender the entire Cheney family fortune to pay overtime to military personnel.

10 Kiss and make up with the Russians.

11 Kiss and make up with North Korea.

12 Kiss and make up with Iran.

Steve

Annalee Flower Horne | June 7, 2007 01:04 PM

Buchanan's still got it, in my opinion

I give it to Andrew Jackson, for most of the same reasons Bush might be considered a contender for it-- overreaching the authority of the executive (and that ugly Trail of Tears business, but that's actually an example of said overreaching).

On to the actual question: short of averting an international crisis large enough to make the Cuban Missile Crisis look like small fries, I can't think of anything.

Maybe--maybe solving the crisis in Darfur, but only if he did it so well that Sudan came out of it looking like a poster child for the Millenium Development Goals. But that doesn't meet your 'realistic' critieria for two reasons: 1. China and Russia will continue to stand in the way of any UN intervention in Darfur (they're selling guns to Sudan). We used to have enough international street cred that we could have gone stag, but we wasted it on Iraq. 2. Ending the genocide in Darfur without ushering in a whole host of problems that would claim even more lives would take not only competence, but talent. Bill Clinton, who was actually good at that sort of thing, would have a hard time of it. Iraq's shown us pretty clearly that Bush ought to stay out of the grown-up's pool when it comes to intervening in that sort of conflict.

Wakboth | June 7, 2007 01:04 PM

At this point, the question is only whether Bush will be remembered as a failure, a complete failure or a catastrophic one. I'm hoping for the first, excepting the second and fearing the third.

Laurie Mann | June 7, 2007 01:07 PM

Bush has done one thing right - he started the National Book Fair. And that was supposed to have been Laura's idea!

Other than that, he's done nothing right since he's been elected EXCEPT for the immigration bill, which is one of the few rational acts of his administration. And it looks like it will go down to defeat.

Otherwise, he's been a disaster and he's starting to make Nixon look like a political genius. I think there's an excellent chance he could out-Buchanan Buchanan for sheer ineptitude.

Corby K | June 7, 2007 01:11 PM

I'm sorry. I wasn't clear.

All of them. Die. Horribly, screaming, publicly.

As a warning to anyone who decides killing people who don't look like you for oil is a good idea, as a start.

(I'm not advocation the overthrow of the government, nor am I soliciting an assassination attempt, for all those FBI bots checking the blogosphere. I'm hoping for something like ebola.)

Jim Wright who's feeling a tad cynical today | June 7, 2007 01:20 PM

...what would it take for Bush & Co not to be viewed as failures?

Reading the comments above, I think you all are over thinking this. There is a much simpler method to resolve John's question, to wit: all GWB & Co. need to do is write their own Wikipedia entries - thereby making themselves the greatest administration since Teddy Roosevelt. (Try to imagine a photoshopped picture of bare-chested GWB leading the heroic final charge into Baghdad, or Cheney standing triumphantly with one foot on-top Bin Ladin's corpse, shotgun slung over his shoulder...)

I'm pretty sure this would work, especially in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma where most of population is conditioned to historical revisionism by years of creation "science".

Erbo | June 7, 2007 01:39 PM

OK...how about a view that's somewhat in opposition to the majority here?

  1. Drop the "amnesty-by-any-other-name" immigration bill currently before Congress like a bad transmission, and, in its place, put in some real enforcement of our existing laws, seal up the borders, and start deporting all the criminal trespassers we already have in this country. (And no more rhetoric about "jobs Americans won't do." That's really a code phrase for "jobs businesses don't want to pay Americans to do.")
  2. Quit trying to make nice with Iran, and put 'em on notice: "Give up your nuke program NOW, or feel what it's like to be mud under a tank tread."
  3. And while we're at it, put Syria on notice, too.
  4. Keep the troops in Iraq, and make sure everyone knows that their primary mission is to stomp the terrorists. And let 'em do it.
  5. Give up, once and for all, on the whole "Islam is a religion of peace" rhetoric. Honestly, who believes that anymore, when all available evidence shows precisely the opposite?
  6. Start investigating the mainstream media in this country for treason. They've been acting as a propaganda arm of al-Qaeda for so long, one could make a pretty reasonable case that they're "giving aid and comfort" to our enemies. (Look into the issue of foreign ownership, specifically Saudi ownership, of media company stock.)
Yes, if Bush were to do all this, the Left would screech to high heaven. But let's face it, they're gonna screech to high heaven anyway, no matter what he does, so he's got nothing to lose by taking the gloves off and starting to fight...and he might just convince people he's a worthwhile President again.

(Do I actually expect him to do any of this? HA HA HA HA HA! Not unless someone were to give him a spine transplant...)

Sam | June 7, 2007 01:40 PM

US does not owe an apology to France (no matter how right they were). The real apology that has to be made is to Tony Blair. Here you have a man who is actually smart and competent who stood by an ally only to be mislead and have a possibly grat administration go down in flames. Not only has Bush's "little" war alienated must of our allies but it has put a huge strain on one of our most closest/important ones, England. I mean Blair in his own country is seen as George Bushe's puppet.

So leave it to GWB to not only take himself down but to take a good friend down with him as well.

If Bill Clinton couldn't get the Palestinians and Israelis to agree to a peace settlement how is Bush supposed to? And Clinton came closer to any president before or after him.

Rhiannon_S | June 7, 2007 01:45 PM

Not only has Bush's "little" war alienated must of our allies but it has put a huge strain on one of our most closest/important ones, England

Scotland, Wales, and Ulster would like to point out that they have also been dragged into this little farce as well as England.

wanderer | June 7, 2007 01:45 PM

Man... lot of hate being posted. This kind of vitriol is what has effectively driven me from the Democratic party which I no longer resonate with. I did really like the link Mark Erickson posted on the Mein Blog about Bush, I'm closer to that guy's opinion than most of those here (this from a me who has never voted for a Republican president until 2004, and I still stand by my reasons then, as disappointed as I am now).

It is beyond humourous to me that "open-minded" left leaning folks can take an open-ended question like "Is there anything -- realistically, now -- that Bush and his administration can do" and overwhelmingly meet it with the answer of "no", "nothing", "resign", "fall on a sword". And then the posts go into all the horrible and evil things they think Bush has done.

And that, in a nutshell is my perception of the current Democratic party. So consumed with what is wrong that and past injustices that entering into a dialog with a democrate usually means being bathed in rage and hate. Not useful, not dialog.

I hope someday soon Democrats let go of this all consuming hate that you believe you so righteously can voice (yes, I know how cool and hip it is to be anti-GW currently) and start visualizing and talking about what can be done from here. What steps can our government take that are positive as opposed the pasts steps of the current presidency that many posts have claimed is one of the worst ever.

Visualize the future, cognizant of the present.



What would I like to see Bush do? (which really translates into what I want any president do right now)



- Have a weekly 30 min state of the country fireside chat aired weekly, that CSPAN at a minimum would broadcast (talk to us, constantly) -- while other presidents have done this, I was reminded of this while reading Mein Blog mentioned above.


- Iraq - What to do? Cut and run, stay and generate more ill-will if we stay as we are today. Honestly, I don't have an option I've heard yet or thought of that makes sense for me. I can add no more.


- Health Care - Having observed the amount that health care premiums have jumped over the last 10 years, we clearly have a monumental issue here that should be not just a campaign platform people talk about then say "I tried" when they get into office, the president leads... so lead on this by putting a plan to come up with an answer into place (not a plan to enact a solution, but figure out how we are going to address this) and make it such that the Pres and Congress commit to doing this by a certain date and are held accountable to that date.


- Education - Trot out facts and figures that can be debated on whether the No Child Left Behind actually works. CONTINUE to work on education, because that truly is our future (to me) and needs to be continuously demonstrated that we are concentrating on this. I don't want to just throw money at a problem and then stop to think about it. What is working with the NCLB and what isn't, fix that which isn't or provide a new option. Keep this at the forefront.


- Energy - Sink BILLIONS into alternate energy research (I usually am very against throwing money at problems.. not in this case). Where is Fuel Cell technology right now? Don't waste time on PC thigns like Organic fuel, which every projection I've ever seen shows it as taking ridiculous amounts of farmland and resources to produce, not viable. How is our current power grid infrastructure holding up and what needs to be done with it?


- Environment - I was 100% behind us not being in the Kyoto Treaty, so bring out to the front how the US is doing on all the things Bush said the US would do in a speech when he said we weren't going to do Kyoto, how are we doing on those things? What are we doing next? Before I say what we SHOULD be doing, I'd like to better understand what we are doing.

Sam | June 7, 2007 01:49 PM

wanderer:

"yes, I know how cool and hip it is to be anti-GW currently"

Sorry kid I was always anti-Bush since that entire Florida fiasco. So I've been cool since the beginning not to be confused with the rest of the posers :).

JerolJ | June 7, 2007 02:01 PM

The problem is that most of these solutions would require Dubya to change his course or admit he was wrong. He NEVER does that - the man is unyielding. I can admire a little resolve in the face of adversity but he takes it to almost pathological levels. None of these proposals would ever happen.

The one thing that would boost him in the polls, if only slightly, would be if a Army sniper took out Bin Laden and they recovered the body. A trial would be a fiasco, not getting the body would result in denials from his supporters. And even this would only give him some additional points from some of that low common denominator that deserted him.

Christian | June 7, 2007 02:03 PM

- Have a weekly 30 min state of the country fireside chat aired weekly, that CSPAN at a minimum would broadcast (talk to us, constantly)

That would be hilarious!

The man can't even speak.

Comedy gold!

Aaron | June 7, 2007 02:07 PM

The only way that W and his corporate theocracy will not be viewed as the worst regime in US history is for them to be the ones to write all history texts in the future, and follow their usual practice regarding actual debate - blindly deny all comments you disagree with, suppress information and disregard or misinterpret questions. Much like CNN, ABC, Yahoo and the rest of corporate media are handling Ron Paul supporters.

Another way out for W occurs to me: if The Rapture does occur in the next few months and his invisible sky friend with the penchant for ritualized cannibalism returns to take eternal vengeance on all those who disagree with W's Beliefs, punishing them in hellfire forever and ever for not taking W's vision of God as the One True Faith. Then he'd turn out to have actually been correct the whole time. This is prolly about a 50% chance.

rick gregory | June 7, 2007 02:10 PM

@wanderer - umm... have you seen the vitriol from the right? Anyone who disagrees with the administration hasn't just been called fools, but traitors. Go back and read Michelle Malkin (who called for the editor of the NY Times to be executed), Ann Coulter, etc. Heck, Cheney has repeatedly said that to question Bush is unpatriotic.

To this administration, patriotism is agreeing with them, not loving your country. So... it surprises you that, after being slandered and attacked as traitors for SIX YEARS that we're a bit upset with the administration??

Oh and, sorry, but don't talk about remorse post 2004. The time to critically evaluate Bush was BEFORE the election. It's amazing and a bit nauseating to see people who, after 4 years of his presidency, voted for Bush in 2004... but then turn around and say "well, maybe he's not that good" after the fact.

To Scalzi's question - yes there are things he could do. No, none of them are realistic. They either go against the very nature of the administration (weed out shills like Goodling who are hired not for competence but right-thinking) or the acts themselves are not realistic (turn Iraq into a peaceful, stable, democratic state).

The American people have some soul-searching to do... about 70% claim to not like Bush now... how many of those will turn around and vote for a Republican who will then continue Bush's policies? It's nonsensical to disapprove of Bush for what he's done and is still doing, but then to vote, in either the primaries or general election, for someone who promises to continue the same policies of which you disapprove. But I'm sure many people will do precisely that.

Sam | June 7, 2007 02:10 PM

Not trying to say that we asked to be attacked on 911 (So no one flame me please). But its ironic that we give Sadamn weapons (very same weapons we were looking for recently) to fight the Iranians, and then we give Osama weapons and training to fight the Russians and now we are in this mess.

Not to sound like a Democratic leftist...I consider myself a moderate. But the republican party did arm both these people and now its a republican president fighting them.

How does kharma work again?

There is nothing Bush can do to save this presidency. He will be seen as the worst of presidents simply because its so fresh and current in everyones mind for the next 50 yrs.

Henry | June 7, 2007 02:22 PM

Others have said something like this in the comments already, but:

Marshall Plan for the Middle East. $100B to win the hearts and minds.

Laurie Mann | June 7, 2007 02:30 PM

Wanderer, so you forget how the right excoriated Clinton and impeached him? That was OK? He didn't lie his way into a war for no reason, that's wasted hundreds of billions of dollars, killed tens of thousands Iraqis and over three thousand American soldiers?

Revisionism strikes again.

If we're particularly angry about Bush, we come by our anger honestly. And it's a combination of over six years of neo-cons ineptitude AND because of eight long years of Clinton bashing (and the particularly anti-Hillary Clinton attitudes espoused by the neo-cons horrified by the idea of a woman president).

Bill the Splut | June 7, 2007 02:38 PM

This question is beyond hypothetical. There's not only nothing he could do to improve his reputation, there's nothing he has any interest in doing. The purpose of his administration is to loot the country in the name of God and Halliburton, and that's what he'll continue to do.

And why does anyone think that he's going to be gone in 2009? Hasn't anyone heard about Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-20?

Matt | June 7, 2007 02:40 PM


Kool Aid in the Rose Garden on the Fourth of July!

ucfengr | June 7, 2007 03:07 PM

It is kind of amusing how Bush gets blamed for all the evil in the world. It's like nobody else exists for some people. Bush is a sort of Jason Bourne-character getting credit for everything bad. Enron? Bush's fault. Katrina? Bush's fault. 9/11? Bush's fault. Gas prices go up? Bush's fault. Gas prices go down? Bush's fault. Too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer? That's Bush's fault too. Bush has become almost a pagan god for the left; someone to blame all the world's problems on.

John Scalzi | June 7, 2007 03:09 PM

You know, let me invoke unitary executive privilege and ask people to actually address the topic rather than to let it drift into pointless bitching about the right or the left.

Frank | June 7, 2007 03:27 PM

[Deleted because some people just can't follow directions -- js]

John Scalzi | June 7, 2007 03:33 PM

Frank, are you stupid or merely rude? You can't even wait one post before you ignore my request?

Again: Stick to the topic, please. There's enough to work with there. If you disagree with the premise of the topic, that's fine and interesting, but explain why. Really, this isn't so hard.

Nathan | June 7, 2007 03:42 PM

Deleted because some people just can't follow directions -- js

Inquiring minds want to know what he said to make your head explode like that. Inquiring minds also want to know if there're pictures.

(at least one inquiring mind wants to know if "there're" is a legitimate contraction...and if not, why not)

John Scalzi | June 7, 2007 03:43 PM

Don't you start, Nathan.

More seriously, I'm trying not to let the topic drift in toxic meta-commentary, which is where these sorts of comment threads often go. So let's, you, know, focus.

Laurie Mann | June 7, 2007 03:57 PM

Is it OK to say that I don't blame Bush for Katrina, but I do fault his administration for its complete failure to work with local government to HELP people deal with it?

An Eric | June 7, 2007 04:00 PM

I'm not sure it matters what Mr. Bush does; for better or for worse, other people will write the histories.

Nixon was, to some extent, rehabilitated after he was forced to resign from what I'd still contend was the worst presidency ever (tho' Bush is trying hard to take the lead). I remember Reagan as a semi-senile militarist whose policies left families sleeping in their cars, but I seem to be in a minority. And Bill Clinton, it appears, will benefit from the fact his presidency was bookended by an ineffectual bureaucrat on one side and a self-righteous autocrat on the other.

It's possible, even if it's hard to imagine right now, that history will be kind to Mr. Bush; perhaps his failures will be forgotten or blamed on circumstances somehow beyond his control, or perhaps his failures will be eclipsed by greater failures of future administrations. As unlikely as it seems, I can't honestly say it's less plausible than Nixon's evolution into The foreign policy expert or Reagan's evolution into a heroic crusader against injustice (or, for that matter, less plausible than Clinton's evolution into "wow, remember how great it was when the President only screwed interns!").

John Scalzi | June 7, 2007 04:01 PM

Laurie mann:

Responding to on-topic posts is perfectly fine; just please let's not go too far afield. I realize this is easier said than done, but I have faith in my commenters. And, also, I want to see if it can be done. But basically, I note that one good way to derail a thread is for someone to bring up an utterly tangential point and have people pile on from there. This thread has a fairly narrowly-designed focus; it shouldn't be too hard to keep focus.

Ryan S. | June 7, 2007 04:10 PM

Someone mentioned it way up there, but GWB's legacy, and the legacy of neocons as a movement, is staked on Iraq.

If Iraq turns into a vibrant free democracy, GWB wins the history gambit. If not, he's the next Woodrow Wilson plus a whole mess of extra vile I seem to be at a loss to explain.

Jeff Porten | June 7, 2007 04:23 PM

You know, I'm getting quite tired of the argument that "if Iraq turns out okay, Bush will retroactively win over history." Whatever government the Iraqis have now was imposed upon them by America, in much the same way that their previous government was imposed upon them by Baathists. In the process, hundreds of thousands have died. The Machiavellian view that any future government that functions better makes their unchosen sacrifice go unnoticed, simply doesn't wash.

The 19th century worked out very well for California in the long run. In the process, Native Americans were put through a near-genocide. Today, we remember both, and Ulysses S. Grant is not viewed as a modern savior because he enabled the creation of the home of the microchip. Bush's history should be written the same way.

gerrymander | June 7, 2007 04:46 PM

Sam: He will be seen as the worst of presidents simply because its so fresh and current in everyones mind for the next 50 yrs.

To the contrary. The children who will begin consider G.W. Bush's legacy cleanly have already been born -- probably starting back in 2002. Kids from that cohort won't being to become political (unless their parents push them) until at least the time of the 2016 election; long enough for 1-2 different presidents, unless something really untoward happens. By the time they start doing serious journalism and/or grad student work, the political concerns of the world will likely be as different to them as debates over stagflation are to us now.

For the record, there are three things which would certainly improve Bush's historical opinion, but none within his remaining time in office. 1) Decisive wartime action against Iran and/or Syria. 2) A complete collapse of hostilities in Iraq. 3) A working Homeland Security department, including an active border control policy.

gerrymander | June 7, 2007 04:47 PM

Sam: He will be seen as the worst of presidents simply because its so fresh and current in everyones mind for the next 50 yrs.

To the contrary. The children who will begin consider G.W. Bush's legacy cleanly have already been born -- probably starting back in 2002. Kids from that cohort won't being to become political (unless their parents push them) until at least the time of the 2016 election; long enough for 1-2 different presidents, unless something really untoward happens. By the time they start doing serious journalism and/or grad student work, the political concerns of the world will likely be as different to them as debates over stagflation are to us now.

For the record, there are three things which would certainly improve Bush's historical opinion, but none within his remaining time in office. 1) Decisive wartime action against Iran and/or Syria. 2) A complete collapse of hostilities in Iraq. 3) A working Homeland Security department, including an active border control policy.

Ryan S. | June 7, 2007 04:47 PM

Jeff, I doubt many people would credit U.S. Grant for microchips, because he wasn't directly involved. I'm not talking about some Iraq 100 years in the future.

The likelihood of a democratic Iraq developing under Saddam compared to that under a US occupying force is vastly smaller, and if it does happen, Bush & Co. will probably get the credit.

nisleib | June 7, 2007 04:47 PM

Bush has already done so many amazing things...

1) Made Quale look smart
2) Made Clinton look honest
3) Made Carter look strong
4) Made Reagan look lucid

To complete his legacy he still has some things to do

1) Admit he KNOWINGLY lied about the war
2) Admit his love affair with Condi
3) Admit he had impregnated his mothers Mexican made when he was younger then dragged her across the border for an abortion
4) Admit he used imminent domain to make his fortune (the texas rangers deal)
5) Admit Cheney runs things and always has (there in lies his redemption, he really wasn't in control)
6) Admit the Bin Ladens are old family friends that bailed him out of many business ventures and he had no choice but to let Osama go
7) Admit that Big Oil is the power in the American government and quickly re-regulate the energy industry
8) Admit he outed Valerie Plame
9) Admit he politicized the Department of Justice
10) Admit he never intends to leave Iraq and apologize

In short he would have to tell the truth. Republicans just don't do that. Democrats don't do it much either but at least they don't spontaneously combust when it happens.

gerrymander | June 7, 2007 04:48 PM

Bah. Apologies for the double-post.

Glen | June 7, 2007 04:51 PM

Realistic things that they might do in the real world? Tricky....

1. Win back the Senate and Congress in 2008, which won't make them popular exactly, but will highliight what screwups the Democrats are. I think there's even odds on that happening.

2. If the economy surges and the housing market gets back on its feet it might work out for them. The economy's in a weird place, sort of limping along, but it could turn around. That would have nothing to do with Bush, but he'd reap the benefits. Just as the next president will take the heat if the whole house of cards collapses.

3. Kill the missile defense system and make nice with the Russians. It could happen, though he'd have to tick off a lot of his big money corporate backers. From the news, it seems like there's some sort of serious debate going on about the thing. Everybody who's given it a serious look knows it'd never knock a single missile out of the sky except by chance.

4. Do a sort of half-assed endorsement of Kyoto. He seems to be going this way now.

5. Kill Osama Bin Laden (Who?!?!?)

The things he'd never ever do that would help are:

1. Get down on his knees and apologize to the international community for giving them the finger for the last six years. Particulary the more sane and stable leaders within the middle east, who could be brought in as partners to help stabilize Iraq.

The idea of Bush cowtowing is so rediculous as to be funny.

2. Tell Isreal in no uncertain terms to "knock that shit off." We understand that the Germans were very mean to you guys, and that some people don't like you for insane religius reasons, but that's not an excuse to behave like bastards. Stuff like gunning down civilians is a bit beyond the pale.

In Bush's defense no Democrat would do that either.

3. Kill the tax cuts for the rich and raise the minimum wage further. Instant popularity.

Yeah, like he's going to raise taxes for himself and all his friends. Dream on!

4. Pull out of Iraq and finish fixing the mess in Afganistan.

Jimmy Carter | June 7, 2007 05:29 PM

the sort of all-round awful presidency you get maybe once a generation or so

Surely you remember me!

Conrad | June 7, 2007 05:55 PM

Worst president? What about Jimmy Carter, or Richard Nixon, or Gerald Ford? America was much more damaged by those presidents than by Bush.
The economy is doing well, and while some tax cuts were misguided (dividends should be exempt at corporation not individual level like interest, the estate tax is one of the big things that keeps America from ossifying a la Europe), that will be adjusted. The big economic problems (Mediscare and Social Security) are not of Bush making, and hard to solve anyway. Bush also resisted the bigots in his party on immigration and is trying to do something constructive there hard as it is.
Iraq is the big problem, but the ultimate outcome there is not clear (partition?, Ayatolah Sadr and lamposts for the current leaders a la Najibulah of Afganistan when the russians left?) and it's not clear either that containing Saddam would have been possible or better...
So I profoundly doubt that Bush will be seen as that bad a president 10-20 years from now.

Chewie | June 7, 2007 06:30 PM

You tell 'em, Conrad.

Incidentally, who knew that George Bush impregnated and then murdered his Mexican maid? The things you learn at scalzi.com...

Bobarino | June 7, 2007 06:42 PM

Bush is pretty much powerless to improve his legacy at this point, but there is one thing we can do: elect a successor who's even worse. It's certainly worked for Nixon; after 6 years of George, Jr., some of my friends who lived through Watergate speak almost fondly of Tricky Dick.

And Chewie, thanks for that tidbit about Bush impregnating and murdering his maid. Heretofore I thought the man incapable of finishing anything.

Bob | June 7, 2007 06:43 PM

To Glen,
The israelis are probally more useful than you thinkas

Lou | June 7, 2007 06:46 PM

I agree with Henry Rollins on The Onion:

The question is flawed because Bush is not incompetent or a failure. He did everything he set out to do and in record time.

War in Iraq daddy never finished? Check.
Strengthen and Secretify Executive privilege- Check.
Not just huge oil Profits, but Record Huge- Check.
Social safety nets riddled in ways even Reagan never dreamed of- Check.
War On the Middle Class- Almost done, thank you Mexico.

The only thing he needs to do to strengthen his standing in history is to finally sign the papers giving the Illuminatus Oligarchy complete control.

glinda | June 7, 2007 07:34 PM

ucfengr: "He got a drug benefit attached to Medicare; one that recipients seem to like,"

Huh? Plan D? the "donut hole" (coverage gap) is *positive*???

words fail.

Jim Wright who's feeling a tad cynical today | June 7, 2007 07:36 PM

Jeff Porten: You know, I'm getting quite tired of the argument that "if Iraq turns out okay, Bush will retroactively win over history."

I understand your irritation, Jeff, but this is precisely the current administration's strategy - "Stay the course" and hope like hell it all turns out okay and GWB can say "See! I told you so." This administration has said more than once "History will vindicate GWB." If Iraq turns out okay, well, they will very likely be correct - Americans have short memories.

Bookninja | June 7, 2007 07:58 PM

I would like him to deal with one issue in a thoughtful, competent manner. Hire true experts regardless of political leaning, tackle a tough problem - health care, North Korea, deficit, whatever. It almost doesn't matter. The most disheartening aspect of this administration is the true success of the Bush policy - give more money to rich people and corporations. He has achieved this policy goal in every thing he has done. Every program has a bunch of unnecessary business give aways, every financial problem is answered by lower taxes. If he would do something which showed he actually cared about the entire country, and not just the wealthy and the business community, it would raise my opinion of him. Right now it seems like he doesn't even care. Bush is like Cartman from South Park when he appeared on Jerry Springer, "Whatever, whatever, I do what I want, I do what I want" (flipping of the audience while they boo).

Euan H. | June 7, 2007 08:21 PM

@ Conrad

"the estate tax is one of the big things that keeps America from ossifying a la Europe"

Really? You might want to read this:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/05133/504149.stm

"Despite the widespread belief that the U.S. remains a more mobile society than Europe, economists and sociologists say that in recent decades the typical child starting out in poverty in continental Europe (or in Canada) has had a better chance at prosperity."

As for how Bush will be seen in the future . . . [shrugs]. Impossible to say, really. In 1919, who could have said how the Treaty of Versailles would turn out? Any guesses on how Bush's presidency will be remembered depend on the long-term effects of his presidency, which we don't know crap about. Yet.

MWT | June 7, 2007 08:34 PM

Thinking about the question from a slightly different direction, rather than "what can the Bush administration do", what about "what can be done?"

How about if the American people gave Bush to Al Qaida as our apology and token of future goodwill? They stop attacking the U.S., in exchange they can do whatever they'd like with him.

:p

Ed | June 7, 2007 08:44 PM

I think Bush could save his presidency by walking out onto the front lawn of the White White House, sharply dousing himself with gasoline and then setting himself on fire. I think then history will judge him less harshly than otherwise.

S Andrew Swann | June 7, 2007 09:08 PM

Jeff Porten: You know, I'm getting quite tired of the argument that "if Iraq turns out okay, Bush will retroactively win over history."

Well, that really is the only thing that can vindicate him-- short of the real awful scenario of the next president reversing a Bush policy decision that directly results in an inconvenient mushroom cloud somewhere.

Unfortunately, I strongly suspect that in some sense the administration has been relying on that, which has led to some mega-boner geopolitical strategy.

As probably the most right-wing libertarian nutcase reading this I can also say that while a democratic pandemic in the Middle East is the odds-on most likely way that GWB's legacy could be untarnished, it's unfortunately not a terribly likely outcome in absolute terms. I see it a lot more probable that Iran does something really horrible-- say lobing a nuke at Iraq or Israel-- and the blood-soaked aftermath gets laid at the dimwit who didn't realize that while Saddam was a evil dictator slaughtering his own people, he was at least keeping the crazies in Iran too paranoid to be adventurous.

Patrick | June 7, 2007 09:17 PM

The year is 2009. A carbomb in Baghdad explodes, causing the ground beneath it to cave in. A massive sinkhole is revealed. Its Saddam's secret lair! Filled to the brink with weapons of mass destruction, the lair is stocked with sufficient firepower to destroy all life on earth three or four times over. Subsequent investigation reveals that Saddam never used any of these weapons because he hung the only person besides himself who knew the passwords to the security system, and because on the night of the invasion, he had a serious hangover and didn't feel like opening the place himself.

The Iraqi people, presented with absolute proof that the US did not lie to start an invasion of their country, are collectively repentant. All insurgent activity instantly ceases, regardless of faction or creed. As guilt for several years of pointless violence drives Iraqi people to the polls, an Iraqi Passifist party takes office.

By 2011, Iraq has banned gun ownership, granted universal health care to all citizens, and writes into its constitution a ban on all armed forces other than those necessary to aid US efforts in destabilizing Iran. When Iraq's newly elected female prime minister marries an Israeli general, no one bats an eye.

CaseyL | June 7, 2007 09:42 PM

I'll second, or third, comments made previously that Bush won't do anything to salvage his Administration for the simple reason that he doesn't think he's done anything wrong.

Whether he's been in the bubble so long he's plain plumb ignorant of what goes on in the world, or whether he's a successful Manchurian candidate who deliberately wreaked such ruin, is a question I'd really like to know the answer to, because I suspect the correct answer is the Manchurian candidate one. Because I find it hard to believe anyone can be that incompetent, that wrong, so consistently and so ruinously.

And that opens up a lot of other questions, chief among them: what group of people made sure Bush got into the Oval Office, and who's the next country-wrecker they have in mind for us?

Which brings me to an answer to your question.

Bush can tell us what the hell was really going on in the 2000 and 2004 elections, during the Summer of Threat before 9/11, in Cheney's secret meetings with energy executives, in the planning for the war in Iraq, and with the infinite detention/star chamber/torture chambers at home and abroad.

Tell the truth about what he and his people did, why they did it - and then turn himself and his entire Administration over to an international tribunal.

Cassie | June 7, 2007 10:25 PM

Henry said "Marshall Plan for the Middle East. $100B to win the hearts and minds."

Are you nuts? Those people are sitting on oil! They've got access to more money than we could give them. Let them explain why so many of their people live in dire poverty. Let them explain why there are people of their faith still living in refuge camps. We don't need to give them a red cent.

TRibar | June 8, 2007 12:06 AM

Twenty months is forever in the history of war and politics!

On Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese empire attacked this country and forced it into WWII. Less than six months later, on June 4, 1942, after running wild across the pacific, the Japanese navy began its attack on Midway island. In less than 24 hours the Japanese empire's ability to project power was sunk (along with it's four carriers).

On June 6, 1944, allied forces landed in Normandy. It was a catastrophe. A success only in military terms (which goes something like 'battle's over. We're not all dead. Guess we won!'). In less than a year, Germany capitulated unconditionally (it could have happened sooner if we'd let Patton go).

In the summer of 1864 Abraham Lincoln was facing a hopeless re-election bid. The nation, weary of war, repulsed by the bloodbath, would surely elect his opponent. On September 1 General Tecumsah Sherman and his Army of the West attacked and took Atlanta. In the north there was great rejoicing. Lincoln was re-elected. Sherman would go on to plan and execute his 'March to the Sea'. The south would be crushed.

My point is that throughout history, especially the history of war, when things reach a tipping point, the ensuing events unfold very quickly. Twenty months is enough time for the entire world to change. It's happenned before.

David S. | June 8, 2007 12:34 AM

At first I laughed at the very idea of him being able to do anything to improve his standing. Then I saw it - he could fire Dick Cheney!

Not being American I don't know if the two term limit applies to VPs too, but if he appointed Al Gore as his new VP the Shrub could then go back to pretending to be president and watch things start to improve immediately. He could continue to be the figurehead president, play in the Whitehouse, shake hands with visiting dignitaries and Arab oil sheiks, all the stuff he does now. In fact he'd basically do what VPs normally do while a non-evil VP ran the show like actual presidents normally do. He'd end up being viewed as just an ordinary president, instead of one of the two worst in history, that's gotta be worth a shot!

Brian Greenberg | June 8, 2007 12:42 AM

Well, John asked what he could do to not be viewed as a failure, rather than what he could do to not be a failure. Given that question, I truly believe the answer is absolutely nothing.

Nobody wants him to be a success at this point. The democrats don't want a single bit of good news, because it will give the Republican candidate an answer to the question, "Do you stand by George W. Bush?" at the debate - and believe me, several folks are dying to ask that question.

The Republicans don't want him to be a success, because they see an opportunity in having 70% of the nation leaning one way. Call yourself tough on homeland security & terrorism, but differentiate yourself from GWB, and you've got the right and most of the left leaning your way (Rudy, I'm looking at you here...)

The best shot GWB has at being viewed as a success is to wait 10-20 years. I found it very interesting that someone above mentioned Nixon, Ford and Carter. It raises a good point - all but two of our presidents in the last ~40 years have been viewed by a fairly significant portion of the population as the "Worst President Ever" at one point or another. Carter's the best case study - he went from "worst president" to "best ex-president," and now he's gunning for the "crazy old man" status that Ronald Reagan once enjoyed.

Perception's a bitch, huh?

Diana Pharaoh Francis | June 8, 2007 01:04 AM

If this is personal to me, then no. There's been too many lies and there's no way he/they can do anything that I won't see as for personal gain.

But if it's not personal to me and is more about the American people, then yes. The American people can be very forgiving when they choose. I think it would require Bush to stand up in public often and repetitively say "I screwed up. I meant well, but I didn't execute well." I think he does probably believe he meant well. I mean, Hitler didn't think he was a bad guy either.

He can also start to reverse the damage. He can say he fucked up, but it's meaningless unless there's action that reflects the honesty of that statement and and acknowledgement that something different and better is required.

People would foregive him and remember him as a man with character who could admit his wrongs. Take a clue from hollywood and all the stars who've massively damaged their careers with bad behavior and all they have to do is go out on the talk show circuit and confess with humility. America wants to forgive.

I wouldn't believe him. But a lot of people would. Enough to change the perception of his presidency.

Di

wolfwalker | June 8, 2007 01:15 AM

"Is there anything -- realistically, now -- that Bush and his administration can do at this point to salvage their reputations and their standing in history?"

No, nor should they try. No president's place in history can be established until we have some idea of the full consequences of his administration, and that generally doesn't happen for at least twenty years after he leaves office. The only thing we can say for certain at this point is that whenever a president has intentionally tried to establish a "legacy" or "his place in history," the result has been a total disaster. To that rule, Bush will definitely not be an exception. Just look at the still-unfolding catastrophe of the immigration bill, which was a "historical legacy" attempt if ever I saw one.

I might also point out that if future historians rely on today's media for their view of Bush's presidency, there's no way in hell that he'll be viewed as anything but a failure -- because today's media takes every possible opportunity to portray him as a failure.

No, at this point there's little that Bush can do but watch as the consequences of his choices -- and the equally important choices of his foaming-at-the-mouth-rabid enemies in the press and in Congress -- play themselves out.

ucfengr | June 8, 2007 06:34 AM

glinda, 80% of Medicare recipients seem to like Medicare Part D, so yeah I think it qualifies as a Bush success.

For all the folks who think Bush hasn't taken on any tough issues, what about Social Security? You may not like is ideas for reforming, but who else was willing to propose some innovative thinking (i.e. other than raising taxes and cutting benefits) to try to rationalize that system.

Rhiannon_S | June 8, 2007 06:53 AM

Impossible to say, really. In 1919, who could have said how the Treaty of Versailles would turn out

Virtually anyone involved. French Marshall Foch even said: "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years". He was only off by a few months as wel.

Dean | June 8, 2007 08:09 AM

TRibar sez:

On June 6, 1944, allied forces landed in Normandy. It was a catastrophe. A success only in military terms (which goes something like 'battle's over. We're not all dead. Guess we won!'). In less than a year, Germany capitulated unconditionally (it could have happened sooner if we'd let Patton go).

I suspect that your other examples are as weak as this one, but this was particularly egregious.

1. Normandy was not a catastrophe. Omaha Beach was, arguably. It was one of five, and the other four went quite well.
2. What does 'a success only in military terms' mean? It was a military operation. It was a success.
3. At the time of the Normandy landings, the end of the war was no longer in doubt. The Soviet Union had beaten the Nazis and was in the process of kicking the bejeebus out of them.

You imply that 'we' (whoever 'we' are) went from near failure to stunning victory between June '44 and April '45, and that Normandy was some sort of 'tipping point'. This was not the case, and your example is almost spectacularly inappropriate.

ajay | June 8, 2007 09:56 AM

Dean - agreed. D-Day was a success. Not a complete, unalloyed success - the failure of Second British Army to push further towards Caen, and the heavy losses of 1 (US) Div on Omaha, for example - but there is no sense, none at all, in which it was a catastrophe. It was the most complex project ever attempted by anyone in history (soon to be bettered by the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Program) and it went, all things considered, pretty well.

On a more controversial subject, you know the reason Montgomery didn't want to "let Patton go" in the sense of "giving him everything he wanted"? Because he knew that the battle of France wasn't about charging around liberating great big swathes of Brittany, it was about destroying the German army west of the Seine. This he managed to do.

DaveL | June 8, 2007 10:43 AM

Getting back to the original topic, in his remaining months with a hostile Congress to get around, he isn't going to be able to do much legislatively. The apparently-now-dead immigration bill was his big effort at that. I think he sincerely believed it was a good idea. Anyway, he can't get anything done via Congress, so he would have to try something "presidential." That pretty much narrows it down to diplomacy and Blowing Things Up.

Great/not-great presidents are decided by history, so his best bet is to do something that will turn out to have been a really great idea twenty, fifty, a hundred years down the line. (Even that changes: Wilson was discredited when he left office, highly regarded a few decades later, and is (mostly) considered a naive egotist today. Eisenhower was derided in office, but his standing among historians continues to grow. So, your never know. Your best bet is to do something splashy and hope it turns out all right; something like invading Afghanistan or Iraq. Wait! He's done those.

Gotta throw a Hail Mary pass: bomb/invade/whack out Iran is it. Either cement your standing as Worst Ever or luck out and get in the Super Bowl.

Branko Collin | June 8, 2007 11:10 AM

"OTOH, you are totally missing the 25% of the population who think that W is the *BEST* president in history (maybe second to Reagan). Again, there is nothing that he can do to change their minds either..."

Well, it won't have been for lack of trying. I wish I could get man whores to deliver my crack! (Pun entirely intended.)

"The only thing that will salvage this President's historical legacy is a secure, democratic Iraq in 10 years."

Ouch, that is a deeply cynical suggestion. You think your country do not believe Iraqis are themselves capable of creating a democratic country?

"Find WMD’s in Iraq."

I sincerely doubt the Bush administration wants to find WMDs in Iraq, or else they would have already planted and "found" them a long time ago. No, going to Iraq under the clearly false pretense of WMDs showed the neocons exactly how far they could go.

"Tony Blair. Here you have a man who is actually smart and competent who stood by an ally only to be mislead and have a possibly grat administration go down in flames."

There's nothing great or potentially great about Blair's Reich.

Also, you make it sound like Blair had no say in the matter. Andrew Rilstone says it better than I can ("How did it happen that, in his eagerness to position his product alongside the Twin Towers brand, Blair nailed his colours so deeply into the backside of the unelected thanatos-worshiping simpleton who succeeded Clinton [...]?"), but Blair's Bush's bitch, and voluntarily at that.

S Andrew Swann | June 8, 2007 01:27 PM

I sincerely doubt the Bush administration wants to find WMDs in Iraq, or else they would have already planted and "found" them a long time ago. No, going to Iraq under the clearly false pretense of WMDs showed the neocons exactly how far they could go.

IMO you can argue that GWB and his administration is
a) completely incompetent.
or
b) conspiratorial geniuses on the order of the Illuminati.

I'll point out two things. First, you can't argue both at the same time. Second, if you're pulling for b) you have a hard sell considering you then have to explain exactly how this finely-engineered conspiracy has resulted in anything other than GWB and his cronies eating the same massive s*it sandwich the rest of the country's eating.

In fact, if GWB can somehow get a majority of the US to believe b) it might go a long way toward salvaging his reputation.

GWB: "See, I really meant to do that."

David Chunn | June 8, 2007 03:18 PM

Nah, it won't be the worst administration ever. I mean, Bush did have to deal with 9/11. He didn't handle it all that well in the longterm, but it was a huge challenge. Then going into Iraq, which was a bad idea, of course. And it wasn't managed well either.

The prescription drug plan was a success. No Child Left Behind is not. Someone mentioned it as one before. Clearly, they do not work in the education field. It could have worked well, but it has generally been a disaster on many levels.

I can't think of any other successes, certainly not any significant ones. I think without 9/11 Bush could not have gone into Iraq and he would have finished up as a "do nothing" president.

Old Jarhead | June 8, 2007 03:52 PM

"10 Kiss and make up with the Russians.

11 Kiss and make up with North Korea.

12 Kiss and make up with Iran."

Of course by your invitation you opened the door to "over the top" but that is what makes it so hard to have any useful dialogues about politics and foreign policy - people's needles are pegged and they have lost the ability to discriminate.

The old saying "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you" applies. Just because the administration has been so ignorant on Iraq doesn't mean that their policies elsewhere are necessarily idiotic.

Anyone who believes that we can kiss and make up with a regime so clearly and certifiably insane as North Korea has let their choler over Iraq completely obscure their vision.


MWT | June 8, 2007 04:26 PM

ucfengr said: glinda, 80% of Medicare recipients seem to like Medicare Part D, so yeah I think it qualifies as a Bush success.

Where are you getting that 80% from?

As I've been understanding it, if you talk to any pharmacists, Medicare Part D has a whole ton of holes in it that leaves a lot of people screwed.


Dean said: You imply that 'we' (whoever 'we' are) went from near failure to stunning victory between June '44 and April '45, and that Normandy was some sort of 'tipping point'. This was not the case, and your example is almost spectacularly inappropriate.

You know, what would make an interesting future topic around here is the history of WWII as seen from a non-American perspective. Over here, it's taught in all the schools that the U.S. was the hero that came in at the 11th hour and saved the day. I wouldn't mind seeing more about why Europeans don't see it that way...

Paul | June 8, 2007 04:52 PM

Okay, so the comments seem to tilt 98% to 2% left. No surprise. What is surprising is that peoples opinions are so viceral and fact free.

In case you haven't noticed, by every objective measure, the economy is doing better now than it did in the late 90's only without the stock market bubble and the corporate fraud. If a democrat were in office we would be hearing nothing but praise for the incredible economy.

As others have said Bush will be judged years from now and no one really knows how it will pan out. However, in order to avoid being a "historical" failure all he has to do is resist the urge to do anything for the next two years.

Things are going great, and if the politicians can be kept in a stalemate, they will continue to get better. The worst thing that could happen would be a significant new piece of legislation ( i.e. immigration).

Don't bother to hate me for the "great" comment either. Take your political glasses off and look at the facts. Unemployment? hasn't been lower in decades. Inflation? Don't see it. Economy? year number five of a solid steady expansion. tax reciepts? never been higher despite tax cuts. Terrorist attacks? not here. Stock Market? all time record highs. Individual net worth? never been higher. Corporate profits? huge. Sales of Scalzi books? astonishing. Did I mention that he has spent more actual dollars on malaria and aids in Africa than anyone else?

Yes there are things to hate him for, not the least is his inability to communicate, however on the topic of most lasting importance, The Economy, it is hard to make a case for anyone having done better. ( go ahead, pick any economic statistic you want and any six year period for comparison, you will be shocked at how good we have it at the moment).In regards to the war in Iraq? it depends what you want to compare it to. Against an hypothetical perfect war, yes it is a failure. Compared to all of the past American wars, It is definitely one of the most successful. War is messy and Americans don't finish them very well, but that's not original to Bush.

Now if he can just go on an extended vacation in his ecologically friendly ranch in Texas and leave well enough alone, history will be more than kind to him.

ucfengr | June 8, 2007 05:38 PM

Dave Chun said--No Child Left Behind is not. Someone mentioned it as one before. Clearly, they do not work in the education field. It could have worked well, but it has generally been a disaster on many levels.

I have 2 children, 1 autistic, in the education system, so while I don't draw a salary from the school board, I certainly do work in education. NCLB and IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a related piece of legislation) are helping me get the services my autistic son needs through the school system rather than out of my pocket. Forty plus hours per week of specialized therapy gets quite expensive.

MWT said--Where are you getting that 80% from?

The information comes from an ABC/Washington Post poll, though my recollection was slightly off. The poll reports 80% of people had no problems filling prescriptions and 64% were happy with it. Is it perfect; no, but it is a heck of a lot better than nothing; which is what Medicare recipients had before Part D.

I am starting to see a pattern here, for Bush anything less than perfection is considered a failure, better doesn't count. Medicare Part D is certainly better than what was before it. Iraq under a nascent, democratic government is better than Iraq under Saddam, Al Queda, or the Iranian mullahs, and getting rid of Saddam was the right thing to do. Has the aftermath been perfect? Is Iraq going to turn in to Sweden on the Tigris in the next year or even next decade? Again, probably not, but the world is always better with one less murderous dictator running a country.

TRibar | June 8, 2007 09:57 PM

Dean,

You raised a couple of points. Some of them are more germane to the original posted question than others. I'll attempt to deal with them.

sez you, "You imply that 'we' (whoever 'we' are)"

Legitimate point. I am a natural born citizen of the United States of America (currently residing in Arizona). Since John Scalzi is also (currently residing in Ohio), and the question on the table regards the likely future assessment of the current US president I kinda assumed (Yes, I know. Don't go there.) that this conversation was a, ya' know, a US kind of thing. Presumptious of me, I know. These damn internets just go everywhere! The 'we' you question, therefore, is the US 'we' or the Allied 'we' or the 'we' who done won the war 'we'. Where you are, or where your from, or who 'you' identify with is entirely unclear to me.

Sez you, "1. Normandy was not a catastrophe. Omaha Beach was, arguably. It was one of five, and the other four went quite well."

Problem with that statement is that it doesn't reflect the reality that establishing a military beachhead on a foreign hostile continent is not something you can accomplish piecemeal. We didn't attack the beaches because we wanted to. We attacked them because we needed them. None were optionable. Omaha gets all the attention because it's where it all almost unravelled. The rest (Juno, Gold, etc) would have been useless if in the middle of the beachhead there is this hole from which the enemy can make to shoot you. The 'greatest armada in history' the 'most massive engine of destruction ever assembled' would have been all for naught. [now for the proper effect you must imagine the following lines being said by the perkiest german fraulein with pale blonde hair and pigtails poking out on each side of her head] Hi boys!! It's so good to see you all! Thanks you sooooo much for coming, but we've had a little change of plans. So you all need to go home now. UNDT SCHNELL!!! [if you didn't realize the full effect of the previous bit, it's not my fault. I was typing very perky.]

sez you, "2. What does 'a success only in military terms' mean? It was a military operation. It was a success."

Ok. Point conceded. Allow me to ammend my previous comment. The invasion of normandy was nearly a catastrophe.

sez you, "3. At the time of the Normandy landings, the end of the war was no longer in doubt. The Soviet Union had beaten the Nazis and was in the process of kicking the bejeebus out of them."

So all those American, English, Russian, French, Polish and Canadian troops needed to die for nearly another year because the Germans just needed that "no longer in doubt" part explained to them harshlike?

I could go on, but what's the point. My initial point was that making predictions of the future is always a risky business, but most especially in times of war. And twenty months is a very long time. Most major historic events transpire in less time than that.

Also things seem to be slowly changing for the better in Iraq (but you certainly wouldn't know that from listening to the MSM). So we may have reached, or nearly so, a tipping point in Iraq.

Max | June 8, 2007 10:43 PM

'So all those American, English, Russian, French, Polish and Canadian troops needed to die for nearly another year because the Germans just needed that "no longer in doubt" part explained to them harshlike?'

In point of fact, yes. Go look at the casualty inflicted/received figures, and you'll notice the russkies did all the heavy lifting. The US/UK could've sat on their thumbs and the outcome wouldn't have changed.

Now, the post-war landscape would've been rather different, which is most of the reason the US/UK *didn't* sit on their thumbs.

An Eric | June 8, 2007 10:57 PM

Against an hypothetical perfect war, yes it is a failure. Compared to all of the past American wars, It is definitely one of the most successful. War is messy and Americans don't finish them very well, but that's not original to Bush.

Riiiiiight. Because both World Wars, the Spanish-American war and the American Revolution really were total disasters. And, okay, the USA's victory over the CSA in the American Civil War doesn't count because, hey, we were fighting ourselves, eh? And we won't count little incursions like Panama and Granada, of course.

Oh, come on: the only out-and-out disasters until now were 1812 and Vietnam (and okay, I'll give you Korea), and the British agreed to a truce in 1812 before they could declare victory, so we got to walk out of that one calling it a tie and bragging about New Orleans.

The current Gulf War is a disaster, and it was a preventable disaster that could have been avoided if the Administration had listened to people with operational experience (e.g. Colin Powell) instead of trying to prove a questionable ideological premise (Donald Rumsfeld's view that American technology could substitute for boots on the ground, making it possible to do wars on the cheap with a minimal force; one can argue that this view should have been discredited no later than the 70s, when it was obvious that American air power failed to defeat the North Vietnamese).

To this date, I remain baffled by Rumsfeld's statement a few years ago to the effect that nobody would have guessed it would be harder to hold Iraq than it was to defeat Hussein. Nobody? Anyone who played a game of Risk in junior high knows it's easier to take territory than it is to keep it. A lesson that is obvious to 14 year olds was somehow lost on the Secretary Of Defense.

As for those implying that the "mainstream media" are withholding the evidence of a looming victory in Iraq, I'm more than a little curious: if practically every news agency in the U.S. and Britain other than Fox News reports something, isn't it possible that what they're saying is, you know, true? Or, I'm sorry, am I merely subscribing to revolutionary propaganda? My apologies, the rest of my goodthoughts shall be doubleplusgood and very, very loyal.

Tom | June 8, 2007 11:19 PM

What can he do to save this presidency? Pick one:

1. Global warming

or

2. Dependence on Middle East oil

and bring the full force of the American government to bear. Wouldn't you like to be the president who actually took either one so seriously, regardless of the politics, and moved us substantially toward fixing those problems?

eyelessgame | June 8, 2007 11:58 PM

Here's a math problem.

George has to travel from Austin to Washington, a trip of 800 miles. For the first 650 miles, he travels at sixteen miles per hour. At what speed will he have to travel the remaining 150 miles such that he will average 60 mph for the whole trip?

stevem | June 9, 2007 12:03 AM

Foriegn Policy:
1. Win in Iraq and Afghanistan (this is something he may get credit for once out of office, regardless who his successor might be).
2. Get really tough with Iran and Syria.
3. Support Germany's, Japan's and Brazil's bids for permenant U.N. security council seats.
4. Increase funding for AIDS and other endemic diseases which are afflicting the third world nations(which he has done far more than his predecessors, to his credit but more can be done).
5. Impose some accountability on the U.N. (no reforms, no money).
6. Make "peace" with France (which should not be too hard, considering France's recent election results).
7. Extend the missile defense shield to any ally who wants it (and, btw, tell Putin to pound sand).

Domestic Policy:
1. Make major modifications to the immigration bill. I think most Americans want to see the borders secured first. Then, and only then, propose a greatly increased the guest worker programs and even path to citizenship programs, which I think many would support. But only after the border is first secured. There isn't a lot of trust on this issue.
2. Major increases to funding for the space programs, both private (i.e. billions to the first private company to send a manned ship to Mars and back) and public (NASA).
3. Increase funding, without strings or mandates, to K-12 education.
4. Enact sweeping alternative energy legislation, such as tax credits, incentives, etc., reducing our dependence on oil. There is no need to acknowledge the merit or lack of merit to the global warming issue, as this could easily be billed as common sense national security and/or conservationism.
5. Reduce the budget shortfall.

I don't think that Bush is doomed to be the worst President ever. I think he is on track to becoming one of the worst but he still has plenty of time to secure a positive legacy. Unfortunatley, I doubt he and his crew are smart enough or motivated enough to take common sense advice, as opposed to toeing the corporate line.

In the interests of full disclosure, I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. He was (and is) better than Gore and Kerry.

eyelessgame | June 9, 2007 12:11 AM

Okay, I know I tried to explain why there's no way. But I realize I was wrong.

He can transform the U.S. into a totalitarian state, with himself as president-for-life. Abolish Congress. Declare supreme executive power. Institute a police state. Repeal free speech. Apply complete control over publication and communication.

Then none of the history books will claim he's one of the worst presidents ever. In fact, no one in the country will ever claim he was a bad leader.

Mike999 | June 9, 2007 02:43 AM

Bush is FAR from the worst president ever. Anyone who lived through the Carter years ('76-'80)knows that.
I'm frankly amazed by many of the comments on this question.
1. Bush can improve how other countries think of us:
I frankly don't care, and don't think the country should care, what other countrys think of us. In your own life, do you really care what others think of you? If you do, you need to know that you're not going to get anywhere in life.
With other countries, as with people, envy and fear play a large part in determining how you are viewed. Are you, as a country or individual, dominant or submissive to another country or person? Who has the power? How lopsided is the power relationship? When you're the only remaining super power, everyone else, even your supposed allies, will be fearful of you. And they should be. Imagine being French, and knowing that the U.S. has over 10,000 nuclear warheads, and could wipe out your entire country in a few minutes, should the urge strike, and still have 9,900 warheads left over. That is a huge psychological hurdle for every other country to try and deal with.
If not fearful of America's nuclear power, then they are fearful of our economic power. The U.S.'s economy is still the canary of the world's economy. If our economy gets sick, then the whole world gets sick right along with us. Though America's economic advantage is not what it once was, it is still supreme on the planet.
If our nuclear and economic power are not enough, how about our cultural power? The entire world, where it is allowed, listens to our music, watches our movies and television shows, reads our books and magazines, apes our youth's sense of fashion and style, and eats our food ( KFC has hundreds of restaurants in China ).
Like it or not, want it or not, we are the world's 800lb gorilla, at present, and that means everything else in the jungle that is the world fears us, even when they are on good terms with us ( allies and enemies are constantly shifting in geopolitics. It wasn't that long ago that America was backing the forerunners of the Taliban in Afganistan in their war against the Soviets ).

2. Bush can work better with the U.N.:
The U.N. is almost powerless. With no military forces, the U.N. can not back up it's decrees in any meaningful way. Just look at how Iraq ignored countless U.N. resolutions until we had had enough and did what the U.N. couldn't do...back up our desires with military force. Though the future of Iraq and the region remain in doubt, there are two thing that are not in doubt; Saddam is no longer in power, and tens of thousands of Iraqi's are no longer being kidnapped, tortured and murdered by the sitting government( secular warfare may be killing large numbers of Iraqis now, but at least this killing lacks the 'legitamacy' of having the government do it ); and, the U.N. didn't do this, America did.
Oh, and the Kurds will probably never be gassed again.
3. Bush can work ( read, spend billions of our tax dollars ) for Global Social Justice:
Please. Social Justice is just the pollitically correct phrase for communism, and I think most of us are smart enough to know that communism is a very bloody dead end for everyone that tries it. How many died in Stalin's purges? How many died in Mao's military revolution and again in his 'cultural revolution'? Vietnam? Pol Pot's Cambodia? Castro's Cuba? Not only have hundreds of millions died around the world for the this or that 'people's repbulic' or 'worker's paradise', but to add insult to injury, the survivors were forced to live in societies so horrific that H.P. Lovecraft couldn't envision them. There has always been povery in the world, and there always will be. Deal with it as best you can, but don't be fools and short change your own people in an attempt to assist another people living on the far side of the world. Yes, we're all people, all human beings, but the well being of family, friends, community and nation come way before nameless strangers twelve thousand miles and a thousand years away.
4. Bush should work to cure AIDs in Africa, Genocide in Darfur/Bosnia/Gaza/Rawanda/Somalia ( insert name of fourth world hell-hole here ):
We're going to improve our world image by 'curing' these problems? All we're going to do is bankrupt ourselves. Africa in general, and especially sub-Saharan Africa, is a black hole of misery, poverty, tribal warfare, psychotic dictators and profound ignorance ( in the new and improved black ruled South Africa, the word on the street is that raping a virgin will cure one of AIDs. No doubt this is South Africa's leading export ). Learn the lesson people; there's only so much we can do, and NOBODY is going to cure Africa but Africans.
5. Bush should sign on to the Kyoto Agreement and save the world from global warming:
This one's simple. China, India and Russia can pollute to their hearts content ( and man, do they ). The West ( America and Europe ) get to strangle their own economies. This is just another case of the have nots guilt-tripping the rest of us into paying their bills. Forget it, and keep your hands on your wallets. As for global warming...one degree centigrade in one hundred years? My God, how have we survived such a catastrophe? Believe me, when the next Ice Age comes, your descendants will be glad of any global warming that may have occured between now and then. Global warming, especially human-caused global warming, is still a theory. Ice Ages are stone cold facts.
6. Bush can continue to prevent another 9/11, or worse:
So far, so good. If you're calling a cell phone in Kabul, I WANT the NSA/CIA/Homeland Security to know about it. Sorry if your sense of 'privacy' is violated, but the rest of America's sense of 'survival' trumps you.
Preventing another 9/11 is ALL Bush needs to do to avoid the 'worst president ever' moniker. If he'd just get his head out of his a** and get a handle on the border, he could go down in history as one of the best. No kidding.


Dean | June 9, 2007 09:20 AM

Mike 999 sez:
Bush is FAR from the worst president ever. Anyone who lived through the Carter years ('76-'80)knows that.

Uh, I lived through the Carter years, and I certainly don't know that Bush is far from the worst president ever. In fact I think he's certainly the worst in living memory, and he's a contender for worst ever.

Iraq is going to be the thing on which Bush is judged. Nixon had Watergate and China: Bush has no China. All he has is Iraq, and everything else pales beside that colossal screwup. Even Afghanistan, which has gone from apparent success to looming failure.

Iraq will be how Bush is remembered, and Iraq is a gift that won't stop giving when the next president, whoever that lucky person is, makes the decision to leave. Colin Powell's words, 'you broke it, you bought it,' apply, and Bush owns what happens in Iraq for at least the next ten years. I pray that it won't become an even bloodier mess, but I fear that it will.

ucfengr | June 9, 2007 09:33 AM

The current Gulf War is a disaster, and it was a preventable disaster that could have been avoided if the Administration had listened to people with operational experience (e.g. Colin Powell) instead of trying to prove a questionable ideological premise (Donald Rumsfeld's view that American technology could substitute for boots on the ground, making it possible to do wars on the cheap with a minimal force; one can argue that this view should have been discredited no later than the 70s, when it was obvious that American air power failed to defeat the North Vietnamese).

Actually, Colin Powell has very little operational experience, having spent most of his career as a staff officer. He really has little more than Rumsfeld, who was a naval aviator from 1954 to 1957 and in the Naval Reserve until 1975 when he became SECDEF under Ford. The decision to go in to Iraq with a "light footprint" was not Don Rumsfeld against the entire military establishment, each side had its supporters. The "light footprint" side made the better case and was ultimately incredibly successful in toppling the Saddam regime. Should we have then committed a much larger force to the occupation? Maybe, but who's to say things would have ended up better? Truthfully, we may not have been able to logistically support a significantly larger force. During the Clinton era the military went through a significant reduction in size and capability and when 9/11 happened, Bush did not try to press for a much larger military. I think this is one of his biggest mistakes.

Also, air power did defeat the North Vietnamese. Operation Linebacker 2 brought the RNV back to the negotiating table. The reason the RNV was able to ultimately win was not a failure of air power, but a failure of the US Congress to provide support to the military support to the South Vietnamese during the final North Vietnamese invasion.

Jonathan Vos Post | June 9, 2007 11:24 AM

Nina Katarina came close. But also:

(1) After George W. Bush personally shot down the Mother Ship, the secret core of Heinlein Competents in Homeland Security, hidden behind the intentionally clueless decoys, decode the inter-alien memoranda;

(2) It turns out that New Orleans was key to the planned invasion, as human-appearing robots were staged there, the Sadam Hussein android being a beta-test, but the humanoid army were vulnerable to biocontaminated water, and thus stopped by the intentional inaction during and following Katrina;

(3) and embryonic human stem cell lines contained alien nanomachines which would have hastened the collapse of our civilization, before

(4) the envoys of Galactic Civilization arrived to clean up the expected mess of the thwarted invasion, and it turned out that they, as a matter of policy, exterminate all planetary civilizations that believe in Evolution by Natural Selection, but encourage accelerated membership for those (more likely to be harmlessly self-limiting) which believe in Creationism and Intelligent Design;

(5) Once admitted to Galactic Civilization, humans follow the John Campbell Protocols and the Poul Anderson "The High Crusade" plans, and take over the Galaxy;

(6) Trantor is built, and features, in the Imperial Garden, a mile-high diamond statue of George W. Bush, the Man Who Saved the Human Race.

An Eric | June 9, 2007 12:09 PM

I frankly don't care, and don't think the country should care, what other countrys think of us. In your own life, do you really care what others think of you? If you do, you need to know that you're not going to get anywhere in life.

Yes, actually, I do care what others think of me, since my life and well-being may very well hinge on what someone thinks about me. My boss comes to mind as an obvious example of someone whose opinions matter whether I like it or not. Other examples may not be so obvious or may be contingent on circumstances: if I ever get run over by a car, for instance, I'd rather that the EMTs, nurses and doctors feel (at the very least) some sense of benign professionalism in my general direction.

One of the worst mistakes the Bush administration has made is the presumption that the U.S. doesn't need anyone else and that our colossal military and economic prowess is more significant than the occasional kind word and show of diplomatic largesse. We do live in a world of other people, after all. And then, too, there is an old and wise saying that it's easier to catch flies with honey than with vinegar.

So, to summarize: when it comes to dealing with tinpot dictators, yes I would like it if other countries thought well enough of us to help or at least not hinder us. When it comes to securing ourselves as much as possible from international criminals, be they murdering terrorists or heroin mules, it would be nice to get a little help here and there. When we're looking at the possibility of global environmental catastrophes from global warming down to the destruction of a species or habitat, boy, would it be nice to have friends. Or, again, at least to have people who are benignly neutral, I'm not too needy, here. When it comes to restricting the spread of potential pandemic viruses, hey, it's easier to work with your pals, right?

Do I need to go on?

_____

As for military reductions, Colin Powell's experience and Vietnam:

Yes, the American military has been changing it's mission and disposition for a while now. That was premised, I think, on the idea that future wars should have been short missions like Panama or Gulf I, where the U.S. military would be inserted for a narrowly-defined objective and then removed. This new military would not be a force designed to fight lengthier wars. And I would say that this was a logical development and that (if it hadn't been for Iraq) Rumsfeld would deserve a great deal of credit for helping trim fat to create a leaner, meaner armed force. The problem is that you can't do both: you can't create a mobile strike force capable of handling a few short, small wars and then choose to engage in nation-building while saying "you go to war with the army you have"--that statement is only true when war comes to you. When you choose the war, you're obliged to go to war with the army you need.

As for Powell's operational experience, I'll stand corrected.

As for Vietnam: Vietnam was a lost cause in the 1950s, and only Eisenhower had the sense to see it. It was not politically possible for a Democrat to "allow" a second China, and so the purse was opened and lives and money wasted. The reason the RVN was able to win was because they were an indigenous nationalist movement that weren't going to surrender, and no colonial or post-colonial power had indefinite resources or the political willingness (happily!) to nuke the peninsula until it fell into the ocean. While American bombings may have caused short-term diplomatic gains, I don't think they had any positive effect for the U.S. (and in the case of Menu, helped precipitate the fall of neighboring countries).

This may, however, be something on which we agree to disagree. I would like to say I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your response, ucfengr, even if we have different perspectives.

ucfengr | June 9, 2007 09:18 PM

The problem is that you can't do both: you can't create a mobile strike force capable of handling a few short, small wars and then choose to engage in nation-building while saying "you go to war with the army you have"--that statement is only true when war comes to you. When you choose the war, you're obliged to go to war with the army you need.

All wars are chosen wars; there are always alternatives, but sometimes the alternative is worse. When you go to war, there are sound reasons to go with the military you have, just as there are sound reasons to wait until you build the military you want. Going to war with the force we had was successful, Saddam and his progeny were soundly defeated with very little loss on our side. The follow-on occupation may have worked out better with a larger force, or it may not have. I think a larger force would have been better, and I think that Bush made a big mistake by not requesting Congress fund a substantial force increase in the wake of 9/11, but I am willing to concede that I may be wrong and the outcome we have may be close to the best possible outcome. Even with a substantially larger force, changing Iraq from a despotic regime to a democracy was going to be a long, tough slog.

The reason the RVN was able to win was because they were an indigenous nationalist movement that weren't going to surrender,

The Democratic Republic of North Vietnam (RVN) was a country that was part of the Soviet Bloc, like North Korea or East Germany. The Viet Cong was an "indigenous, nationalist" movement that was supported by the Soviet Union and North Vietnam. They largely ceased to exist after the Tet Offensive, when they were soundly defeated by the US and South Vietnamese military. After Tet, the war became one between North Vietnam (supported by the USSR) and South Vietnam and the US. The situation in Vietnam could have stabilized into a situation like North and South Korea if the US had continued to provide military and economic support to the South, but they chose not to. The result was a disaster for the people of South Vietnam, with mass executions and re-education camps.

Dean | June 10, 2007 10:16 AM

Tribar sez:

So all those American, English, Russian, French, Polish and Canadian troops needed to die for nearly another year because the Germans just needed that "no longer in doubt" part explained to them harshlike?

Sort of. The Russians were going to keep on dying anyway, because they were in a nasty ground war and you don't just drop your rifles and walk away from one of those.

But the rest, yep. By June '44, the Russians were regularly beating the Nazis and had pushed them back a thousand miles, inflicting heavy casualties. They had beaten the Nazis and were going to take Berlin, there was no question of it. The invasion of Normandy was to decide the shape of post-war Europe.

I could go on, but what's the point. My initial point was that making predictions of the future is always a risky business, but most especially in times of war. And twenty months is a very long time. Most major historic events transpire in less time than that.

And my point was that you chose a spectacularly bad example to make that point.

Branko Collin | June 10, 2007 10:22 AM

"IMO you can argue that GWB and his administration is a) completely incompetent. or b) conspiratorial geniuses on the order of the Illuminati."

I don't think I argued either. I feel that your government got away with enormously shoddy work, that has cost the live of hundreds of thousands and ruined millions more, and that your people have largely rewarded them for it.

"I wouldn't mind seeing more about why Europeans don't see it that way..."

They don't? That's news to this Dutchman. I would say that the mostly positive view that modern day Europeans have about modern day USA is largely rooted in the liberation (although no longer strictly a function of it).

We still call it that, you know, The Liberation, and of our national holidays is liberation day. I remember my mother telling stories about how she and her older brother went begging the American soldiers for chocolate. It was the first English she knew, "chocolate for the baby".

"In case you haven't noticed, by every objective measure, the economy is doing better now than it did in the late 90's only without the stock market bubble and the corporate fraud."

As far as I am aware the economy follows wave patterns of growth and depression that are not in any shape and form influenced by whatever government is in charge at a particular time. All a government can do, I am told, is try and dampen the effects of these waves. To try and pin the blame for economic ups and downs on particular is disingenuous in this respect.

An Eric | June 10, 2007 10:46 AM

ucfengr:

1) There is a difference between having war brought to your doorstep (e.g. the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Taliban's sheltering of those involved in the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks) and deciding to intervene somewhere on what are (arguably) your own terms (e.g. Wilson's intervention in Mexico, both Gulf wars). This may be a simplification insofar as you might consider the two to be ends of a continuum depending on the level of emergency involved; as a matter of current events, however, I think the bottom line is that there was no good reason, even if one accepted the allegations that Hussein had re-initiated WMD programs, to rush into Iraq helter-skelter and half-assed.

Going to battle with the force we had was undeniably successful. The problem is that war is also a matter of politics, to paraphrase Clausewitz. If, for whatever reason, it had been politically sufficient to crush Hussein's forces, we would have been fine running over the country and evacuating, high fives all around. The problem is that the political objective appears to have been "democratize Iraq," and it doesn't appear that the Bush administration gave much thought as to how American military strength might be used as one tool to serve that end (I'm assuming, for the sake of the discussion, that this was a justified end).

In this context, I think it's worth noting that a military is only one tool in a nation's political arsenal. In my opinion, the failure in Iraq cannot be blamed on the military at all: the failure is entirely the result of the Bush administration having murky political objectives in Iraq combined with a fatal disdain for other political tools in the nation's arsenal, with the result that they've tried to use the only tool they're comfortable with--our armed forces--inappropriately.

I'd also note, in any case, that it appears you and I somewhat agree that (if we were going to invade Iraq), more troops would have been better for an occupation.

2) Blame internet shorthand for any imprecision in my statements regarding the independent but Soviet-assisted Republic Of Vietnam or the RVN-supported Viet Cong. The RVN, by the way, can only be described as "Soviet Bloc" if you use the broadest sense of the expression to include any nation receiving Soviet aid during the Cold War. Much like the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Vietnam was founded by anti-colonialist communists with traditional suspicions of their neighbors but dependent on foreign military assistance (in China's case, this dependence ended in the early fifties). If you want to talk about could have beens, the fact that Vietnam was not a Soviet Bloc entity is crucial: a great deal of nonsense could have been avoided if our country had responded to Ho Chi Minh's appeal for continued American aid after WWII. I'm not sure you need to be reminded of this, but E. Germany and Poland were occupied by the Soviet Union after WWII and had governments installed by Moscow; the Republic Of Vietnam was founded by nationalist rebels who would have accepted international assistance from practically anyone recognizing their government.

I'm also not sure I need to point this out, but a great deal of American grief might have been avoided if the 1956 elections had occurred without American meddling; of course this would almost certainly have resulted in Vietnam being united under a Communist regime led by Ho Chi Minh. (Note that I don't think we were capable of not meddling: the fact that a course of action had a certain degree of inevitability doesn't mean the course wasn't stupid or tragic, however.)

I think it's highly unlikely you would ever have seen Vietnam settle into a North Korea/South Korea type of division. Those who founded the RVN successfully fought the French for Vietnamese independence, not for a partitioned country. They had every reason to think their homeland could have been united in '56 and that the initial partition was a temporary situation. They were, indeed, indigenous nationalists with a sense of the righteousness of their cause and a lifelong investment in their war of independence that wasn't going to cease because the meddling foreigners were those once-nice Americans Ho quoted in 1945 (instead of those nasty French imperialists).

Yes, the result may have been a disaster for many in South Vietnam: that doesn't alter the fact that American involvement was an expensive and futile mistake that cost too many American lives.

ucfengr | June 10, 2007 02:53 PM

The RVN, by the way, can only be described as "Soviet Bloc" if you use the broadest sense of the expression to include any nation receiving Soviet aid during the Cold War.

I think you underestimate the level of support provided for the North by the Soviet Union. Not only did the USSR supply the North with sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons and aircraft (in addition to less sophisticated equipment), they also provided technical experts to train personnel and service the weapons.

I think it's highly unlikely you would ever have seen Vietnam settle into a North Korea/South Korea type of division. Those who founded the RVN successfully fought the French for Vietnamese independence, not for a partitioned country.

What exactly was North Vietnam trying to liberate South Vietnam from and how did the mass executions and re-education camps help accomplish this? We can debate whether or not the South could have survived as an independent nation with US support, but please, let's not romanticize what the North and the other Soviet sponsored groups around the world were fighting for.

An Eric | June 10, 2007 11:17 PM

ucfengr:

I'm afraid you're succumbing to the same mistaken belief in Communist monolithism that screwed up US foreign policy from the end of WWII to the early 1970s. I'm quite aware of the support Vietnam received from the Soviet Union: they needed matériel to drive the French out and matériel to protect themselves from China, a traditional enemy. And they would have accepted support from almost anyone. As it happened, we decided to support the French and then to support Anyone-Except-Those-Damn-Commies, while the Soviets were more than willing to support a country that was a thorn in the side to both the West and to their Chinese neighbors in a manner that made for good propaganda.

What you don't seem to be seeing is that pumping men, money and machinery into a sovereign state doesn't automatically make them your puppet. This was one of the few things Richard Nixon got right: he recognized that the fact that the Soviets had provided matériel to the Chinese Communists and PRC hadn't prevented a Sino-Soviet split in the mid-1950s that had gone unexploited by American policymakers for two decades.

Is your other question purposely a straw man? North Vietnam was trying to liberate South Vietnam from Western Imperialists, a role we stepped into--in their eyes--when the French stepped out. Whether we were, in fact, acting as "Western Imperialists" is entirely irrelevant: after WWII, the old colonial empires broke down and Vietnam was one of many places where factions took up arms for liberation. The communists happened, for many reasons, to be the dominant faction in Vietnam. Objectively speaking, executions and re-education camps serve no purpose; I suppose that subjectively, the Vietnamese must have thought they had reasons like any other people doing something irrational. I have no idea why you'd think I or anyone else might be able to justify it, unless you thought it was a clever rhetorical question. Finally, there is nothing "romantic" in stating that the Vietnamese Communists believed they were fighting a war of national liberation, any more than there is anything "romantic" in saying that some of my forebears thought they were settling a wilderness when they brutally slaughtered, relocated and/or re-educated the human beings already living there. Motives and methods, means and ends, are often entirely separate and easily distinguished things.

An Eric | June 10, 2007 11:27 PM

Sorry for doubling up posts, but there was one other thought I had after hitting "Post":

ucfengr, what exactly do you think the North [Vietnamese] and the other Soviet sponsored groups around the world were fighting for? World dominion? A chance for some bureaucrat in Moscow to make an obscure point to his counterpart in Washington? The sheer, unbridled joy of squatting in the mud with a heavy rifle in your arms while anonymous people drop bombs on you?

Paul | June 11, 2007 03:36 PM

Branko:

"As far as I am aware the economy follows wave patterns of growth and depression that are not in any shape and form influenced by whatever government is in charge at a particular time. All a government can do, I am told, is try and dampen the effects of these waves. To try and pin the blame for economic ups and downs on particular is disingenuous in this respect."

Except for two things:

1. The Bush haters on this thread do try to make the case that the economy is somehow not doing well and that it is Bush's fault ( that would be the comments about the deficit and the minimum wage etc.). These same people did and do credit Clinton for the 90's.

2. Presidents can do significant harm ( Jimmy carter) by ignoring trends and failing to make adjustments. They can also help out quite a bit by enacting intelligent tax laws. The Bush tax cuts do in fact coincide directly with the recent boom and there are plenty of sound fiscal reasons to believe that the two are connected.

Consumer Unit 5012 | June 12, 2007 04:33 AM

I keep hearing that the 'economy is improving; If you own stock in Exxon-Mobil, sure, but for us filthy peasants who work for a living, it ain't going so well. I'll advise you to Google "Jobless Recovery" in the sure and certain knowledge you won't.



Anyway, back on topic. What could Bush do...?



Iraq is quite possibly a lost cause at this point. Anyone who says the US needs to "win" in Iraq needs to present a PLAN, if they don't want to sound like nitwits. The closest thing I can think of would be to withdraw US troops to Kurd territory, on the grounds they're the one part of the Iraq population that seems glad we're there.



Revoke all his tax cuts. If he can't balance the budget, he can at least stop following Grover Norquist's insane plan to bankrupt the government.



Stop issuing "Signing statements".



Everyone in Guantanamo gets a trial or an apology. Then RAZE THE PLACE TO THE GROUND. This goes triple for all those CIA 'black sites' in Europe and Points East.



Start taking this "Global Warming" thingy seriously. As in, pass laws seriously. Oh, and maybe give the EPA a little budget and authority.



There's plenty more, sadly. But this'll do for a start.

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