Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Unwinding Bush

From The Atlantic October 2006

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Unwinding Bush

How long will it take to fix his mistakes?

by Jonathan Rauch

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H istory judges good presidents by what they do, bad ones by how long they take to undo. Although history hasn’t yet caught up with President George W. Bush, midterm elections are about to—and those are often a referendum on presidential performance. Now is therefore as good a time as any to jump to a conclusion: the question history will ask is whether Bush’s presidency was as bad as Richard Nixon’s or only as bad as Jimmy Carter’s.

Five years ago, with the ruins of the Twin Towers still smoking, many Americans—I should own that I was one of them—looked at Bush and thought they saw a Churchill, or at least a Truman: a leader fortuitously equipped for a difficult job at a critical moment. Bush’s partisans are still holding out for misunderestimated greatness, to be vindicated in the end. They think Bush will be to the war on jihadism what Truman was to the Cold War: the guy who established the course that will see the country through decades of peril.

To those disinclined to suspend judgment for fifty years, however, Bush’s course is looking less like a long road than a dead end. Even many conservatives have lost faith; in a recent interview with CBS News, no less a conservative luminary than William F. Buckley declared, “There will be no legacy for Mr. Bush.” For the disenchanted—again, including me—the relevant points of reference now are not Churchill or Truman but Nixon and Carter.


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