[Re-posted from earlier today]
Come join me, for a while, in an alternative universe. In this universe, Obama is clearly a worse president than George W. Bush. Now how do we get there? Here’s a start:
Many of [Bush’s] supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt).
But by far the biggest factor in today’s debt are the unfunded wars Bush launched and lost, the massive tax cuts which took us from surplus to deficit, a spending spree on Medicare, and a collapse of the economy which occurred on Bush’s watch after eight years of negligent regulation of Wall Street. This sentence is therefore almost perversely deceptive.
Unlike Obama’s tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11.
Does 9/11 not count? The biggest national security failure since Pearl Harbor – resulting in more than 3,000 deaths? After the president was explicitly warned about its likelihood a month before it happened? Can you imagine what Rubin would be saying if a Democrat had presided over that?
People do remember the big stuff — rallying the country after the Twin Towers attack, 7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity, millions of people saved from AIDS in Africa, a good faith try for immigration reform, education reform and a clear moral compass.
Credit where it’s due: Bush’s speech to Congress after 9/11 was extraordinary. The original reaction? Not so much. He didn’t return to Washington in that crisis. He panicked. And Cheney went bonkers. Yes, his record on AIDS in Africa remains a great legacy. But the economic growth under Bush was relatively anemic, despite the huge increase in demand caused by the tax cuts. He failed on immigration reform and on social security reform. His education reform has not survived. And the first American president to authorize and defend torture is not a man I would regard as in possession of a “clear moral compass.” Then this:
To the left’s horror, it turns out that most of his anti-terror fighting techniques (e.g. the Patriot Act, enhanced military commissions, Guantanamo) were effective and remain in place. Even the dreaded enhanced interrogation, according to two CIA agents and the former attorney general, contributed to our locating and assassinating Osama bin Laden.
As Emily Bazelon noted, the rigged military commissions have managed to prosecute 7 terror suspects successfully. The civilian courts – which Bush disdained – have convicted almost 500 in comparison. 84 prisoners at Gitmo are on hunger strike; and it has become a rallying cry for Jihad across the globe. Prisoners there were subjected to brutal torture, their meetings with lawyers are bugged and secretly recorded, and the reputation of the United States as a civilized country has been for ever tainted. Maybe soft power doesn’t exist in the mind of Rubin. But Bush did more to destroy America’s soft and hard power by trashing one and over-using the other – and failing to achieve anything of value in return.
Then torture. Note the lack of any discussion about its morality. Note the absence of any mention of the Constitution Project’s report that definitively found that Rubin’s term “enhanced interrogation” meant without question torture. Note the refusal to acknowledge that those with the most information, the Senate Intelligence Committee, have emphatically denied that torture helped get bin Laden. Note also no mention of the fact that Bush had eight years to find and capture or kill bin Laden and failed. Obama found and killed him in three years. We get two CIA agents and an attorney general arguing that their own torture worked. And they have no vested interest in believing or saying that, do they?
As for the surge? It failed dismally on its own terms, but succeeded in getting us out of there. Its own terms were a solid non-sectarian representative government in place to leave behind. Instead, we have a return to brutal sectarianism – only this time with the Shiites in charge. 33 Sunnis were murdered today by government forces – and elections in Anbar and Nineveh, Sunni areas, did not take place.
The country Bush broke is still broken. And the cost in terms of human life and tax-payers’ dollars still looms over us all. And yet some like Rubin still do not see the failure staring at them in the face. Because they cannot. Late-era neoconservatives can never admit error. They do not have the intellect for it.
(Above screenshot from Rubin’s “Ask Anything” series – all five videos are here.)