A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Strolling Down Amnesia Lane

Whenever I think about the last frenetic month of the Presidential Campaign, I start thinking about how George Bush campaigned in 2000, and the disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality. So much has been said about him and his Presidency that anything I can offer up would obviously be redundant.

The Bush people got one thing right: his Presidency was a consequential one. I go back and read endorsements like this one from Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal in 2000, and all I can do is grin and bear it:

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"Readers of this page are familiar with the policy questions at issue in the election. As president, George W. Bush's natural inclination and stated intention is and will be to lower taxes, not raise them, to clear away regulation rather than create it, and to reform Social Security in a way that makes it more lucrative for recipients, more secure as an entitlement, and more respectful toward those workers who will be allowed to redirect a portion of their contributions into markets. He will allow Americans once again to look for and develop energy resources, while opposing irresponsible treatment of precious unspoiled lands.

In taking these actions Mr. Bush will strengthen the foundations of today's prosperity...Federal decisions of course can weaken prosperity. Al Gore's proposals--new entitlements, new spending, a balanced budget and no tax increase--seem so contradictory as to be schizophrenic, and more likely to turn a downturn into a deep recession...

In foreign affairs Mr. Bush's intentions are marked by moral modesty and a lack of illusions: America, he repeated in the last debate, must fully engage the world, but with humility. His first and most crucial foreign-affairs endeavor will begin, appropriately, at home: improving the national defense, remedying the effects of eight years of confusion and neglect, enhancing responsiveness to future challenges, increasing morale, restoring those aspects of the old military culture that are positive and needed...

All of this will be a relief. What's more, it suggests a restoration of civility and grace to the White House, and to political discourse. This will have happy implications for our democracy, and for the children who see it unfold each day.

A Bush presidency would mark a cultural-political paradox: a triumph of class that is a setback for snobbery. Class--consideration, a lack of bullying ego, respect for others--has been not much present the past eight years. The Clintons and Mr. Gore have acted and spoken in ways that suggest they believe they are more intelligent and capable than others--superior, in short. They have behaved as if they believe they are entitled to assist others by limiting their autonomy; thus the tax policies in which they take our surplus and spend it for us, the social programs in which they limit what you might fritter away in your sweet but incompetent way...

The Clintons and Mr. Gore, intelligent and ambitious, came of age at the moment in our history when America As Meritocracy took off like a rocket; and they had merit. They were educated at fine universities at the moment those universities became factories for manufacturing the kind of people who prefer mankind to men and government to the individual. To absorb those views was to help ensure one's rise. They rose. In time they won power in the system they helped invent--command-and-control liberalism. In rising and running things they became what they are: vain and ruthless as only those who have not suffered could be. Not realizing they were lucky they came to think they were deserving; they were sure they had the right to show the inferior—that would be you and me--how to arrange their lives.

Mr. Bush came from the same generation, lived in the same time, but became a very different sort of man. He wasn't impressed by Yale; when he saw the elites up close he didn't like what he saw. He was of Midland, Texas.

He became a businessman, floundered, knew success, experienced disappointment, became a deep believer in God. His religious commitment has meant for him the difference between a clear mind and a double mind. It has helped him become a man who is attached to truth on a continuing basis, and not just an expedient one. It means he sees each person as a unique individual worthy of dignity, freedom and responsibility...

Mr. Bush has a natural sympathy for, and is the standard bearer of, the modest, the patronized, the disrespected... that is a great irony of the 2000 election: The man who speaks for the nobodies is the president's son, Mr. Andover Head Cheerleader of 1965. But history is replete with such ironies; they have kept the national life interesting...

There is the question of intelligence: Is Al Gore bright enough to be president? Both Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore are intelligent men, but they have very different kinds of minds. George Bush respects permanent truths and is not in the thrall of prevalent attitudes...

Mr. Bush is at odds with the spirit of the past eight years in another way. He appears to be wholly uninterested in lying, has no gift for it, thinks it's wrong.

This is important at any time, but is crucial now. The next president may well be forced to shepherd us through the first nuclear event since World War II, the first terrorist attack or missile attack. "Man has never had a weapon he didn't use," Ronald Reagan said in conversation, and we have been most fortunate man has not used these weapons to kill in the past 50 years. But half the foreign and defense policy establishment fears, legitimately, that the Big Terrible Thing is coming, whether in India-Pakistan, or in Asia or in lower Manhattan.

When it comes, if it comes, the credibility--the trustworthiness--of the American president will be key to our national survival. We may not be able to sustain a president who is known for his tendency to tell untruths.

If we must go through a terrible time, a modest man of good faith is the one we'll need in charge. That is George Walker Bush, governor of Texas."

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Noonan said one more interesting thing, about a few months after 9/11, after Bush had laid out his new foreign policy...what was it again? Oh yeah:

"More and more this Presidency is feeling like a gift."

2 Comments:

Blogger steve said...

Good times. I guess I should feel reassured that all the projection models I've read have a virtually 1.0 probability of an Obama win. On the other hand, they're based on polls, and there's that tricky bit about vanishing support for black candidates when polling...

5:55 PM

 
Blogger Omar said...

Yeah, whenever I talk to some of my old law school buddies who are getting excited about the electoral landslide coming against the GOP, I remind them of Election Day 2004, when we were all in class reading the exit polls predicting a Kerry blowout (oh my God! He's leading by 15 in North Carolina!), and broke out the bubbly. A bit prematurely, as it fucking turned out.

6:45 PM

 

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