Out with the old, in with the new

We are currently living in a state of benign anarchy. Team Bush has literally exited the building and Team Obama will not officially move in until Tuesday. For the next three days, you can do whatever the hell you want – no one will notice!

Seriously, no one will notice.

Much like the New Year, moments of artificial transition demand reflection and introspection from the intelligentsia. WaPo has its transition editorial bundled up on one page. Here, you can lament “Bush’s Greatest Failing” with David Broder, then get a little chastised by Peter Beinart’s take on “Bush’s Finest Hour.”

“Some cite failures ranging from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo to Hurricane Katrina and the neglect of the environment and the working class,” Broder says. “But for all the outrages in those areas, I thought the most damaging to the American people -- both those living now and those yet unborn -- was placing the entire cost of Bush's ambitious, if not misguided, national security policy on the tiny fraction of American families with loved ones in the armed services.”

President Bush did not ask us to bear the burdens of war with our fighting men and women, according to Broder. Indeed, Bush told us to “go shopping” and gave us the tax cuts to do so, that we may not even be aware we were in a war. Broder does not, however, question whether Bush should have called our situation a war in the first place. Perhaps that’s too big of a question at this early juncture.

Beinart is calling on Dems to be less cynical on Iraq, specifically on the success of the surge. He’s not a booster for the Bush Doctrine, he’s just trying to inoculate the new liberal nobility.

Watching the Bush administration flit from disaster to disaster, they have grown increasingly dismissive of conservatives in the process. [Younger liberals] consume partisan media, where Republican malevolence is taken for granted. They laugh along with the "Colbert Report," the whole premise of which is that conservatives are bombastic, chauvinistic and dumb. They have never had the ideologically humbling experience of watching the people whose politics they loathe be proven right.

Posterity should (though probably won’t) remember that the surge was not Bush’s idea – it was John McCain’s. He and others, including Democrats, had warned early on that Rumsfeld’s cockamamie shock and awe strategy would be neither without shocking and awesome numbers of troops.

The point is, again, Bush tried to have his cake and eat it, too: wartime patriotism with peacetime prosperity. WaPo’s accompanying editorial tries to edify Bush’s other well-recorded personality trait, his certitude. After 9/11, it unified us as a country, but it also blinded Bush to the reasonable criticism of concerned outsiders (like McCain).

I think the editorial board missed the point which Broder and Beinart make obliquely. That is, Bush’s legacy will probably be written as one of courage in the face of challenges when it ought to be one of cowardice. It isn’t brave to stand on the rubble with a bullhorn or on the deck of a carrier in a flight suit. It isn’t brave to fear the electoral backlash of honest economic choices. It is cunning to do those things and it is appropriate for a man who’s successfully faced down a number of personal demons to adopt their tactics. They did prove useful at avoiding Bush’s last great personal demon:

The possibility of another one-term Bush presidency.

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