January 31, 2009

George W. Bush, His Presidency in Perspective

By Donald G. Mashburn

If there is any justice and truth in the way former presidents are remembered in history, the writers of the historical account of George W. Bush’s presidency must give a prominent place to the fact that this president, in a new, bewildering and terrifying world, kept this nation safe from further terrorist attacks, from that horrific day of September 11, 2001, till he left office on January 20, 2009.

An intolerant, irrationally harsh opposition found almost nothing to like about the 43rd president – a deliberate dislike with its roots in Bush’s campaign against Al Gore for the presidency in 2000, and which grew to full-blown hatred in many quarters when the U.S. Supreme Court prevented Democrats, aided and abetted by the Florida State Supreme Court, from literally stealing the Florida election results – and the presidency.

But even those intolerant Bush haters must agree that this president acquitted himself with courage, grace, consistency, and effective leadership in preventing the crazy minions of Al Qaida from building on their 9/11 strike that stunned this nation.

So if “Dubya” had accomplished nothing more – and he did in fact accomplish a great deal more – this nation owes this former president a huge debt of gratitude for keeping our beloved USA safe from further terrorist attacks.

To balance the picture, Bush did have failures and some weak points, in large part having to do with his reluctance to stand up to the big spending Democrats and the big spenders in his own party. At a time when his presidential position needed to be shored up, fortified and strengthened, Bush took years to find his veto pen. By then, it was too late to head a Congress bent on running spending to record levels.

And of course there were the wars, the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and running Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq. Both were approved by nearly all Democrats, and Bush enjoyed high public approval in the early months after the wars drew into their vortices our own military forces.

But antiwar forces, splintered and disorganized at first, soon attracted the Bush haters, spawned full-grown from the 2000 election. These soon were embraced and supported by the liberal media and other malcontents with a long-entrenched dislike for any and all things “Bush,” including Dubya’s father George H. W. Bush, the 41st president.

Bush also had a knack, as president, for giving critics ammunition to charge that he was cocky, not wired for heavy thinking, and was too secretive. As anti-war sentiment grew, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined to aggravate and accentuate all these impressions.

Of course, the increasingly hostile liberal media were only too willing to add their slanted embellishments as Bush had to deal with conditions of war and economic instability that no other president has faced.

And strangely enough, the president seemed either unable to counter them. Or, as it seemed at times, even seemed to have no real interest in changing the liberal media’s perception of him.

Future events will play a large role in providing a proper perspective of the presidency of the 43rd president. Fortunately future events will be more objective than the current biased, anti-Bush media.

We can only hope that future historians will be as objective in assessing the incredibly tough challenges and problems faced by George W. Bush in his eight years as our president.

Barak Obama, A Man of Many Words

By Donald G. Mashburn

In many respects, the first statements and acts of President Barack Hussein Obama – we can use his middle name now, since he chose to use it when he was sworn in as president – have shown an unexpected pragmatism. In other respects, they have confirmed his preference for style or political pandering over substance.

In all respects, his statements have been made with an abundance of words – some would say an overabundance.

Throughout his election campaign, Obama never missed an opportunity to overstate the difficulties he would face in dealing with all the wrongs of the Bush administration, nor did he miss many opportunities to overstate his claims of all the magical solutions he would employ to right those “wrongs” (which included just about everything George Bush did as president).

His followers ate up the wordy railings against the “Bush-McCain policies,” and lapped up his overbroad, no-details, often-vague promises of all his cures and potions for what ails America. Winning the election, and the realities that accompany election, forced Obama to back off on some of his claims, revise some, and flip-flop on others, while claiming to “have been consistent all along” in his newly adopted position.

His early pronouncements reflected some of that newfound pragmatism. His inaugural address included calls for citizens to “set aside childish things,” and to assume more responsibility. While promising to search for programs that work and eliminate those that don’t, Obama opened the way for bigger and bigger government, saying that the test should not be whether government was too big but whether it worked.

That definition leaves far too much room to expand government – read government spending – to exorbitantly high levels that would make New Dealer Franklin D. Roosevelt look like a nickel and dime peddler.

But one thing that Obama did not leave out were the words – well crafted and well delivered, but copious in quantity and seemingly drawn from a bottomless well.

The words have continued daily, but as yet have had little effect on the real world Americans live in. Some of Obama’s choices for cabinet post have run into embarrassing bumps in the road. Obama choice for Secretary of the Treasury, Timothy Geithner, couldn’t pay his taxes or get tax returns filed properly for four years.

Health and Human Services candidate Tom Daschle seemingly couldn’t pay all taxes due during at least one tax year. And these are some of the people that the new president, Barack Obama, wants to put in charge of huge and important departments of government.

Of course, Obama himself, comes to his job with virtually no experience in running anything. It will be interesting to see if his combination of Clinton-years retreads, guys that can’t even file an honest and factual tax return – until selected for a national cabinet post – and Obama’s gift for words can govern in these troubled times.

One thing is certain, President Obama will find out that in the real world of finance and producing businesses, more than words are needed to get useful results.