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June 16, 2008

How Bad is Bush?

In an essay in the Washington Post last week, columnist Dan Eggen discusses the legacy of President Bush in a historical context. Like most other evaluations of Bush's presidency, Eggen's relies on the opinion of the majority of historians and the general public: that Bush will ultimately be remembered in a negative light, and possibly as the worst president ever. While this may be true, thanks to the president's colossal failure in Iraq and with the US economy, some possible outcomes would completely flip the perception of the President's tenure in office.


History may reconsider 'Mission Accomplished.'

I realize that I may not be the foremost expert on presidential politics, as my typical subject matter is foul-mouthed country singers and crack-smoking baseball players, but the question over Bush's legacy extends beyond politics to all facets of culture: Are premature evaluations of historical legacy ever worthwhile?

The most notable strike against Bush is his administration's comic mishandling of its investigation into Saddam Hussein's capability to produce weapons of mass destruction—an act that many identify as an attempt to deliberately deceive the public—and the subsequent invasion of Iraq. The Iraq debacle has produced very little, other than thousands of dead American and Iraqi soldiers and tens of thousands of civilians, billions of dollars redirected from domestic programs into the military, and a new wave of Anti-Americanism in the freshly re-destabilized Middle East. However, what if democracy (or capitalism) thrives in Iraq? At the end of World War II, who would have guessed that 40 years later Japan would be producing the most-efficient cars and electronics in the world en route to becoming one of the planet's leading economic powerhouses? Is it that unreasonable to believe that a combination of Iraqi scientists and American venture capitalists could develop an acceptable source of renewable energy? Or that Iraq can become a popular tourist destination, a la Beirut in the 1970s or Dubai today?

These scenarios are unlikely, but possible. History can be used to evaluate the present, but attempting to predict the future is largely an exercise in futility. Overanalyzing small data sets as a means of predicting the future is a rampant problem in the media, and throughout modern life. Three weeks into the 2008 baseball season, the Blue Jays released Frank Thomas, who was hitting .167, with a .333 slugging percentage. Correctly guessing that the Blue Jays were missing the big picture, the A's picked him up, and in the six weeks since, Thomas has delivered a .933 OPS. After the Lakers' Thursday night loss to the Celtics to go down, 3-1, in the NBA Finals, ESPN.com's Page 2 promised “We will never compare Kobe to [Michael Jordan] again.” The aftermath of one embarrassing loss is hardly the best time to consider the legacy of Kobe Bryant's entire career. Check the list of the Top 10 scoring seasons in basketball history: The only players on the list from after the annexation of the ABA are Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. If the Lakers win the next three games, or lose this year's championship but go on to win the next three, will Bill Simmons still have a problem comparing the two greatest shooting guards of all-time?

Just as anything can happen in the remainder of Kobe's career, anything can happen in the next 50 years. Right now the Middle East is a mess, and may remain that way for the foreseeable future. But all it takes is a car, a scientist, some good investing, or something that no one else has even thought of yet, and everything can be altered drastically. Let the next generation of historians judge the current president's legacy, as right now, we're a few decades too early.

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- Politics
- posted on Jun 16, 08

Very thought provoking. I enjoyed reading your article. However, I still question whether Bush, despite any possible future invention or turn of events, can ever get out from under the fact that he lied to us, is responsible for the death of tens of thousands of US, Iraqi and other innocent people, may be criminally culpable for his malfeasance and plunged our country into economic peril can ever be seen in anything approaching a favorable light. The only people who will ever forgive him or view his conduct as anything less than horrendous are those people who continue to deny the wrongs and atrocities Bush continues to commit.

- Politics
- posted on Oct 12, 10

bush is not president
fon uot bad bush
no takn no fiet
your rw you lied
in presn
in jial
no vot

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