Friday, December 26, 2008

George W. Bush: Moral Clarity Against Evil

A new CNN poll finds 75 percent of Americans are glad the Bush administration's time in office is coming to an end. Meanwhile, expectations are high for the incoming Barack Obama administration. A new Gallup poll shows that President-Elect Obama is the most admired man in the world, and Hillary Clinton is the most admired woman.

The Gallup survey offers a bit of an explanation for the findings on Obama, with an apt comparison to President Bush at an early period of presidential popularity (the stage of the president's term matters significantly in these comparisons):

The 32% of Americans naming Obama as the man they most admire is extraordinarily high, nearly matching the 39% of Americans who named George W. Bush in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attacks. At that time, Bush's presidential job approval rating was a soaring 86%. It is also higher than former presidents Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush received in any of their appearances on Gallup's Most Admired Man list.
In a recent post I noted that for all of his failures, President Bush's willingness to stand up to our enemies, to stand up for what's right, is his greatest strength. Americans saw that in him at the time of our nation's greatest contemporary crisis, and I'm confident that history's record will look back favorably on this administration, with its accomplishments in foreign affairs, as providing a model of leadership that future administrations will emulate. To say this is controversial, of course. Yet, public opinion shows Bush fatigue most of all, we should note, and uncertainty about current economic times as well. Still, it's heresy to evince such favorable opinion, considering the deep well of Bush-hatred that been built up on the left, not to mention the role the liberal press has had in delegitimizing the administration's politics and policies.

In November, the New York Times published
a brief roundup of exit opinions on the administration among a handful of commentators. I liked those of former press secretary Ari Fleischer best:

I’ll miss President Bush’s moral clarity. The president’s critics hated his willingness to label things right or wrong, and the press used to bang me around for it, but history will show how right he was.

Shortly after 9/11, the president gave a speech in which he talked about the fight between good and evil, and that good would win. Afterward, I told him I thought he was being simplistic: “There are a lot of shades of gray in this war. I think it’s more nuanced.”

He looked at me and said, “If this isn’t good versus evil, what is?”

Then he reminded me that when Ronald Reagan went to Berlin, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” — not to put a gate in it or to remove some bricks. Mr. Reagan said to tear it all down.

Mr. Bush saw the presidency as the place to call the American people to big challenges — in morally clear terms. As his spokesman, I knew that many people would be uncomfortable with how easily he made such moral judgments. I also knew that many Americans welcomed his tough, direct and unambiguous moral clarity.

I’ll miss that direct talk. In the age of terrorism, the one thing we have to fear more than anything is moral relativism.

When Israel was attacked during the Bush years, the president always stated that Israel had a right to defend itself. After 9/11, he never referred to Israel’s counterattacks as a “cycle of violence.” He understood that when a democracy strikes back against terrorists, it’s not a “cycle.” It’s self-defense.

We haven’t been attacked since 9/11, Libya no longer has nuclear weapons, Syria was stopped from acquiring them, Saddam Hussein is gone, and Iraq is on its way to being a nation that fights terrorism — all on President Bush’s watch. His job approval may now be low, but he should leave office with his head held high. I hope his successors recognize the strength that moral clarity can provide.
We'll be seeing a large number of essays on the Bush legacy in the coming weeks. Few of them will be favorable, except those from die-hard right-wingers who recognize now this administration stood firm against America's enemies and refused to cave to pacifist public opinion when the chips were down. That's an American legacy people will remember long after talks of subprime crashes and multi-billion-dollar bailouts have long been forgotten.

27 comments:

Philippe Ohlund said...

Very interesting post, Donald! :-)

People are always nostalgic.

They always want the good ol' days back, when they were younger and so on.

When the years of George W. Bush will be put in perspective, I think future historians actually will appreciate him more than the actual shoe-throwing world! :-)

Gayle said...

Merry Christmas, Donald!

As a Texan I admired President Bush as my Governor, and as my President I still admire him. I am also grateful to him. There are some things he has done that I have disagreed with, but if I hold my breath waiting for a president whose every move I will agree with, I'll suffocate! The fact is that President Bush is a good and decent man and he has kept us safe since 9/11, an astounding feat all by itself! Unlike so many ingrates in this country I'll always be grateful to him for that. I will miss him!

SWAC Girl said...

Thanks for the post, Donald. I especially liked the comments from Ari Fleischer who worked closely with the President and respected him, as most of his staff has over the years.

After 9/11, we were a frightened nation. President Bush assured our skiddish masses that he would protect them from future terrorist acts ... and he kept his word and did his job.

We should all be grateful for his leadership and his willingness to call evil what it was and face it head on. Let's hope future leaders will be as vigilant.

Law and Order Teacher said...

I agree with Ari in that moral relativism is the greatest threat to our country. Anytime you seek to rationalize evil by conflating it to another's conduct you cheapen the recognition that evil is evil and it's wrong. When we lose our sense of right and wrong we lose our soul as a nation. America has always been recognized as a bastion of good in the world. Some of our fellow Americans don't see it that way. There is a struggle for the soul of this nation and it must be won by those who recognize America does have a soul. Not by those who have long since given up theirs.

Donald Douglas said...

"I think future historians actually will appreciate him more than the actual shoe-throwing world!"

Perfectly said, Philippe!

Donald Douglas said...

"The fact is that President Bush is a good and decent man and he has kept us safe since 9/11, an astounding feat all by itself! Unlike so many ingrates in this country I'll always be grateful to him for that. I will miss him!"

I will too, Gayle. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Donald Douglas said...

I think I was especially building up the post for Ari Fleischer's comments, Lynn.

Thanks for visiting.

Donald Douglas said...

"There is a struggle for the soul of this nation and it must be won by those who recognize America does have a soul. Not by those who have long since given up theirs."

I think you really hit the reason why I'm bloggin, Law and Order Teacher. I feel good though. I think people of good moral standing will keep this country afloat, and I think the secular Democratic left will overreach. It's a matter of keeping the faith, and playing smart politics.

TRUTH 101 said...

AS usual Professor Douglas, your limited view clouds the truth about Bush and his presidency. Your's and the rest of your right wing brehtren continue with the tired Rove inspired phrase of "This president has kept us safe since 911." This president was warned by the Clinton administration about Bin Ladin. It even got a report titled "AlQueda PLANNING TO ATTACK AMERICA." Bush did nothing and America was attacked. Since then we've lost over 4,000 brave Soldiers in Iraq. A country we had no reason to invade. Not to mention the over 30,000 wounded and permanently scarred. And despite what you say, the situation in Iraq is still out of control. When Professor Douglas and Mr. Casebolt can go for a walk in downtown Bahgdad without being murdered, then talk to us about progress.
I would, and so would all of those on the left gladly supported President Bush if he had done the right thing and asked us to make the necessary sacrifices to fight and win the war on terror. He had neither the courage nor intelligence to do that. History will remember Bush as if not the worst, then certainly close to the worst president ever.

Philippe Ohlund said...

Thanks, Donald! :-)

Norm said...

Today the news from Hawaii is that our President-Elect took his children for ice cream treats. I, with many other Americans, approve and applaud this course of action by our President-Elect and hope his approval rating stays high. Of course, his approval rating may drop if he stops taking his kids for ice cream after he becomes President. The fickle public.

Grace Explosion said...

Hi Donald,

Thinking about it, Bush's toughness on terror attacks have done much for our national security. I believe persons like Putin, Ahmadinejab, and other world powers and dictators have been held in "check". President Bush has not only kept us safe from terrorist attacks by his strong stance... but I think he has also kept us safe from other wars and attacks from our enemies.

I think now is the time to restock our arsenals and re-equip for any future defenses of our freedom and liberty.

But that will not be what Obama does. He wants to disarm us.

Bush will go down in history as the last great President of the USA on multiple fronts and reasons. Obama is going to preside over the destruction of the USA. Whileas right now people are weak and emotionally driven to desire him, when they see the result, then the pendulum will swing. As persons compare the relative peace and safety and freedom we enjoyed under President Bush and his doctrines - then actually SEE the horror of the reality of fruits of the doctrines of Obama.. the pendulum will fully swing.

President Bush will go down in history, in greater retrospect, as our last great President... and Obama as our WORST.

Grace.

Law and Order Teacher said...

t101,
I'm intrigued. What are the necessary sacrifices to win the war that Bush failed to ask or see?

Grace Explosion said...

Law and Order, T101 glorifies this reprobate who wants to turn focus on stripping Americans of their freedom. Obama, socialist totalitarian that he is, wants a Civilian National Security Force greater than our army. Our army fights terrorist and foreign enemies to maintain our democracy, our liberty, and our freedom.

Obama will gut our army and give us the Secret Police to strip from us our democracy, our liberty, and our freedom.

He's a communist totalitarian dictator... and Truth 101 ignorantly applauds his march to destroy our democracy, our liberty,and our freedoms.

What a fool he is. And how right you are.

Grace.

TRUTH 101 said...

Bush has never asked us to help pay for the war on terror LawMan. I would be more than happy to pay more taxes to see the job done right. He showed no courage. For that matter, neither the Dems or Repubs showed any courage on this. Now our debt is 11 trillion dollars. To do it right would ahve menat real sacrifice. Sending 500k Tropops to Iraq and Afghanistan, or however many it took to kill the bad guys and help the citizens that realy wanted a new age to come achieve that. And if it meant we had to reinstitute the draft then we have to reinstitute the draft. The greatest generations of Americans knew sacrifice. This one is spoiled by panzy politicians that are afriad of doing the right thing because they might lose an election.

Grace. Why do you hate America so much? Obama is a great example of the American Dream, and you call him a commie and accuse him of wanting to destroy the very Nation that allowed him to become the next President. Shame on you.

Grace Explosion said...

Truth 101,

Obama was a member of an American Socialist Party. Obama embraces the Socialist Platform.

He's a commie. He's unAmerican.

He's America's nightmare.

He can go to hell. He's the 666 beast.

Grace.

TRUTH 101 said...

Obama sure lives in a nice house and his wife sure wears nice clothes for a socialist Grace.
On the whole though, I think you're quite funny and have this religious zealot thing down pat. Keep the laughs rolling Amazing Grace.

Rich Casebolt said...

T101 ... from what I see, increasing taxes would have reduced government revenues, which would have been COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to the war effort.

Maybe you should try thinking, instead of merely reciting the same ol' D3 (discussed, debated, debunked) Leftist boilerplate, we've seen for years ... like that stuff I Fisked a couple of threads ago.

Face it ... the only way you would have supported Mr. Bush is if he became a Leftist like yourselves ... in EVERY area, not just on the war.

Otherwise, you would continue to use the ups and downs of war as a convenient club to beat him with, with the objective of discrediting the conservative values he would still stand for ... whether or not your efforts were impeding the war effort.

He had the courage ... and the WISDOM, which is more than mere intelligence ... to not go down that road, thank God.

Yet you continue to strain at D3 gnats.

TRUTH 101 said...

If lowering taxes worked so well then why is the deficit 11 trillion and counting Rich? Yours is the same claptrap nonsense we've heard since Reagan. You right wingers come up with some of the silliest nonsense I've ever heard. How about your president of the US Chamber of Commerce when he said outsourcing jobs overseas is good for America. Your problem and the problem of people of your blind and deluded beliefs are you don't want to feel any pain or make any sacrifice. You don't care that millions of manufacturing jobs are lost because somebody else losing his house and security is not you. You close your eyes to the parents of a sick child that can't afford treatment because Daddy's job was sent to Mexico and Mom's job was sent to India. But you and your pals feign sanctimoniously by telling yourselves your tax dollars help these people and your right wing governance will make things better. I would much rather my taxes go up than sit by while people that could be helped suffer because people like you Rich, want it all but don't want to pay for it.

Law and Order Teacher said...

t101,
Thanks, now I get it. Raise taxes, check. Reinstitute the draft, check. If Bush had only known, he could have saved himself all the left wing hatred because of the war. Raise taxes, have a draft. Dang, I didn't see that one coming. Did the draft, wasn't fun.

Rich Casebolt said...

If lowering taxes worked so well then why is the deficit 11 trillion and counting Rich?

Can you say "excessive spending" ... by BOTH sides of the aisle?

And let me give you an example of how outsourcing is good ... a firsthand example.

Before my present gig, I worked for an American semiconductor company whose wafer fabs were all stateside, but their packaging and final test operations were based in Thailand.

The lower cost of doing business in Thailand meant we could sell more chips ... and keep/create more jobs in those American wafer fabs ... not to mention that we helped our customers to sell their products at a lower price by doing so, which helped them and the consumer alike.

Your problem and the problem of people of your blind and deluded beliefs are you don't want to feel any pain or make any sacrifice. You don't care that millions of manufacturing jobs are lost because somebody else losing his house and security is not you.

I've been laid off twice in my career, T101, so there is no need to lecture me about all this.

Again, it is you who are not only deluded, but through parroting The Biggest Lie of All delude others into not taking steps to assure their own futures ... instead, they are continually told the lie that only those with supposedly deep pockets have any responsibility in this matter.

Perhaps, to use an example, if the UAW had been as concerned about the productivity of its members as they were about their raises, the automakers wouldn't be in the mess they're in.

JD said...

I cannot believe that number is so low. I would expect around 95% of Americans are happy to see the evil tyrant Bush abdicating his White House.

Righty64 said...

I will miss President Bush. Not some of the things that he has done lately. But, one thing is certain that he has a clarity. And yes a moral one. That is what I fear about the incoming administration. That from the top down, there is no moral clarity. It will all be about winning the next election for this crowd. President Bush was not all about winning the next election. He was not all about being the most popular, coolest dude in town. He had to make tough decisions. In hindsight, some were mistakes. But, he had to make them. And I respect and admire that about him. I think that once the shine rubs off President-elect Obama and the new administration, people will look back and begin to admire President Bush. Even at the end of Richard Nixon's life, he began to repair his bad actions as preident and gained the respect of the American people. We are as a people sometimes very fickle.

TRUTH 101 said...

It didn't take long to translate Rich's message. He basically says jobs are created when jobs are eliminated. You learn that from the No Child Left Behind education program Rich?

Righty says what all the conservatives that don't know what or why they are concervatives say. "I don't agree with everything Bush has done." Like that gives them cover from the mess Bush has made of things.


Lawman: your rebuttal proves what I said about sacrifice. God forbid yours and my taxes go up $9 a week. It's easier to just pile on debt and wait for Uncle Sam to bail us out. Who's going to bail out Uncle Sam Lawman? Oh yeah. Our kids can pay 50% tax rates and more because we thought deficit spending would lead to prosperity.

Rich Casebolt said...

T101 ... no, what it says is that leveraging market efficiencies through outsourcing leads to MORE and/or BETTER jobs -- AND more purchasing power -- for everyone ... that is, all who are willing to "think like businessmen" and take more direct control of their economic value (present and future) instead of remaining wage slaves at the behest of either management or union.

You only concentrate on one facet of the entire socioeconomic picture. That's way too simplistic.

You also simplistically assume that it is the EXCLUSIVE responsibility of business owners to provide everyone employment.

None of us is owed a living ... nor are we owed the privilege of working in the same job in the same town (with continual raises in both wages and benefits) until we retire ... but too many in this nation believe they are owed all that, at all economic levels, thanks to the Biggest Lie of All perpetrated upon us by you and your Leftist fellow-travelers.

The present automaker mess was created by greedy union leadership, and greedy corporate management who assumed that the American people would always "buy American" thanks to slick marketing, even if better alternatives were available.

They were wrong ... and workers who placed their trust in them may be about to learn a very hard lesson.

My own father is retired GM, as are many of my aunts and uncles, so I do know somewhat what I am talking about here. At least they were wise enough to diversify their investments.

To go down the road of a working class that (in most cases, against its will or in an uninformed manner) trades its freedom-of-choice for government "guarantees" of employment and future financial security ... then backing those "guarantees" by greatly burdening the geese who lay the golden eggs of capital and innovation that our present economy has been built upon ... is a trip down that highway Angus Young sung about.

TRUTH 101 said...

Your premise is to outsource and drive down wages. How you think shipping 35k plus benefits a year jobs to Asia and replacing that with 12k jobs at Walmart exposes you for the right wing schill you are Rich. You don't buy a new car on 12k a year Rich. You lose your house. Your can't help your kids go to college. Food stamps and increasing medicaid rolls don't help the economy Rich.
And I know a little about the auto business myself buddy. I'll be glad to continue this when the Professor sees fit to put this topic on top.

timotaa said...

I used to be a republican but after watching George Bush triple the size of our government, attack the bill of rights with the patriot acts and home protection bills, call for legalized torture, obliterate our nations economy, of course he made sure to bail out his buddies on wall street before he left office, wage an endless war sending young American men to their deaths for no other reason then "they told me there were bombs there", and you make the comment that Bush has some type of moral clarity? I think moron clarity would be a much better fit. He's a monster! I joined the Constitution party.