I found this article from Slate linked on Andrew Sullivan’s site today. It is an analysis/criticism of President Bush, and I think it does a great job of summing up what I don’t like about George Bush without falling into the horrible traps that other critics fall into way too much of the time.
First of all, it doesn’t say that the war in Iraq was unequivocally a bad idea. I can appreciate a lot of the criticisms over the intelligence and a great many other things related to the war in Iraq.
- In recent months, congressional hearings and document leaks have unearthed a disturbing history. Again and again in 2001 and 2002, U.S. intelligence agencies sent signals that Bush was wrong. The FBI and CIA debunked putative links between Iraq and al-Qaida. The CIA rejected the claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Africa. In its National Intelligence Estimate, the CIA calculated that it could take Saddam up to five years to make a nuclear weapon and that he would transfer WMD to terrorists only if he were invaded.
I didn’t want to be in that war originally either. My problem with criticisms today is that people want to say that Bush flat-out lied, when I think that is a bit too much. He used intelligence (suspect or not) and came to conclusions (right or not.) This is no more blatant than anything that any other politician engages in on a daily basis.
Then, people confuse the fact that they don’t like the war with the war’s success. This war has not had a ridiculous amount of casualties and has been relatively successful. It isn’t easy and it isn’t over, but it hasn’t been the disaster that a lot of critics would like to claim it is.
The article also describes the economic environment fairly. It shows that while the economic situation in this country is suspect at the moment, over the course of the last four years, things have changed which have made certain decisions by President Bush turn out badly, even if the ideas were sound when they were enacted.
- Bush was right to propose tax cuts in 1999. The economy was booming. The surplus was ballooning. Liberals were itching to spend the money on new programs, despite Bill Clinton’s promises to pay down the national debt. Bush wanted to get the money out of Washington before that happened. That’s why, under his plan, the size of the tax cut was to grow from year to year. The point was to keep the surplus from piling up, refunding more and more money as it poured in from a growing economy.
As the economy turned at the end of the 90′s and then spun out after September 11th, it was a different environment than when the original decisions had been made by the Bush administration. Given these concessions to the situation, I think it is fair to criticize the lack of reaction to make up for the changing market conditions. Without this perspective it hurts my ears as another example of blind Bush bashing.
This is going to be an interesting election season. There are plenty of valid criticisms to be made on both sides during this election. It will definitely be a lot more interesting if I can weigh the candidates and issues with criticisms like this as opposed to the ad hominem attacks which have persisted over the last year or so.
So, go read the article and let me know what you think.