A Fond Farewell to Bush


Disclaimer:  I am a Bush supporter.  This blog explores my fondness for the current president.  I am not interested in engaging in a debate about the Bush presidency.  If you don’t like Bush and can’t stand reading anything that discusses him favorably, stop reading.  If you’re interested in reading a rational defense of Bush, stop reading.  This piece is not an intellectual exercise.  It is not meant to persuade.  Spare me the unpleasantry of reading through comments ripping the president.  After eight years, I’ve dealt with enough of that nonsense and quite frankly, I don’t give a shit anymore.  I like Bush, I consider myself a sufficiently intellectual person, and I no longer feel the need to defend myself.

Afterthought:  At noon today, as reality of Bush’s departure set in, I felt great sadness.  I don’t dislike Obama, so I thought this would be easier.  It isn’t.  It’s no exaggeration to say that I feel a small emptiness inside me.  My fondness for Bush was greater than I thought, if that was possible.


Tomorrow at noon, George W. Bush will no longer be this nation’s president.

I will miss him greatly.

To be clear, I am a social, fiscal, and legal conservative.  I am more inclined to be forgiving of Republican administrations and critical of Democratic ones.  That is the consequence of bias.  Thus, I am undoubtedly clouded in my judgement of any policy failures of George W. Bush when compared to my judgment of personal failures of Bill Clinton.  I am not going to use the forum to engage in a debate over George W. Bush’s policy and record.  Although I think there are plenty that are defensible, I’ve argued with enough of the readers of this blog to know either I’m preaching to the choir or persuasion is futile.  Eight years is a long time and the lines have been drawn.  Rather, this post is less intellectual and more emotional, trying to explore why I adore the president so much.

I am one of the few left in the world to have continually supported George W. Bush throughout his presidency.  I supported him mildly in 2000 and ardently in 2004.  Knowing what I know now, I would still vote for Bush every day of the week and twice on election day, over Barak Obama, John Kerry, and most certainly Al Gore.  Yes, that’s committing voter fraud, but I like the current president that much.*

I have often been asked the question, “Why do you like him?,” but it’s been hard for me to come up with a clear answer.  Some may suggest this lack of intellectual clarity suggests I have no rational reason to support Bush except for his membership in the Republican party.

Maybe, but I doubt it.  I have plenty of Republicans I’m not particularly fond of, including my own congressman and plenty of past senatorial and gubernatorial candidates in New Jersey.  And god knows I have plenty of reasons to dislike Bush’s brand of Republicanism.  To say that I’m less than thrilled with his domestic policies is the understatement of the decade.

So for me to continue to like Bush, to want him to continue as president, to feel sorrow rather than joy tomorrow, there must be something about the president that I find attractive.

It’s possible it’s a relative thing.  I have been old enough to observe and understand only three presidencies:  George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.  I like the last far and away the most.  Admittedly, that may have to do with W’s social and legal conservatism as well as his foreign policy.

But I think it’s more than that.  As much as I found it shocking that a man who was a governor for six years before becoming president and served eights years in the highest office of the land gave press conferences that sounded like a broken record that could give only one answer regardless of the question, his podium moments provided odd relief.  It may be that I felt comfort in his stuttering because he seemed like one of us.  I’m fond of always pointing out to those who accuse Bush of idiocy that 1)  the nation’s only president with a Ph.D., Woodrow Wilson, was an unqualified disaster precisely because he was an intellectual, and 2) unlike Europe, America, the world’s first constitutional democratic republic, has often selected their leaders since Andrew Jackson based on whether they want to have a beer with him over who’s smarter.  I don’t particularly find anything wrong with electing “one of us” as president.  Indeed, I think I share in the American voting ethos.

Or perhaps Bush’s press conferences provided assurances he wasn’t bull shitting me.  Ad hoc rationalization is a favorite pass time in the legal profession.  I have far too often seen cases where it matters not whether the result is right or wrong or defies common sense so long as the presenter articulates the rational well in speech or in writing.  I am an ardent believer that rationalization does not make wrong right. The end doesn’t justify the means, but the means don’t justify the end either.  If you begin with the wrong principles and rational your way into the wrong answer, you’re still wrong.  I shared Bush’s judgment more often than not,** and his failure to elegantly articulate his rational provided an assurance that he was doing it because he knew it was right, not because he deceived himself or us into thinking it was right.

That brings me to Bush’s style of leadership, unprecedented in history and unlikely to be followed in the future.  He made tough, difficult, and controversial judgments.  He didn’t give a damn what the polls said, much less what the (damn) Europeans thought.  From now on when I hear people yearn for politician who have principles, I’ll likely bring up George W. Bush’s name, for the odds are his name will bring fears.  Here is a politician who followed his beliefs, consequences be damned.  I have at least a summary knowledge of each American presidency, and I can’t think of one that even resembled Bush’s style.

To be sure, I don’t know whether Bush’s approach is right.  Even I can’t state that it was a smashing success.  Importantly, we live in a democratic republic where politicians ought to reflect the views of the people in one way or the other.  I know for certain I would not have approached governing the way Bush did.  But I respected the man for making the tough decisions and fully committing to them.  He may have been stubborn, but principled and compromising is a near-impossible balance.  If I had to pick one quality over the other, I’d pick the former.

I’m already becoming nostalgic writing this piece.  I have plenty of policy reasons why I supported Bush, but I feel it’s for whom he was rather than what he did that I will miss him the most.  America had its share of bad times under his presidency, but I always enjoyed and was reassured by having Bush as our president.  My support for him was ultimately personal.

“There are some good days and there are some bad days, but every day is a joyous day,” Bush apparently told the feel-good-story-of-the-year baseball player Josh Hamilton when he visited the White House last December.

I like that quote, as did Josh Hamilton.  And that’s why I’m greatly fond of Bush, because he often said similar things that made me feel good about myself and this country.

I simply liked the man.

*  No, I did not commit voter fraud.  Nor do I endorse voter fraud.  I am merely attempting to express my level of enthusiasm for the president.

**  Although I have said I am not interested in defending Bush, I will provide this one thought.  People have accused Bush of lying; I have no evidence he knowingly misled and deceived, which requires that he 1)  knew that the information was false at the time he made a statement, and 2) made the statement anyways.  To me, “should have known” simply does not rise to the serious accusation of being a liar.  As I’ve written before, I have no tolerance for people who make insinuations without evidence while criticizing the politicians for being “dirty.”  I have withheld judgment for Bush for lack of evidence and I do hope I’ve shown Obama the same respect.

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15 Responses to “A Fond Farewell to Bush”


  1. 1 Chris Schroeck January 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    There are things that I like about Bush and things that I don’t, despite my being (kind of) a liberal. On policy matters, I disagree with him on most things. I am pretty conservative on the “nonsocial” domestic policy, which is exactly the area in which he has been liberal. I have mixed feelings on his foreign policy. The war in Iraq, I will give him the benefit of the doubt. I just don’t know whether he knew there were no WMD’s, but that doesn’t mean that the post-war period was executed particularly well. He has some great foreign aid policies. I agree with him on immigration.

    Fundamentally, Bush seems like a good person, with principles, who is out of his league intellectually as president. That doesn’t mean he’s stupid. It’s a tough job.

    As for your point about him being a uniquely principled president, I think you’re absolutely right. He did what he thought was right regardless of polls, or what anyone else thought. You obviously find that admirable. My question: Is that what a president in our country should be? I think the answer to that depends on your perspective. There is a perfectly good argument that presidents should *not* adhere to their principles, that they should do exactly what the polls say. This isn’t a pure democracy, but maybe the president should do the will of the people.

    Anyways, I am not trying to start a “bush is bad” argument, I was just thinking about this while reading your post.

  2. 2 joesas January 19, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    Chris,

    As you know, I’m a big fan of his education bill, which is about the only domestic issue I agree with him on. He’s spending had gotten out of control (I mean, come on, comparisons to Johnson???)

    I often wondered about his intellectual capacity as president. It’s one of those things that I have withheld judgment on. His speeches certainly don’t put him in a good light, but I found him to be particularly astute on many occasions.

    I think the principle v. democracy argument is a very good point. I think Bush illustrates, more than any other politician, the folly of the argument, “he’s just doing it for votes,” because when he doesn’t, we get Bush and, some may argue, dictatorship.

    Incidentally, I found his farewell speech to be quite indicative of his presidency. He thought protecting America was his number one priority and he did everything he thought was right and necessary to do it. The unpersuasive “accomplishments” on his domestic front also nicely summarized his presidential failures.

  3. 3 Chris Schroeck January 19, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    I forgot about the education bill. I think that policy comes from a really good place, and needs some reforms, but is on the right track. For all the griping about standards, if there were no standards, how would we know how the schools were doing?

    And people complain about “teaching to the tests”, but the tests are for reading and math, so teaching to them is probably a good thing.

  4. 4 Joseph Lee January 19, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    Hmm, almost every teacher I know hates the education bill with a fiery passion. I can’t say I know enough about it to make a call. As usual, I would say both sides are right in accordance with their priorities. That’s a nice way of saying absolutely nothing. I definitely have to say that principles is one of the reasons I’ve reserved judgment on Bush. My father is actually quite fond of him for this very reason as well. I find condemnation for the war annoying since that is one of the few situations where I can vividly recall the feeling of the times. It was clearly pro-war. Hind sight is 20/20. I must say, however, I am relieved to see Bush go, not because I didn’t like him (I take no side), but because I am exhausted of Bush bashing. It was never very productive. Well, a farewell and a prayer that Obama will live up to the hype.

  5. 5 Caitlin Lynch January 20, 2009 at 9:53 am

    As you know, I’m a fire-breathing godless feminist atheist liberal, so I completely disagree with your assessment of Bush. But I’m not here to complain or argue with you. I just wanted to say that you’re one of the few people I can disagree with so totally and completely and yet respect and care about. I think it’s the way you say things. You don’t make it personal, and you’re self-aware enough to recognize that others may disagree with you and still have a valid point, but you’re unapologetic and undefensive about your own views. That combination of respect for and acknowledgement of others’ disagreement and confidence in your own opinions is quite admirable. I’ve also noticed that when someone does present an argument you find compelling, you’re able to change your opinion without feeling it affects your pride. Few people can do that. You are who you are and you accept others as they are. That’s why, despite the fact that we disagree on almost everything, I count you as one of my dearest friends. If more people were like you, this country would be less divided and better able to discuss differences in a civilized manner and come to an agreement.

  6. 6 joesas January 20, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Caitlin,

    I am deeply thankful for your kind words. Agree to disagree and not take politics personally. Those are very words I live by. I think “civility” and “dignity,” as well as “humility” are lacking in political discourse (I’m not at all convinced this is a problem of modern times). I try to take a more understanding, even if stubborn path: I think I’m right, and I’m pretty certain about it, but you’re smart and important, and I could be wrong. I’m glad you see me the way I try to present myself (and the way I actually am). And I’m glad you are the way you are, because we have rather fun debates that go absolutely nowhere.

  7. 7 joesas January 20, 2009 at 6:06 pm

    Chris,

    I am in agreement 100%. Since education has been mentioned by two people, I will eventually write a series of blogs on this, because as you know, it is my pet peeve.

  8. 8 joesas January 20, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Joseph,

    I shall discuss education on some other post, but needless to say, having teachers dictate education policy is like having associates run a law firm: it’s upside down and inside out. It’s insanity at an apex, and only proves the first real step to improving education is imploding the teacher’s union. I want to be a teacher just so I can go to these union meetings and say, “All of you are idiots.”

    The thing with the war is, as you said, most Americans supported it. That’s why I think his biggest mistake is “Mission: Accomplished” banner, not going to war. It gave the impression the war was over. People had a right to demand why we were still there if the mission was over. Bush should have realized Japan was occupied for 10 years after WWII, and there are still troops there. War is a long, painful process.

    As for the end of the presidency just for the sake of ending the bashing, I hear ya and I agree with ya, but I already miss him greatly.

  9. 9 Joseph Lee January 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    Yes, my brother is in Teach For America and he hates the teacher union. With a passion.

  10. 10 joesas January 20, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Joseph,

    LOL. Is he in the union?

  11. 11 Joseph Lee January 30, 2009 at 3:19 pm

    I think he has to be.


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