Victor Davis Hanson notes:
I think we are slowly (and things of course could change) beginning in retrospect to look back at the outline of one of most profound bait-and-switch campaigns in our political history, predicated on the mass appeal of a magnetic leader rather than any principles per se. He out-Clintoned Hillary and followed Bill’s 1992 formula: A young Democrat runs on youth, popular appeal and charisma, claims the incumbent Bush caused another Great Depression and blew Iraq, and then went right down the middle with a showy leftist veneer.
Second, we will come, through the Obama prism, to see that Bush’s sins were largely the absence of rhetorical skills, unfortunate shoot ’em braggadocio in 2003-4, the federal response to Katrina, and a certain administration haughtiness about the problems in Iraq between 2002-6, but not most of his policies that included prescription drugs, No Child Left Behind, AIDs relief in Africa, the removal of two odious regimes, and consensual governments in their places, a framework at home to stop 9/11-type terrorism, and good working partnerships with key allies abroad such as Britain, Germany, France, Italy, India, et al, and a pragmatism in handling rivals like Russia and China.
In short, given all that, Obama’s victory (predicated on painting Bush as a Hoover/Nixon redux), more so even than perhaps a John McCain’s, may do more for Bush’s reputation that anyone ever imagined. And the Mumbai mess (over there, not here) will only empasize all this, as an array of old 9/11-era experts who used to warn us about radical Islam, then, in the subsequent respite at home, screamed that Bush fabricated a war against terror against bogeymen, and now in their third manifestation are paraded once more out to warn us about?—why, yes, radical Islam!
Indeed – and, in fact, I’m sticking by my prediction that no matter who won in 2008, we will have cause to miss President Bush in the by and by, and probably not too long after he leaves office. Good, bad or indifferent, President Bush passed the main test of leadership: the ability to make a decision and carry it through. Most people like to dance around the edges when analyzing politics and power – as for me, I deal with the reality, and that mostly revolves around the supreme difficulty in making a decision, especially a decision upon which lives will be at risk.
The great leaders and captains of history are all those who made a decision – One has only to contrast the two British governments of the World Wars. The first had Churchill in it, but a man unwilling to make decisions at the top, and thus the British war effort of the First World War drifted into deadly failure only modestly redeemed by a victory of exhaustion at the end of the war. The second had Churchill at the top and able to make decisions and carry them through, and thus the British war effort in the Second World War had clear direction, much lower cost and eventual overwhelming victory.
If we had had a ditherer on 9/11/01, things would have gone a lot differently over the past 7 years, and almost certainly for the worse. It took courage to launch us into Afghanistan – that mattress grave of Empire; it took courage to secure our nation against outside attack; it took courage to liberate Iraq; it took courage to order the Troop Surge once the liberation of Iraq had transformed into an anti-insurrectionary struggle. Again and again President Bush has shown the courage to make decisions – and trust me on this, even if you think they were bad decisions, a bad decision is better than no decision.
Now we’re going to get Obama at the top – the man who voted “present” a very large number of times. The man who threw his whole early political life under the bus when it became a millstone ’round his political neck. The man who promised hope and change and has appointed the dregs of the worn out and corrupt Clinton Administration. It may be that Obama – blessed with youthful energy and a keen appreciation for politics – will rise to the occasion. It is to be prayed that he will – but, in the end, the only thing Obama may end up doing is making us long for President Bush.