Monday, July 23, 2007
Hope Over Experience
Samuel Johnson famously suggested that second marriages were the triumph of hope over experience, and that's more or less my thought on William Kristol's glass-half-full appraisal of the Bush administration. That's not entirely meant to be facetious either. It is very important for the Right to keep hope in its political future, so as not to allow the appearance of misfortune to become reality.
Nonetheless, Kristol is ultimately not persuasive. First of all, the grand judgment of history is not going to care if W is succeeded by a Republican or a Democrat. If W's reputation is going to be better in posterity than it is now then his model will be Harry Truman, who was succeeded by Ike, not a Democrat.
More importantly, Kristol fails to appreciate that the failure of the Bush Administration is a function of character at least as much as policy. It's not so much that Bush has bad character, as that he has the wrong character. Bush is viewed, with substantial justification, of being clannish, insular, stubborn, complacent, and not too bright besides. He has bottomed out all the reserves of character that he had and it doesn't look like he has access to any more.
Under these circumstances, it is just about impossible for anyone to have a successful Presidency, not matter what policies the Administration pursues or what events intervene. Nobody feels that Bush is representing them in the world at large. Anything that succeeds has nothing to do with the President (or works in spite of him), whereas all failures are directly his. Bush could personally defeat the insurgency in Iraq bare-handed and then walk on water for an encore and he would still command our attention about as much as the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons. It's not even so much that he has been rejected by America, he has just been tuned out instead.