A coherent, succinct history of the failures of the Bush Administration
September 14, 2008 6:20 PM   Subscribe

Help me rationally and calmly document the Bush administration to a friend who thinks history will hold it in "high regard"?

It feels self-evident to me and I'm sure it's self-evident to many here, but a friend watches Fox News and thinks it really is fair and balanced. She just forwarded me this article, and she seems to think "they're all the same" so she's intending to make her choice in November based on "character" (remembering that she gets her news from Fox).

My incoherent rage doesn't seem to be working...well, actually I'm holding it in check. What I would like to do is put together something that covers the issues of the last eight years in a fairly succinct and rational fashion, e.g. goes through each issue (cabinet post?) and provides a page or a couple of paragraphs on each, covering the failures and screw-ups with references.

Does such a thing already exist? Bonus points for added explanations of why more of the same policies won't help. Points off for references to "evil", regardless of however tempting it may be.
posted by idb to Law & Government (34 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm going to recommend that you avoid the conversation. Religion and Politics are two things that get in the way of friendships.

Historiography is a difficult field---and who KNOWS what's going to come to light in 30 years or 50 years or 100 years. I mean, Truman's held in high regard these days, but he pretty much slunk away in horror after his time in office.

Just a side note---you realize that you're not fair or balanced either, right? You've got "incoherent rage", you've got "all the right answers", and you don't seem to think that any information you have is in any way biased. You realize that every bit of media your fed is biased by something, right? Dig up some primary documents if you want to make an argument---pointing out stories on networks sponsored by major corporations isn't going to cut it.

(If you want accuracy and "fair.")

BTW I fear this thread is going to dissolve fast into ZOMGBUSHSUXORS and ZOMGBUSHWINZ0rs real fast, you're going to have a hard time finding an answer, any point is going to have a counterpoint.
posted by TomMelee at 6:34 PM on September 14, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'd also be interested in seeing a nice list. For starters you can go through Glenn Greenwald's pieces. His old blog format used to have a handy index-to-scandals type thing, but I'm not sure if that's been recreated on the Salon site.
posted by odinsdream at 6:35 PM on September 14, 2008


It is hard to make an intelligent argument validated in an atmosphere where there is none.
posted by lee at 6:36 PM on September 14, 2008


The works of Kevin Phillips, a long-time Republican Party strategist, might be useful to draw on. His recent books American Theocracy and Bad Money are detailed, comprehensive arguments on where (in Phillips's opinion) the George W. Bush administration lost the plot.

Andrew Sullivan is another writer who's critiqued the younger Bush's administration from the conservative perspective.

Your friend may or may not find these critiques convincing, but they're argued from a different position than (I suspect) your own, so they might be more helpful resources to you in your discussions.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:38 PM on September 14, 2008


Remember to also look up the rationalizations that were made for the Iraq war. It's important to remember, especially at this point, the sheer number and variety of different rationalizations that were floated by various people in the administration shortly before and during the first few months of the war.
posted by odinsdream at 6:39 PM on September 14, 2008


Reasons for the Iraq War looks like a good one, but there was a really nice graphic in an online news article that I remember seeing that specifically had attributions to Bush administration members.
posted by odinsdream at 6:41 PM on September 14, 2008


I notice now that the site I linked to doesn't go on to offer quotes from Republicans, or in fact anything but one-sided information - my apologies.
posted by odinsdream at 6:44 PM on September 14, 2008


I also agree that perhaps you should avoid this conversation - it's just not worth it, and it seems that your friend's politics are not based on fact. But if you really want to educate your friend (and be sure to let her educate you back - it's only courtesy), here are my top 5:

Bush suspended habeus corpus.

Bush stole the 2004 election.

The Bush doctrine has resulted in a multipolar and fundamentally unstable world, where distrust, rather than collaboration, is sought as an end result.

Guantanamo Bay is a mockery of everything the US claims to stand for (liberty, due process, human rights, etc).

The Bush regime refused to follow the Geneva conventions, further destabilizing the world.

In a nutshell, Bush2 has turned the US into a tinpot dictatorship, or something close to it, and the US now really has no moral superiority to any other nation - you guys might as well be Venezuela or Uzebekistan.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:54 PM on September 14, 2008 [5 favorites]


Oh, or the alternate path: Put your friend on the defense, ask him to explain why he thinks history will regard the administration highly. What specific things will be regarded highly?
posted by odinsdream at 7:03 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


You really can't provide any coherent arguments to dispel these type of ingrained beliefs. Probably the best you can do is to take them someplace where they can return to reality in a healthy and safe environment.
posted by JJ86 at 7:05 PM on September 14, 2008


I appreciate the cautions about my friend, and I'm strongly tempted to avoid it altogether, but I feel like I should be able to have a sane and rational conversation about politics (and religion for that matter) with someone I respect and care for.

The "incoherent rage" was tongue in cheek. I'm more incoherent than raging, so I feel like I'm doing a really poor job of having that conversation.
posted by idb at 7:10 PM on September 14, 2008


[few comments removed - please stick to answering the question, or you can call it out in MeTa if it's bugging you so much.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:15 PM on September 14, 2008


I feel like I should be able to have a sane and rational conversation about politics (and religion for that matter) with someone I respect and care for.

Good luck with that. Trying to convince someone of something when they've already made up their mind isn't something that can easily be done - particularly without damaging a friendship.

Oh, and trust me, as challenging as this can be to do in person - it's far easier for it to spiral into disaster via email. Shrug and hit delete.
posted by canine epigram at 7:17 PM on September 14, 2008


Hate to pile on, but you have as much chance as convincing your friend of anything as they do of convincing you. No matter what logical argument you give, they will have another side. Whether that side is truthful or not doesn't matter. It's a downward spiral into a deep hole with no bottom.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:20 PM on September 14, 2008


Well, this isn't exactly what you were looking for, but it notes all of the bills and amendments that John McCain and Barack Obama have put their names on over the past two Congresses. You could ask your friend to read it while keeping in mind that political character shines brightly through legislation.
posted by carsonb at 7:40 PM on September 14, 2008


Bush scandals is the classic resource

The list, once you print it out, is more than 60 feet long.

But you're wasting your time.


Truman's held in high regard these days

in general interest news magazines and Sunday newspapers op-eds, maybe. mostly on the basis of David McCullough's boilerplate book (McCullough's not an historian, by the way). Truman wins on "character" strenght, personal integrity and the desegregation of the Armed Forces; most of the hagiography tones down the less pleasant facts -- first and as of now only person to ever nuke civilians, creation of the monster military complex that is still at the heart of America's imperial adventures, loyalty oaths, the complete carte blanche awarded to McCarthyite thugs. etc

beware of pop pseudohistorians.
posted by matteo at 7:46 PM on September 14, 2008 [4 favorites]


Oh, or the alternate path: Put your friend on the defense, ask him to explain why he thinks history will regard the administration highly. What specific things will be regarded highly?

I agree, sort of. Assuming you can't just let the whole thing drop, start by getting getting genuinely curious as to where your friend is coming from. You might just learn a thing or two. Not about why Bush will eventually be remembered favorably (he won't; not unless America goes to hell), but about the thought/feeling processes that have lead your friend to such a frustrating level of willful ignorance. It's not about "winning" an argument here. It's about maintaining some level of intellectual respect for someone you clearly care about, which gets pretty difficult if they genuinely believe that FOX is "fair and balanced".
posted by philip-random at 7:46 PM on September 14, 2008


Not a good idea.

Won't work.

That said, the only way to change your friend's opinion is to first have them agree with you that they believe x, then show them a concise example why x is false/wrong/does not apply to Bush.
IE)
Q: Do you agree that you support president Bush because he has protected the constitution and our freedoms?
A: Yes
Q: And if it later became apparent that Bush had not protected our constitutional freedoms and violated them, would you agree that you "had been mislead" by the media/news/etc.
A: Yes
Q: And if eventually, you discovered that the government had been recording your phone conversations and emails and monitoring your internet surfing...

Etc

That also said, in order to manipulate your friend's opinion, it would be best to do it more insidiously and a much, much more roundabout way, because you won't create any good will whether or not you're right. However, to do it in a roundabout way, you have to probably lie, and make yourself or a fictional friend a victim of government policy (probably very difficult, with the exception of some kind of customs/TSA strong-arming injustice example).
posted by mhuckaba at 7:52 PM on September 14, 2008


Why would you do that? Don't you know that Republicans are good for business?

Just see all that they have accomplished, starting with:

see: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/anatole_kaletsky/article4735446.ece
The nationalisation last weekend of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, 
the two largest financial institutions the world has ever known, 
signalled the complete failure of the biggest, most dynamic, 
most innovative and competitive markets that have existed
in the history of capitalism - the Wall Street stockmarket 
and the market for US bonds.

Their failure has been so obvious, that even the most 
capitalist administration ever, in the world's most 
capitalist country, had decided to wipe out the private 
owners of its biggest and most important financial 
companies and replace them with state-appointed 
bureaucrats. 
And the failure of Lehman and Merrill this weekend.

Don't forget Enron either.
posted by Arthur Dent at 8:11 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


Aargh! That didn't happen on Preview!
Sorry folks. Moderator: please edit to fix if it bothers you like it does me. Thanks!

posted by Arthur Dent at 8:13 PM on September 14, 2008


I appreciate all the answers and the continuing cautions. It's been a struggle to maintain that intellectual respect for my friend. I'd like to be able to do that. I feel somewhat plaintive in asking why I can't have a coherent and respectful disagreement about politics. Perhaps it is about starting with where we agree. I listen the BBC World Service fairly regularly and often disagreements there are subtle, and begin with "well, x is substantially right, but I disagree with..."

I don't want to manipulate my friend. I just want her to be able to consider new facts that she may not have been exposed to.
posted by idb at 8:17 PM on September 14, 2008


in other words, elenkhos
posted by klanawa at 8:19 PM on September 14, 2008


ooops, that was a long preview :)
posted by klanawa at 8:19 PM on September 14, 2008


Maybe it's time to move on. I've gotten to the point where I simply have no more regard or respect left for these people. I can no longer tolerate their willful ignorance. God help America.
posted by rocco at 8:22 PM on September 14, 2008


You're friend is one of about 29% of the population who think, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Bush is doing a bang up job.

If you want to push the issue, you should ask exactly what it is that he thinks that he knows about Bush's "legacy" that the other 70% of us are missing...

With friends like those...
posted by wfrgms at 8:37 PM on September 14, 2008


The conversation you're about to have with your friend is inherently speculative , and a little humility on all sides is called for. How could anyone possibly know for certain how history will judge the Bush presidency?

Yes, you could go in with a bill of particulars and harangue your poor friend with the same left/liberal talking points that he's been trained to dismiss, but you won't win the argument, and you might lose a friend.

Or, you could hoist him by his own petard, and criticize Bush for not being a true conservative. You could talk about how Bush presided over a huge expansion of government (tons of new education spending, a tremendous expansion of foreign aid, new prescription drug benefits under Medicare). You could talk about how Bush has made the US weaker and its enemies stronger through its misadventure in Iraq.

I'm a conservative, and that's an argument that would work against me!
posted by BobbyVan at 9:08 PM on September 14, 2008


I'd ask what she thought he was going to be highly regarded for? I mean, let's look at Nixon. The guy's one strong suit was foreign policy, particularly relations with China, so, when people are trying to be nice, that's the one they point to.

What, if you're trying to be nice, are you going to point to in the case of Bush? It's not going to be economics. In the realm of foreign policy, the list of close allies is pretty short; North Korea has nukes now (well, at least they had a nuke, kinda); Iraq is out from under Saddam's thumb and gravitating towards Iran; The Taliban is still causing trouble. His support of education? The arts? The environment? That mission to mars thing? The creation of Homeland Security just in time to prevent the Hurricane Katrina disaster? Truth? Justice? Liberty?

From what I've seen, the Bush fans believe that fate has dealt Bush a harder hand than every other president ever. That's an excuse, not an accomplishment.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:10 PM on September 14, 2008


John Cole came to prominence as a right-wing, pro-invasion blogger; he is now a Democrat. Here, he explains what he got wrong about the Iraq War: "Everything," he writes, with many specifics.

He might have other retrospectives about what drove him to leave the GOP. I believe he did so around October 2006, though he didn't register as a Democrat until about a year later, I think.
posted by ibmcginty at 9:28 PM on September 14, 2008


Geez, don't people know how to talk anymore? There's such a thing as rational discourse.

Talk with her. Tell her you disagree. Listen carefully to her points and decide whether you think she's right, then tell her what you think and tell her why. You might learn something; at the very least, you'll have an interesting conversation. She might not change her mind, but that's her prerogative, and if you're the type of person who finds it annoying that people disagree with you, well, there are certain places in the world where that turn of mind is rewarded, but most of them are boring.

Nothing good ever came of assuming that you know more than somebody else. This is particularly true when you mention that the highest level of articulation to which you've been able to ascend thus far in talking with your friend is "incoherent rage."
posted by koeselitz at 9:53 PM on September 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


idb: It's been a struggle to maintain that intellectual respect for my friend. I'd like to be able to do that.

That's understandable - I know the feeling. In this age, we have a habit of assuming lots of things and believing that no one could ever think otherwise.

I'll only say that my experience is that, when I believe that something is clearly, obviously, and self-evidently true, and then I meet someone who believes that that thing is clearly, obviously, and self-evidently false, I find that we're both wrong. The truth is not the domain of a party or of a segment of society; it's a difficult thing we come to through discourse with each other.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 PM on September 14, 2008


Very simple.

Show them these posters created by Rich Silverstein: Names, Slogans and Events of the Bush Administration. They're lists of words with no editoralizing. They speak volumes of the legacy of these past 8 years.

Previous MeFi thread.
"Of the project Silverstein said: "Here is my thinking. What if we could TiVo the last six-plus years and play them back - without comment -- for the American people, and let them connect the dots?"
posted by ericb at 8:34 AM on September 15, 2008


[a few comments removed - take it to metatalk folks]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:24 AM on September 15, 2008


You may be interested in The Authoritarians, which goes to great lengths to understand and explain the sociological and mental states of someone who responds well to authoritarianism. This part about failures of basic reasoning struck me particularly:
For certain fellow-jury members seemed to have attended a different trial than the one she had just witnessed. They could not remember some pieces of evidence, they invented evidence that did not exist, and they steadily made erroneous inferences from the material that everyone could agree on. Encountering my research as she was later developing her Ph.D. dissertation project, she suspected the people who “got it wrong” had been mainly high RWAs (Right-Wing Authoritarian Followers). So she recruited a sample of adults from the Clallam County jury list, and a group of students from Peninsula College and gave them various memory and inference tests. For example, they listened to a tape of two lawyers debating a school segregation case on a McNeil/Lehrer News Hour program. Wegmann found High RWAs indeed had more trouble remembering details of the material they’d encountered, and they made more incorrect inferences on a reasoning test than others usually did. Overall, the
authoritarians had lots of trouble simply thinking straight.

Intrigued, I gave the inferences test that Mary Wegmann had used to two large samples of students at my university. In both studies high RWAs went down in flames more than others did. They particularly had trouble figuring out that an inference or deduction was wrong. To illustrate, suppose they had gotten the following syllogism:

All fish live in the sea.
Sharks live in the sea..
Therefore, sharks are fish.

The conclusion does not follow, but high RWAs would be more likely to say the reasoning is correct than most people would. If you ask them why it seems right, they would likely tell you, “Because sharks are fish.” In other words, they thought the reasoning was sound because they agreed with the last statement. If the conclusion is right, they figure, then the reasoning must have been right. Or to put it another way, they don’t “get it” that the reasoning matters--especially on a reasoning test. [ Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians. Ch. 3. Pg. 76 ]
posted by odinsdream at 5:39 PM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Give it up. Spend your time finding fence sitters and steering them away from the R ticket.

After the election, spend time with your friend talking about other things.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 9:39 PM on September 16, 2008


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