So what did I learn from pundits this morning? I learned that it's just plain unfair to attack presidents -- particularly Republican presidents -- for unconscionable acts if those presidents really, really meant well in their heart of hearts. First, let's turn to Matt Bai, who's written a Yahoo News column titled "So George W. Bush Isn't a Monster, After All":
The truth is that Bush was never anything close to the ogre or the imbecile his most fevered detractors insisted he was. Read "Days of Fire," the excellent and exhaustive book on Bush's presidency by Peter Baker, my former colleague at the New York Times. Bush comes off there as compassionate and well-intentioned -- a man who came into office underprepared and overly reliant on his wily vice president and who found his footing only after making some tragically bad decisions. Baker's Bush is a flawed character you find yourself rooting for, even as you wince at his judgment.Bush "found his footing"? When?
Yes, I wince at Bush's judgment -- or, more precisely, at the consequences of his judgment. I wince at the thousands dead from his mismanaged wars, at the far greater number wounded, at the billions of dollars squandered, at the fact that the wars were put on a credit card to save his precious tax cuts, which I'm sure Bai believes were also kept in place because Bush cares. I wince at the lives driven off the rails to this day by a financial crash that happened while Bush chose to look the other way.
I don't give a goddamn that Bush cares. If you accept Bai's characterization of Bush -- that he was a decent guy who got in over his head, y'know, the way people do -- the point is that he's like a guy who sets up a storefront medical clinic in an underserved area even though he has no medical training and botches most of his procedures, often killing his patients or doing them some other form of permanent harm. Who the hell cares if someone like that is sincere? He's a menace.
And next we turn to Peggy Noonan, who tells us that Benghazi was much, much worse than Iran-contra, because Ronald Reagan meant well:
The Iran-Contra affair did not spring from low motives. There was no hope of partisan gain, it wasn't a political play.Right. No one involved in Iran-contra ever accused any accuser of base motives (cough OLIVER NORTH cough).
All involved were trying -- sometimes stupidly, almost childishly -- to save lives, and perhaps establish a new opening with Iran. They had good reasons, but the actions were bad, and everyone involved paid a price.
Compare that with how the Obama White House has handled Benghazi. It's all been spin, close ranks, point fingers, obfuscate, withhold documents, accuse your accusers of base motives....
Bai and Noonan are telling us that the road to the Bush and Reagan legacies is paved with good intentions. We know where that road ultimately leads.
(Bai via Eric Boehlert.)