Wednesday, January 14, 2009


By the time January 20 rolls around, I believe every single person on the planet who still likes George W. Bush will have been recruited by Karl Rove to write a think piece about how wonderful a president W was. Tonight, in London's Telegraph, it's big-cheese right-wing British historian and sometime Bush dinner guest Andrew Roberts; his bootlicking piece is called "History Will Show That George W Bush Was Right."

I'm not going to rehash the arguments -- you can guess. It was a dangerous world and Bush kept us safe. Torture and warrantless wiretaps saved lives. Iraq is thisclose to being Paradise on earth, and Bush gets all the credit. Oh, and the economic collapse was all the fault of Democrats for "insisting upon home ownership for credit-unworthy people."

But here's my favorite line:

With his characteristic openness and at times almost self-defeating honesty, Mr Bush has been the first to acknowledge his mistakes -- for example, tardiness over Hurricane Katrina....

The first? THE FIRST??? Wait, has he ever made such an acknowledgment of that particular error? Or about practically anything?

George W. Bush, September 1, 2005, three days after the first levees were breached:

"I fully understand people wanting things to have happened yesterday. I mean I understand the anxiety of people on the ground... So there is frustration but I want people to know there's a lot of help coming," he said in an interview with ABC television.

He said the operation being mounted was one of the biggest in US history, and inevitably took time to get under way.

"I don't think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did appreciate a serious storm but these levees got breached and as a result much of New Orleans is flooded and now we're having to deal with it and will," he said.

"There's a lot of food on its way, a lot of water on the way and there's a lot of boats and choppers headed that way... it just takes a while to float them."

Way to acknowledge your tardiness first, with almost self-defeating honesty, President Bush!


Bonus quote: here's Andrew Roberts, king of the one-liners.

When extraordinary renditions are queried, historians will ask how else the world's most dangerous terrorists should have been transported. On scheduled flights?

Ta-da-boom. Thank you very much, ladies and germs, I'll be kissing Bush's ass all week. Don't forget to tip your waitress.


A couple of years ago, Slate's Jacob Weisberg read Roberts's magnum opus, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, and discovered that Roberts has a curious relationship to historical fact:

I am seldom bothered by minor errors from a good writer, but Roberts' mistakes are so extensive, foolish, and revealing of his basic ignorance about the United States in particular, that it may be worth noting a few of those I caught in a fast read. The San Francisco earthquake did considerably more than $400,000 in damage. Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in 1941, did not write for Encounter, which began publication in 1953. The Proposition 13 Tax Revolt took place in the 1970s, not the 1980s -- an important distinction because it presaged Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Michael Milken was not a "takeover arbitrageur," whatever that is. Roberts cannot know that there were 500 registered lobbyists in Washington during World War II because lobbyists weren't forced to register until 1946. Gregg Easterbrook is not the editor of the New Republic. "No man gets left behind" is a line from the film Black Hawk Down, not the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers; their actual motto is "Rangers Lead the Way." In a breathtaking peroration, Roberts point out that "as a proportion of the total number of Americans, only 0.008 percent died bringing democracy to important parts of the Middle East in 2003-5." Leaving aside the question of whether those deaths have brought anything like democracy to Iraq, 0.008 percent of 300 million people is 24,000—off by a factor of 10, which is typical of his arithmetic. If you looked closely enough, I expect you could find an error of one kind or another on every page of the book.

So maybe, in Roberts's future, George W. Bush actually will be acclaimed as a great president -- which will bear about the same relationship to reality as all the "facts" listed above.

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