Friday, January 16, 2009


The Economist's (anonymous) blogger has a curious and, I think, inaccurate reaction to the 9/11 part of George W. Bush's farewell speech:

It struck me as very plaintive. That was the morning, after months of smooth sailing as a most unlikely president, when Mr Bush's future broke away from his past. Nothing in his previous life could have prepared him, and perhaps he was unequipped to recover. Terrorists terrorised the president. Afterwards, perhaps, he lived with a constant sense of peril: "Our enemies are patient, and determined to strike again." Maybe then he saw things through a stark filter, with all presidential decisions weighed against America’s "solemn responsibility" in the global arena to promote liberty. How do you feel about that trade treaty, Mr President? "We must reject isolationism, and its companion, protectionism." And so on.

"Terrorised"? I don't think so. Did he ever actually seemed to fear terrorism? No emotion remotely resembling fear ever seemed to cross his face -- in fact, the only negative emotion we ever saw on his face was umbrage, a sense that he'd been insulted and not taken seriously.

I do think he liked the idea that terrorism was unrelentingly fearful, but not because he personally felt fear -- he liked it strictly because being the guy entrusted to vanquish the boogeyman made him feel important at all times.

As for that last bit -- "We must reject isolationism, and its companion, protectionism" -- that was Bush parroting what smarter right-wingers than himself had concocted as a rationale for the lamentable unwillingness of Americans to continue cheering on his colossal screw-ups. We weren't rejecting his incompetence, you see -- we were weary of war in the abstract,and so we'd simply become isolationist in the abstract. (And when the economy turned south -- never mind the fact that, for most of us, it never turned north during Bush's presidency -- we were said to have ignorantly embraced isolationism's economic companion, protectionism, in the abstract.)

This is sheer nonsense. Saying that our rejection of Bush's botched foreign and economic policies was the result of isolationism and protectionism is like saying that a refusal to get in a car driven by an angry drunk swilling from a flask of Jack Daniel's is the result of disapproval of the internal combustion engine.

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