Jennifer Rubin: “Bush Is Back”

Bush, RubinWashington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin is seizing on a recent poll showing that George W. Bush's approval numbers are up to declare “Bush is back,” arguing that America is starting to appreciate Bush's policies in the light of what she calls the “rotten” Obama presidency. To make her case, Rubin neatly excises from Bush's record every single massive failure and disaster that resulted in Bush leaving office as one of the least popular presidents in history.

Rubin managed to cram so much misinformation and nonsense into seven short paragraphs that it's tough to pick a place to start, but this one is worthy of special attention:

Why the shift? Aside from the “memories fade” point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt). Unlike Obama's tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11. People do remember the big stuff -- rallying the country after the Twin Towers attack, 7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity, millions of people saved from AIDS in Africa, a good faith try for immigration reform, education reform and a clear moral compass.

“Aside from the 'memories fade' point, many of his supposed failures are mild compared to the current president (e.g. spending, debt).” Funny thing about those “spending” and “debt” failures of Obama's that make Bush's supposedly seem so mild: Bush-era policies are responsible for the lion's share of the current public debt and will continue exacerbating the debt situation long after President Obama has left office.

“Unlike Obama's tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11.” This is false. There were a number of successful terrorist attacks between 9-11 and the end of the Bush presidency, most prominently the DC-area sniper attacks of 2002. But I'm dodging the real problem, which is the phrase “after 9/11.” Her argument -- an argument she's made before -- is that the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history, despite happening on Bush's watch, doesn't count against Bush. Why? She doesn't say. Rubin doesn't allow Obama any terrorism Mulligans, calling his record “spotty at best with Benghazi, Libya, Boston and Fort Hood.”

“People do remember the big stuff.” It's possible that Bush's failed (but “good faith”) push for immigration reform features more prominently in the American consciousness than, say, Hurricane Katrina (which Rubin doesn't mention), but that seems unlikely. As for the “7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity,” that might not be as well remembered as the devastating global financial crisis that concluded Bush's time in office.

And what of the Iraq war, that generation-defining foreign policy disaster for which Bush will ultimately be remembered (the poll Rubin cites says 57 percent disapprove of the decision to invade)? It merits brief mention: “Unlike the current president, who's played politics with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Bush took huge political risks to back the surge in Iraq, which worked.” How about the fact that Bush was personally responsible for launching a war based on bad intelligence? “Other supposed sins are in retrospect less attributable to him personally. (Many Western governments believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.)”

So if you look back at Bush's legacy and leave out 9-11, the thousands of dead and wounded in Iraq, the tragic failures of pre-Iraq intelligence gathering, the massive and ongoing debt and deficits, and Hurricane Katrina, you're left with a pretty rosy picture. Bush is back!