Thursday, September 25, 2008
The "greatest" president since FDR?
As the Bush administration winds down, it's harder and harder to avoid the sense that we've turned a corner of sorts - in fact, many corners, of many sorts. The nationalization of the mortgage market last week, and the coming nationalization of most of the major investment banks, and the ensuing recession and devaluation of the dollar that are inevitable anyway, are just individual pieces of the larger political and economic mosaic that the Bush era represents. What's interesting is how many of these individual pieces count as turning points: the first major act of terrorism on U.S. soil, the first full-scale "pre-emptive" invasion of a foreign power, the introduction of torture as national policy, the essential destruction of a major American city, the establishment of an extra-Constitutional security state, the deregulation and subsequent nationalization of Wall Street - these are all major "firsts," and together constitute a re-formulation of the American state unlike any seen since the Great Depession.
So it's time to recognize Bush for what he is: the "greatest" president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with a historical shadow that may be at least as long, if almost entirely negative in its ramifications(he'll very probably be seen as the Caligula-like avatar of our decline). History, however, turns on stupidity; it depends, in fact, on stupidity. The brilliant Clintons cleaned up after Bush I; but can Obama clean up after the far-more-horrific Bush II? Somehow I doubt it, although I pray I'm wrong.