Letting history be the judge

LETTING HISTORY BE THE JUDGE…. For quite some time, the president, his aides, and his few remaining political allies have expressed confidence about how Bush’s presidency will be perceived — eventually. To hear them tell it, we Americans, with our petty short-term concerns and what-have-you-done-for-me-lately attitudes, lack the perspective needed to appreciate Bush’s greatness. Historians will understand in the future what voters fail to appreciate in the present. The difference between failure and success, when it comes to George W. Bush, is hindsight.

We’ve heard it enough times for it be quite tiresome, but we nevertheless saw two of the president’s biggest supporters pushing this line rather aggressively yesterday.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that despite President Bush’s low approval ratings, people will soon “start to thank this president for what he’s done.”

“So we can sit here and talk about the long record, but what I would say to you is that this president has faced tougher circumstances than perhaps at any time since the end of World War II, and he has delivered policies that are going to stand the test of time,” Rice said in an interview that aired on CBS’ “Sunday Morning.”

Rice added that this administration has been concentrating solely on “lay[ing] a foundation for history’s judgment,” and that if she were giving the administration’s foreign policy a letter grade, she’d give “some” of the policy “an A-plus.”

First Lady Laura Bush, appearing on Fox News, struck a similar note. She was asked about those who believe her husband’s administration is one of the worst in American history. “I know it’s not, and so I don’t really feel like I need to respond to people that view it that way,” she said. “I think history will judge and we’ll see later.”

The entire defense seems to boil down to two words: “You’ll see.” We may be inclined to believe our lying eyes, but, the loyal Bushies tell us, “You’ll see.” Indeed, Rice went so far as to suggest we’ll all be “thanking” Bush for all the great things he’s done for us.

It must be comforting for Bush, Rice, and other top officials in the administration to think this way. It’s no doubt frustrating to wake up every morning, and go to work knowing that you’re reviled by most of the public, here and around the world. If you can convince yourself that you’ll be appreciated years from now, it probably takes the edge off.

But that doesn’t make it true. Indeed, wishful thinking about history’s judgment, in the midst of widespread failures in every aspect of governmentforeign policy, economic policy, constitutional policy, domestic policy, environmental policy — borders on delusional.

As Digby concluded, Bush and his team “need accept that the best they can hope for is to end up among history’s inept clowns instead of history’s villains. It’s not much, but it’s all they’ve got.”

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.