Saturday, December 1, 2018

Best Republican President of My Lifetime

George Herbert Walker Bush is the best Republican President of my lifetime.  Is that damning with faint praise?  Almost certainly.*  I would say that Bush is better than Reagan for a few reasons:
  1. Bush raised taxes when needed to address deficits, a brave act that may have cost him re-election.
  2. Bush built a global coalition (except for Jordan and the PLO if I remember correctly) to oust Iraq from Kuwait, helping to codify the norm that countries do not annex other countries until Putin started eating up pieces of Ukraine.  And he stopped there because he knew that doing more than that was a bad idea.
  3. Bush nominated David Souter to the Supreme Court, which kept Roe v Wade around for a while longer.  On the other hand, Bush named Clarence Thomas, so let's not sing too much praise on this score.
  4. Signing the Americans with Disabilities Act 
  5. Stewarding the end of the Cold War.  I am trying to figure out if he gets overrated for this, as it was extremely important, but I am not sure any non-Trump post-WWII president would have screwed it up. 
The downsides?
  1. Pardoning everyone that was responsible for Iran-Contra.  Is it ok to lie to Congress?  "Sure" seems to be the message Bush sent.
  2. Lee Atwater and the use of racism to get into office.
Not bad.  I am certainly forgetting other pro's and con's. I will say that whenever HRC's campaign said that she was the most experienced Presidential candidate in our lifetimes (or whatever), I scoffed because GHWB was clearly the most experienced nominee ever with the possible exception of the early dudes.  I don't think the degree of difficulty was as severe for Bush as it was for Obama--collapsing economy, two forever wars, an implacably hostile opposition party (Bush faced a Democratic Congress, but those guys were not so polarized that cooperation with the President or the GOP was impossible), and a national media outlet aimed to subvert him.  Thomas has had a huge, lasting impact in a direction I don't like.  Getting ADA through was not quite the fight that getting ACA through.  So, when I see folks say that GHWB was the best President of their lifetime, I have to demure.  I am still trying to figure out Obama's Presidency, but, at this time, I would still rate Obama over GHWB.  Oh, and Reagan?  Wildly overrated except for restoring American morale post-Vietnam and accommodating Soviet decline as he pushed the country to the right, making tax increases more politically unpopular, started his campaign with racist appeals, vetoed sanctions against apartheid South Africa, created huge deficits and made the recession worse than it had to be, and on and on. 

*  I am no Presidential scholar, and I haven't done any research.  It is a Saturday morning just before grading season, so I am not doing additional work for this off-the-cuff response.

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