July 2, 2007

President Bush confers with intellectuals about the meaning of his predicament.

WaPo reports:
After reading Andrew Roberts's "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900," Bush brought in the author and a dozen other scholars to talk about the lessons. "What can I learn from history?" Bush asked Roberts, according to Stelzer, the Hudson Institute scholar, who participated.

Stelzer said Bush seemed smarter than he expected. The conversation ranged from history to religion and touched on sensitive topics for a president wrestling with his legacy. "He asked me, 'Do you think our unpopularity abroad is a result of my personality?' And he laughed," Stelzer recalled. "I said, 'In part.' And he laughed again."

Much of the discussion focused on the nature of good and evil, a perennial theme for Bush, who casts the struggle against Islamic extremists in black-and-white terms. Michael Novak, a theologian who participated, said it was clear that Bush weathers his difficulties because he sees himself as doing the Lord's work.

"His faith is very strong," said Novak, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Faith is not enough by itself because there are a lot of people who have faith but weak hearts. But his faith is very strong. He seeks guidance, like every other president does, in prayer. And that means trying to be sure he's doing the right thing. And if you've got that set, all the criticism, it doesn't faze you very much. You're answering to God."

Horne, the British historian, found himself with Bush on another occasion after Kissinger gave the president "A Savage War of Peace," Horne's book on the French defeat in Algeria in the mid-20th century. Bush invited Horne to visit. They talked about the parallels and differences between Algeria and Iraq as Bush sought insight he could apply to his own situation.

Horne said he is not a Bush supporter but was nonetheless struck by the president's tranquility. "He was very friendly, very relaxed," Horne said. "My God, he looked well. He looked like he came off a cruise in the Caribbean. He looked like he hadn't a care in the world. It was amazing."
Trying to get in good with the historians is probably the best strategy at this point. Unless something terrible happens, there seems to be no way he can find his way back to popularity. At least he seems to be taking it well... or do you feel more confident in a man who shows that he's suffering when thing go badly? What is the source of equanimity? In Bush's case, is it depth -- intellectual resources and philosophical insight -- or is it shallowness?

34 comments:

Internet Ronin said...

What is the source of equanimity?

His faith, I imagine. That it is the source seems to be rather well-documented by remarks, such as these, of those who have met with him.

MadisonMan said...

"My God, he looked well. He looked like he came off a cruise in the Caribbean. He looked like he hadn't a care in the world. It was amazing."

And deep within the White House somewhere, there's a portrait of a hideously deformed creature identifiable only by the signet ring on the gnarled finger.

Seriously, it's nice that he's conferring with historians. But is all the water over the dam on the Euphrates?

Jeff said...

No. Or rather, there is no way to tell right now. Ask again in 30-50 years. Look at Eisenhower. Back then he was the dumb lazy Republican. Look at Lincoln, he was detested. Look at Truman. Not a popular president.

Seven Machos said...

Truman -- who was a dumb, failed hat salesman who owed his success to the Kansas City Democratic Machine, according to his many, amny critics -- was redeemed because we won the Cold War, which Truman advocated. Would we have won it without the Berlin Airlift and the Marshall Plan and the Korean War?

Bush will be judged similarly.

Also, all this hatred will wash away, as it did for Clinton, Reagan, and Bush, Sr. It's hard for me to believe, but I remember there was real vitriol for Bush, Sr. Only truly failed presidencies -- like Carter's -- will be viewed as failed after the emotion has died down.

Sloanasaurus said...

I would agree with Jeff. If Althouse is right and Bush is somehow trying to figure out how he will be viewed in history, Bush will learn that current popularity means nothing. As soon as passions die down, there is only the record to deal with, i.e. facts and figures. For example, no matter how empassioned people are about the Iraq war today, future historians who didn't live it, will see the stats only: i.e. 4000 dead, $100 billion a year, and will wonder why people were so divided over it.

Of course, there are always legends are created about presidents even if they are not true. In my opinion Bush will be remembered for being an aggressive and tough willing to do anything to get the enemy. Regardless of whether one thinks that is right or wrong or even true, future presidents will have to deal with the spectre of Bush... i.e. in the middle of a crisis people will say Bush would have attacked them. Bush would have tortured them....Bush would have protected us.

Revenant said...

Unless something terrible happens, there seems to be no way he can find his way back to popularity.

I find it *unlikely* that Bush will regain his popularity, but his father bottomed out at 29% and still managed to leave office at 56% -- without anything terrible (or even anything interesting) happening.

Heck, he'd get a good part of his popularity back if he'd just stop pissing off his own party all the time.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

To quote Archie Bunker: "Deep, deep down, he's shallow."

Tim said...

"In Bush's case, is it depth -- intellectual resources and philosophical insight -- or is it shallowness?"

Notwithstanding the (predictable) fact partisans will answer according to their biases, it seems that there are, at minimum, two tracks by which presidents are judged - contemporary popular opinion, and then history.

While Bush undoubtedly made errors regarding Iraq, and would probably like to revisit some of those decisions, everything to date indicates he remains confident in the underlying reasons he made those decisions, and that history will bear him out (especially if the American people let their military win the war). The examples of Washington, Lincoln, and Truman in particular suggests he's made his bet with a full appreciation for history's regard for American presidents sticking with decisions that were not populary supported at the time.

Adrian said...

also, keep in mind that the people who will write the history books, today's academics and their grad students, seem rather overwhelmingly in the smug bush-is-a-moron camp, with a few outliers in the panicked bush-is-evil-and-out-to-get-me faction, so i don't know how reliable their works will be... My brief time in the academy has convinced me that the old saying needs to be inverted: history is, in fact, written by the losers.

Roost on the Moon said...

My brief time in the academy has convinced me that the old saying needs to be inverted: history is, in fact, written by the losers.

LOL. Oooooooh.... I don't agree at all, but damn that's funny. Good line.

paul a'barge said...

In Bush's case, is it depth ... or is it shallowness?

If you are not a Texan and have not been paying attention and watching GWB for quite some time, you would ask this question.

If you'd been paying attention (and if you're not a Texan, there is no reason you should), you would know that is steering his ship with his hand on the tiller, and is not tacking to the winds of the opinions of others.

I don't care for all the man's decisions, but I can tell you that you've never met a man more genuine. Dislike his positions, fine. Condemn him for being a being like the one you see in the mirror each morning, and you're wrong.

This includes especially you, Ruth Anne. Say hello to your reflection. You should get to know it better, since apparently it's the only thing you can see from inside there.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Paul a'barge: My comment was a joke. I'm a supporter of the President and I don't mind that swagger. I even think his time as a cheerleader served him well [remembering the bullhorn at the WTC rubble]. I just wish he were more articulate.

Adrian said...

hey roost, glad you liked that line! Here's a kinda related article that might convince you(this all taken from an old post i wrote, fyi). in any case, thanks!

Jeremy said...

Yall are thinking too recent. Quick, someone give me your thoughts about Franklin Pierce. I got nothing. Not even "I like the High School in my hometown that's named after him." And yet a little wikipedia search (I know, so sue me) would indicate that he was known as one of the worst presidents EVAR!!!1!

So. Give it like 100 years and he'll be just another blip on the list of dead white presidents.

hdhouse said...

This is a hoot. Sloanasaurus driveled..."Bush will learn that current popularity means nothing. As soon as passions die down, there is only the record to deal with, i.e. facts and figures."

Ok turbblossom, let's have those facts and figures. I can't wait. I'll be able to laugh my ass off at you GOP morons for the rest of the day.

Sloan, by God you are the dumbest dork on here. You let yourself go wide open with one stupid, unsupported tact after another.

if you and the other morons who ooze idiocy like you do think that the decades will help in Bush's forgiveness think again. This clown has no legacy and no accomplishments. He is a looser and makes Carter look like George Washington.

Sloanasaurus said...

This clown has no legacy and no accomplishments


Dude you sound like a southernor in 1875 asked about his opinion of Mr. Lincoln.

In 1953, about 20% of the American people supported our involvement in Korea. Today its more than 75%.

Maybe you don't like some of Bush's accomplishements, I assume the Seattle School Board case is one of them you don't like

MadisonMan said...

Give it like 100 years and he'll be just another blip on the list of dead white presidents.

I think that'll also be true of Clinton, and GHWBush, and Reagan. Of Presidents in my lifetime, only JFK and Nixon will have special mentions in any text, because of their assassination and resignation, respectively.

blake said...

hd -- huh, never knew drivel was a verb before. Thanks.

MadMan-- I take it you don't subscribe to the "Reagan won the Cold War" theory? That's a credit (if true) that would place him alongside FDR.

Thorley Winston said...

While Bush undoubtedly made errors regarding Iraq, and would probably like to revisit some of those decisions, everything to date indicates he remains confident in the underlying reasons he made those decisions, and that history will bear him out (especially if the American people let their military win the war). The examples of Washington, Lincoln, and Truman in particular suggests he's made his bet with a full appreciation for history's regard for American presidents sticking with decisions that were not populary supported at the time.

Agreed, moreover anyone who has ever uttered or written “the Bush administration is the most ___________ (fill in the blank with whatever pejorative is being used this week) in history” has only proven that they don’t know a damn thing about American history.

John Stodder said...

"...He seeks guidance, like every other president does, in prayer. And that means trying to be sure he's doing the right thing. And if you've got that set, all the criticism, it doesn't faze you very much. You're answering to God."

Can someone explain to me how this works? I need a very smart, highly accomplished and devoutly religious person to explain to me how prayer helps one "be sure he's doing the right thing." Prayer, as I understand it (and occasionally practice it) is a one-way conversation. If God actually answered you, actually said "George, you're doing the right thing," your corner office would suddenly become Lourdes. I thought religious people in a situation like Bush's might pray for guidance, or wisdom, or for good fortune on our soldiers. But this sounds like prayer as a form of Stuart Smalley-ish self-help.

Wouldn't a conversation with a priest, minister or rabbi be more productive in determining whether you are "doing the right thing?" Can't a religious person at least entertain the thought that that voice in your head saying, "yes, you're doing fine" just be wishful thinking? Is there a voiceprint for God that distinguishes His response from your own imagination?

But I'm not much of a religious man. Maybe I don't get it.

Internet Ronin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Cook said...

Bush is stupid, callous and delusional. He has no sense of the deep damage he has done to this country and to the world. He is a mass murderer and a war criminal, and whether his popularity grows or diminishes, his "legacy" will never be other than one of destruction, deceit, and shame.

Seven Machos said...

John -- Protestants communicate directly with God. That's the point of the thing.

I'm not much of a religious person myself, though if I was one I guess I'd be protestant because there's no way some guy who went to divinity school is going to get between me and God.

Anyway, the way I understand it, people who pray for guidance are looking for certain feelings, certain divine guidance, almost like and perhaps equivalent to revelation.

It does seem rather circular:

1. I pray to receive guidance in my decision.
2. I make a decision.
3. Since, I prayed to receive guidance in my decision, and since I made a decision after said prayer, I must have received guidance in my decision.

Presumably, protestants consult the Bible and books and religious figures as well.

Seven Machos said...

Great argument, Robert. Really deep insight there.

Internet Ronin said...

Jeremy: Funny you should ask. Quite coincidentally, I do know something about Franklin Pierce: First thing that came to mind was that he signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Next that he was said to be extremely handsome. After that, that he & wife were trapped in a derailed train just before his inauguration, and watched in horror as their child was crushed to death. His wife never recovered from the shock and believed it was God's way of telling them that Pierce should not be POTUS. Finally, he was considered a heavy drinker, which is saying a lot for those days.

Now, if I could only remember WHY I know these things...

hdhouse said...

bush's finest moment and legacy now appears to be balled up with scooter libby.

there is no limit to bad taste.

Internet Ronin said...

Jeremy: Just remembered why I know those things, a book by Barbara Holland, "Hail to the Chiefs, Presidentil mischief, morals, & malarkey from George W. to George W." Fun reading.

PatCA said...

"Of course, there are always legends are created about presidents even if they are not true."

And this article is one example. They're absolutely craving another Crazy Nixon in the White House narrative. I'm sure being the son of a president prepared him for this. And he seems to appreciate the judgment of history. Let him have it.

Sorry, WaPo, that the low poll numbers don't send him back to the bottle or to his knees in front of Lincoln.

Beth said...

When Bush says he's accountable to God, and makes his decisions through prayer, he means he never bothers leaving the feedback loop of what he's already decided. So yes, I'd call that shallow. And terrifying.

Emy L. Nosti said...

If religion allows you to be accountable only to the messages you think you're receiving from God, whether actually delusional or just a result of denial/pride/self-deception (or even actual messages from a god whose all-good nature seems in question)...well, I'm just so relieved that strong faith is an unwritten requisite for the presidency. Maybe we should just let the next person whose actions are directed by God elect themself...or maybe God will just tell Bush he needs another term. Who are we to question the Word of God?

hdhouse said...

Hey Sloanasaurus...

I'm still waiting for that list of accomplishments?...and no, burping after eating isn't one of them.

Roger said...

Nothing like a bunch of nobodies on some relatively obscure blog commenting on how history will treat a president. With so much prescience, stop wasting your time making asinine comments on a blog and start playing the futures market--you'll make a fortune. Losers all.

Jeremy said...

Ronin - I should have known someone would know something. Thanks for the recommendation. My library has it checked in and I'll be adding it to the summer reading stack.

Mr.Murder said...

A fluff piece written to get ahead of the Libby coomutation.

Swallowed whole. No DNA evidence left on this thread...