Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents Day: A Lesson Learned

It's no secret that I don't think much of the Current Officeholder, the guy who occupies the Office of the President of the United States of America on those rare occasions when he isn't on vacation. I think he's stupid, incurious, incompetent, dishonest, arrogant, ignorant, irrational, cowardly (except when it comes to putting other people's lives on the line, then he's the "Bring It On!" Cowboy), contemptuous of the opinions of others, contemptuous of the Constitution, and a tool of those who profit from war and conflict - and from America's continued dependency on oil. I think he won the 2000 election by criminal means, and I think he won the 2004 election through a combination of the same tricks that put him in office in 2000 and by playing on the fears of the electorate with a skill (not necessairily his own) that any terrorist would be envious of. I think he is very likely the worst president in the history of the United States, in the august company of fellow Republicans Warren G. Harding and Richard M. Nixon. I could go on, but I won't.

I won't because, instead, I'd like to focus on one thing I admire about him.

(I hope certain people weren't drinking coffee while reading that last sentence.)

What could I possibly admire about this guy, this smug, smirking, chuckling idiot, this Commander-In-Thief? What is there to possibly like about him?

It's his steadfastness. His resoluteness. His unbending refusal to compromise on any issue. It's something that the next Officeholder would be well-advised to study, and emulate.

One of the biggest criticisms of Bill Clinton (or should we start calling him Clinton I? No, that would be very premature) - at least, before it was revealed that "Little Willie" was, in many cases, his "Decider" -was that he was willing to compromise on a lot of issues, even if it meant going against his base. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was a compromise Clinton arrived at to get around the U.S. military's prejudicial ban on homosexuals: homosexuals could serve as long as they never revealed that they were homosexual, and inquiries about their sexuality were officially prohibited. (I do not know if similar restrictions applied to heterosexuals, but given the frequency of incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the miltary, I'm gonna say "no.")

Clinton was willing to compromise on this and other issues, and it infuriated his base. It also infuriated his opposition, since they would much rather be dealing with someone who was steadfastly opposed to all of their positions - it makes it much easier to rally the troops. So they found other reasons to hate Clinton, and dug and prodded and pried and prevaricated until they achieved their ultimate goal and found a reason to impeach him - and then failed to remove him from office.

John McCain is learning this lesson. The howls of protests coming from the Neocon/Theocon camp are in part due to McCain's history of showing a willingness to work with people from the other side of the aisle. Bipartisanship is not considered a virtue on the far Right. I heard a quote from a Republican strategist a while back who said that the Republicans in Congress would much rather get their way 100% of the time by a 51% majority than ever achieve a compromise with 100% agreement.

Bush's inflexibility was a bit easier to work when his party held a majority in Congress. Back then he and his pet Congress were all singing from the same songbook: they passed the legislation he wanted, and he would sign it, and they would all get pats on the head and belly rubs. But that changed in November 2006, when the Republicans lost control of Congress. (Well, technically, January 1, 2007, when the new Democratic majority took office.) Bush's record of never having vetoed a piece of legislation ended there. From that point on there have been numerous standoffs between Bush and the Congress - standoffs that, too often, Bush has won.

Yes, despite a track record of having been wrong on almost every decision he has made* - including those made prior to his Presidency - Bush's unwavering, uncompromising stance has often carried the day in disputes with Congress. (Prompting SuperG to comment, "It must be mighty hard to be lamer than a lame duck, but alas, Ried and Pelosi seem to pull it off regularly."**)

Ultimately, history will judge George W. Bush, and I think it will judge him quite harshly - perhaps as harshly as it will judge the generation that allowed him to do the things that he has done. But I hope that history will remember him as someone who stuck unwaveringly, unbendingly, uncompromisingly to his positions, even when those positions were clearly, plainly wrong.

It's a lesson that the next President will do well to learn.

*Some will counter with, "Well, the Surge is working." To which I respond: it would have worked better back when Colin Powell proposed it in 2003, when Bush decided to ignore the advice of a Four-Star General in favor of the advice of politician Donald Rumsfeld.
**This was misquoted in my original version: "Prompting some to ask the question, 'What's lamer than a lame duck? Just ask Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi!'".


Marc said...

Compromise is the absolute worst way to settle a dispute. Both parties lose.

I also think that if the Vagino-American Clinton becomes President, she will be a worse president than Bush 2.

whimsicalnbrainpan said...

I think history will show W to be one of the worst Presidents ever.

Anonymous said...

The reason that I haven't hassled any Dem on the success of the surge was simply the Democrats supported it. It is when the Democrats held their nose and voted for it, saying, yes, let's try one last time to win, that we began to see results. Success in Iraq thus will be a bipartisan win.

I was extremely grateful that the Democrats did so. And when someone stands with you when everything looks hopeless, even though they really thought the whole idea was a mistake, they still stand with you, you don't shake your finger at them if it works.


Bill @ BN