/>Lord knows I have my problems with President Bush. He taps the federal
coffers like a monkey smacking the bar for another cocaine pellet in an
addiction study. Some of his sentences give me the same sensation as falling
backward in one of those "trust" exercises, in which you just have to hope
things work out. Yes, the Iraq invasion has gone badly, and to deny this is
to suggest that Bush meant for things to turn out this way, which is even
crueler than saying he failed to get it right.
But you know what? It's time to cut the guy some slack.
Of course, I will get hippo-choking amounts of e-mail from Bush-haters
telling me that all I ever do is cut Bush slack. But these folks grade on
the curve. By their standards, anything short of demanding that a
half-starved badger be sewn into his belly flunks
Besides, the Bush-bashers have lost credibility. The most delicious example
came this week when it was finally revealed that Colin Powell's oak-necked
majordomo Richard Armitage - and not some star-chamber neocon - "outed"
Valerie Plame, the spousal prop of Washington's biggest ham, Joe Wilson. Now
it turns out that instead of "Bush blows CIA agent's cover to silence a
brave dissenter" - as Wilson practices saying into the mirror every morning
- the story is, "One Bush enemy inadvertently taken out by another's
And then there's Hurricane Katrina. Yes, the federal government could have
responded better. And of course there were real tragedies involved in that
disaster. But you know what? Bad stuff happens during disasters, which is
why we don't call them tickle-parties.
The anti-Bush chorus, including enormous segments of the mainstream media,
sees Katrina as nothing more than a good stick for beating on Piñata Bush's
"competence." The hypocrisy is astounding because the media did such an
abysmal job covering the reality of New Orleans (contrary to reports, there
were no bands of rapists, no disproportionate deaths of poor blacks, nothing
close to 10,000 dead, etc.). It seems indisputable that Katrina highlighted
the tragedy of New Orleans rather than create it. Long before Katrina, New
Orleans was a dysfunctional city in a state with famously corrupt and
incompetent leadership, many of whose residents think that it is the job of
the federal government to make everyone whole.
The Mississippi coast was hit harder by Katrina than New Orleans was. And
although New Orleans' levee failure was a unique problem - one the local
leadership ignored for decades - the devastation in Mississippi was in many
respects more severe. And you know what? Mississippi has the same federal
government as Louisiana, and reconstruction there is going gangbusters
while, after more than $120 billion in federal spending, New Orleans remains
a basket case. Here's a wacky idea: Maybe it's not all Bush's fault.
Then, of course, there's the war on terror. Democrats love to note that Bush
hasn't caught Osama bin Laden yet, as if this is the most vital metric for
success. Yes, it'd be nice to catch bin Laden - no doubt Ramsey Clark, the
top legal gun for both LBJ and Saddam Hussein, will be looking for a new
client soon. But even nicer than catching bin Laden is not having thousands
of dead Americans in New York, Washington and L.A. Contrary to all expert
predictions, there hasn't been a successful attack on the homeland since
9/11. Indeed, the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly contains a long,
exhaustively reported cover story by James Fallows about how the U.S. is, in
fact, winning the war on terror, thanks largely to Bush's policies (though
Fallows works hard not to credit Bush).
Political dissatisfaction with the president rests entirely on Iraq and
overall Bush fatigue. The rest amounts to little more than Iraq-motivated
brickbats gussied up to look like freestanding complaints. That's how hate
works: It looks for more excuses to hate in the same way that fire looks for
more stuff to burn.
That's why Bush's Democratic critics flit about like bilious butterflies,
exploiting each superficial or transient problem just long enough to score
some points in the polls, then moving on. Bush's Medicare plan was an
egregious corporate giveaway, they cried, until seniors overwhelmingly
reported that they like it. And the Patriot Act? Can anyone even remember
what the Democrats were whining about? I think it had something to do with
libraries that were never searched.
Look, things could obviously be a lot better. But they could be a lot worse
too. John Kerry could be president.