Timothy Garton Ash: The crumbling Bush legacy

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States and General David Petraeus’s report on the “surge” in Iraq,the question being asked in America, even by staunch Republicans who share the President’s goals, is: why has the Bush administration been so incompetent?

Behind that is a larger question about how the American political system as a whole is failing to deliver consistent policy and good governance. In three months spent in the US, I have heard this larger issue raised again and again by people with intimate experience of the ways of Washington.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Iraq War

35 comments on “Timothy Garton Ash: The crumbling Bush legacy

  1. Words Matter says:

    Why the Bush administration has been so incompetent was being asked the first month after the first inauguration.

  2. rudydog says:

    You are aware, of course, that President Bush was inaugurated a second time. I suppose that was both an incompetent administration and electorate at work. Perhaps America’s salvation rests in the arms of those with the select wisdom.

  3. Susan Russell says:

    498 Days Left

  4. scott+ says:

    It is not that I agree with the President on all issues. I do not. But one thing which all should see and understand the man does what he thinks is right. He may be a bit slow to realize mistakes, like the delay in raising the number of troops in Iraq. He however, did this not from reading polls likes the previous administration, but because he accepted the advice of the military leaders in place at the time.

    I fear that governing by polls is become the norm and this is not a good thing. I also think the governance by appearance is also becoming a problem I remember many years ago, when there was a major snow storm in Connecticut. It does snow there sometimes. The governor was on a ski trip in New Hampshire. The governor was asked about the problems getting back to Connecticut, given that many of the roads were closed. The governor said he was going to stay another day and ski, that things were in hand, and he trusted the officials whose job it was to handle these things. The press and the opposing party were all over this very reasonable decision. This started the practice of elected officials taking much need resources away from an effort so they can “see for themselves.” But today if an official does not waste resources for a first hand view, as the President has wisely done several times, he is taken to task.

    The President is not perfect, but he is doing the best job he knows how. I rather this than what I see in other elected official who seem to be more interested in their re-election or in there legacy. He has made mistakes, and made corrections. He has done what he thinks in right.

    Above, I see the glee of the far left in that the Presidents term is ending. That is what is required by the Constitution. I really wish there was a someone in the Democrat party which was not beholding to the Daily Kos.

  5. rudydog says:

    And then what?…..

  6. RoyIII says:

    This is what ou get from a bunch of C students from Yale.

  7. azusa says:

    # 3 – don’t you mean 21 days left?

  8. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) says:

    Harry Truman took a number of difficult decisions, made some serious mistakes, and was detested for it. When he left office his popularity was in the low 20s and he was regarded as “incompetent” and a “miserable failure.”

    He had, however, recognized a powerful emerging threat, one that in retrospect had been evident for more than a decade. Truman then stymied Communism’s attempts at expansion (Berlin, Korea, Greece, Turkey) and put in place most of the tools that successive Presidents would need to continue the struggle for another 40 years or so.

    The parallel with Mr. Bush’s situation is remarkable. Truman is now regarded as a “near great” President. With Bush, we simply do not know, and [i]cannot[/i] know for several decades. Those who pronounce what they perceive as final judgement on the man and his Presidency are as simple-minded as they are silly.

  9. Words Matter says:

    It was not clear, perhaps, that my #1 was a sarcastic dig at the statement that the question is [i]now[/i] being raised and at that set of people who have never quite accepted that the American people would elect (twice!) such a moron.

  10. Brian from T19 says:

    But one thing which all should see and understand the man does what he thinks is right.

    That is exactly what we should find frightening. President Bush is a True Believer. He has surrounded himself with political people with other agendas (Rumsfeld, Cheney), but he t4ruly believes he has a moral duty to wage this war. He is indeed

    mysterium tremendum et fascinans

    the tremendous mystery that elicits trembling even as it also attracts us in a compelling way.

    BTW, I voted for him for both terms.

  11. David Fischler says:

    But one thing which all should see and understand the man does what he thinks is right.

    That is exactly what we should find frightening.

    Me, I’m with Brian. I prefer a president who does what he thinks is wrong. Either that or someone who doesn’t know right from wrong and uses a dartboard to determine policy. Or, if need be, someone who can never make up his mind, never knows whether he’s doing the right thing, and so is paralyzed into inaction.

    But someone who believes he knows the difference between right and wrong and acts decisively on it? That could be dangerous.

  12. Br. Michael says:

    “Or, if need be, someone who can never make up his mind, never knows whether he’s doing the right thing, and so is paralyzed into inaction.” Gee, I didn’t think the ABC was that decisive.

  13. Dave B says:

    Looking at the little bit of history I am familier with I would not be to quick to judge Bush 2. I remmeber Reagen was called the amiable dunce etc and his intellect was questioned. The press delighted in compromising photos of Reagan, like when he was caught sleeping during a speach by the Pope. Yet history is being very kind to the great communicator.

  14. bob carlton says:

    This not about whether you like Mr. Bush, whether he is trying hard or what his level of faith or knowledge is.

    It is about competence – a standardized requirement for an individual to properly perform a specific job. In this case, the job is President, the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president is at the head of the executive branch of the federal government, whose role is to enforce national law as given in the Constitution and written by Congress. Article Two of the Constitution establishes the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and enumerates powers specifically granted to the president, including the power to sign into law or veto bills passed by both houses of Congress, to create a Cabinet of advisors, to grant pardons or reprieves, and, with the “advice and consent” of the Senate, to make treaties and appoint federal officers, ambassadors, and federal judges, including Justices of the Supreme Court.

    A man who ran as the first MBA President, who bragged of returning honor to the office, who still claims we are “kicking ass” in Iraq – that is not competence, that is not meeting the requirement Mr. Bush swore in his oath.

    Co-opting the memory a beloved Democrat President is laughable for Rush, Mr. Rove and the other members of the Bush Regime cheering squad. With Mr. Truman, the buck stopped with him – with Mr. Bush, the buck is passed to every YES man in his hangers-on, to his wealthy supporters and to the sad set of church leaders who have allowed themselves to be used (and abused).

    If he had any competence, any of Truman’s spunk, any advisors left who would tell the truth – Mr. Bush would take responsibility for the inability to deliver consistent policy and good governance, working over his remaining days to begin to turn the tide.

  15. Harvey says:

    And so WWII started in 1939 in England and then we withdrew from Japan after 1952. 13 Years. Our enemy now is world wide and powerful. Let us be thankful that they don’t have the capability to destroy cities – YET

  16. libraryjim says:

    When Truman left office, he had the lowest approval rating of any president in history up to that point. what a difference 20/20 hindsight makes.

    And we ARE kicking @$$ in Iraq, if one listens to those over there rather than the talking heads over here.

  17. bob carlton says:


    funny how the gop depised truman when in office – now claim him as the only hope for bush

    listening to the tropps ? bush listening to the troops ?

    if only, if only

    imagine if he had listened to the troops for the last 5 years

    imagine what afghanistan & iraq would be like, if he were competent as a commander-in-chief

  18. rudydog says:

    Are you saying that President Bush is not listening to the troops? What evidence do you have for that? Is is factual, anecdotal, personal or something you just heard? And who are the troops that you say he not listening to…privates, generals, sergeants, disguntled retired generals, fighting men? How many do you know, where have they fought, and what is the character of their complaint that he is not listening to them? Curious minds want to know.

  19. Dave B says:

    I have not set in on councils when war and peace have been discussed in the oval office so I really cannot judge if Bush 2 is right. I do remmeber seeing the clip of Tennant telling the collected group that WMD were a slam dunk. We have not had another attack on American soil and I do believe our intelligence agencys are working better and are not hobbled by inability to share data with law inforcement. We are not having the white house bed room sales for political cash and I do not believe that Condi Rice will be cought trying to steal classified documents out of archives in her underwear. The problem with Iraq is that we do not have a MacArthur to serve as an American Ceaser.

  20. Rolling Eyes says:

    #17: I must have missed something. The military isn’t run by the Commander-in-Chief, but by the troops? It’s the Commander’s job to do what the troops say?

  21. libraryjim says:

    What I like (not!) is how the Democrats are already dissing the Petraeus report as being a pack of lies and false statistics when he hasn’t even given it yet!

    Oh, yeah, he’ll get a fair hearing of the report on Capitol Hill. sheesh.

  22. bob carlton says:

    libraryjim, I suspect he will get a hearing more to your liking on state TV…I mean Fox TV this evening

  23. libraryjim says:

    cute, Bob. But in the meantime, the Democratic Party’s lapdog networks (CNN, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, etc) have not been questioning the Dems undermining of the report a full week before it’s presentation date (today). why is that, I wonder? If a Republican had questioned a Democrat’s qualification to make an report, the media would be tearing him to shreds.

  24. libraryjim says:

    Well, it looks like in spite of all the Democratic Party leaderships posturing, Petraeus appears to have made his case, and made it well. Good for him. Maybe the truth WILL find it’s way into the ‘mainstream’ media outlets after all.


  25. bob carlton says:

    libraryjim, why is it that (a) the bush regime has constantly been re-setting the evaluation critetia for this esclataion and (b) been leaking like a sink for the last 2 weeks.

    What an Alice in Wonderland world we live in – we are achieving our objective, but do not change anything.

    And Crocker’s testimony – wow, that was underwhelming.

  26. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “. . . suspect he will get a hearing more to your liking on state TV . . . ”

    So ironic, considering that the actual broadcast outlet supported by The State is as ravingly liberal as one would expect. But the one that liberals hate is the one supported by. . . actual viewers . . . .
    ; > )

    Thus confirming the suspicions of Fox News that there are a whole lot of folks who are tired of liberal news media and willing to support them with their viewing — much to the discomfiture of people like Bob Carlton.

  27. bob carlton says:

    Sarah, having spent some time working for News Corp, your reply simply confirming the genius of Murdoch’s dumbing down of culture – and it’s appeal to the masses.

  28. libraryjim says:

    Yeah, well, Sarah’s take on NPR and PBS is right on target nonetheless: it’s as left leaning as it can get. and to make it worse, my tax dollars pay for the tripe they spew.

  29. Sarah1 says:

    I see that “arguments fail Bob” . . . he got nailed on the State-owned media and he knows it.

    Shouldn’t have brought up the “State” media, Bob. Big mistake . . .
    ; > )

    Yep — Fox News — supported by viewers free to make a decision.
    NPR and PBS — State run news media.

  30. bob carlton says:

    Sarah, the Bush Regime has used Fox as their propaganda arm for the last 5 years – it is state-run media for the unthinking.

  31. Irenaeus says:

    “What I like (not!) is how the Democrats are already dissing the Petraeus report as being a pack of lies and false statistics when he hasn’t even given it yet!” —Library Jim

    Jim: How do you know congressional Democrats hadn’t read Petraeus’ written statement? The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and most congressional committee rules call for witnesses to submit a written statement BEFORE the day of the hearing. These statements are usually longer and more informative than the opening statements witnesses give at the hearing. Written statements are embargoed until the hearing but committee members and their staff should read them in advance.

  32. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “it is state-run media for the unthinking.”

    Nice try — but it’s viewer-paid media. It’s PBS and NPR, Bob, that’s “state-run media”. See — I left out “for the unthinking” just for folks like you! ; > ) Why copy bile when I don’t need to?

  33. rudydog says:

    Leave Bob alone. His liberal veneer is hard; his logic is soft; and his truth is well….relative. You cannot argue with a person like him, much less get a response to any question you might ask him regarding the validity of his claims. Leave him alone and let him stew, simmer, cook, and boil.

  34. libraryjim says:

    Simple, people not on the committee were commenting that “He and Bush are writing it…” so the report hadn’t even been presented to ANYONE and they were already saying it what they THOUGHT it contained and that was ‘lies and twisted statistics’.

  35. libraryjim says:

    all in all, General David Petraeus still blew the Dems out of the water with his report. And that is cause for celebration!