Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: History, Politics — Rick Moran @ 11:37 am

Lots of talk yesterday about comparing Bush to Lincoln. My PJ Media column this week responds that notion not unsympathetically but rejecting it nevertheless:

Some Bush supporters, while agreeing that things have not been exactly peachy these last eight years, nevertheless try and compare Bush to Lincoln — at least as it relates to the idea that both men faced serious challenges and remained steadfast to their beliefs in the face of virulent opposition. (My PJM colleague, the lovely Kyle-Ann Shiver, makes that point in her piece opposite this one.)

This is an emotionally appealing allegory and, on the surface, offers some compelling comparisons. The Emancipator had to deal with an active conspiracy to overthrow the lawful government and set up another nation. George Bush was faced with defending the American people from a murderous, implacable enemy hell-bent on our destruction. Both men chose force of arms to defeat the forces arrayed against them. Both men suffered numerous setbacks in the pursuit of their goals. Both endured the worst kind of personal invective hurled against them by their political foes.

But does Bush have any of Lincoln’s crying need for self-examination — a wrenching introspection where Father Abraham could recognize his failures and change course not once, but several times? Lincoln agonized over emancipation despite the fact he entered office never dreaming he would take that position. It went against his own inclinations and he did it in opposition to most in his cabinet, many of his supporters, and the army.

Bush gets credit for changing strategy in Iraq. But a good argument can be made that this change came three years too late and long after many experienced hands in and out of the military were telling him to dramatically increase troop strength. The difference between the two is that Lincoln knew when steadfastness was necessary and when hanging on to a policy was simple stubbornness. For Bush’s part, even in the face of total chaos, sectarian bloodletting on a large scale, and daily acts of horrific terror and violence in Iraq that only got worse and worse over the months, he would not alter strategy. The inability to admit error that gripped President Bush and prevented him from exercising sound judgement that would have allowed a change in tactics almost cost the United States the war. As it is, the issue is still in doubt despite encouraging improvements.

There are other fallacies with the Lincoln-Bush comparison. For example, I think that if one were to weigh the challenges faced by both men, Lincoln’s problems and burdens were much the heavier given the extraordinary carnage and destruction of the war. President #16 also had the issue of slavery to resolve — perhaps the most intractable problem our nation has ever imposed upon itself and more tangled and complex than anything with which President #43 had to face.

The money graf is earlier:

Not lacking in brains and possessing a confidence that bordered on arrogance, President Bush would probably have thrived in less interesting times. But the challenges that emerged beginning with the attacks on September 11, 2001, right on through today’s financial meltdown of which we still haven’t glimpsed bottom, showed a man out of his depth, lacking in judgement, unable to come to grips with the forces that were reshaping the world and America. He is not without gifts. But when a president is proved wrong by events as often and as consistently as Bush, there is little alternative but to conclude that he was the wrong man at the wrong time for America.

I think it can safely be said that in contrast, Lincoln was the right man at the right time for America. So much for comparisons between Bush and The Great Emancipator.

(BTW - Kyle Ann Shiver took the “pro” Bush as Lincoln position opposite my piece on the website.)


  1. This might be the smartest thing I’ve seen written by a conservative in a long time, thought that’s not really saying much, given the general level of political discussion to be found among your community. Your ability to recognize the fact that it was President Bush that specifically prevented the surge from happening for more than three years makes you a rare find among your peers, who so easily forget that his slogan during his re-election campaign was ‘Stay the Course.’ It might as well have been ‘Keep Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Expecting Different Results.’ I’d go on to note that it was an election defeat that finally goaded the President into entertaining someone else’s ideas about what should be done in that country, supporting the characterization of the President as someone that repeatedly ignored reality to play politics.

    Additionally, any paragraph that starts with ‘Not lacking in brains’ and is about George Bush is by definition, NOT a ‘money graf.’ The idea that Lincoln and Bush are alike in any sort of intellectual capacity is just totally laughable. Both Presidents are in classes by themselves, on opposite sides of the spectrum. Lincoln might be our greatest President, while Bush is without a doubt the worst we’ve ever had. As he gets further and further out of office, and as the American people watch a new President with baseline levels of intelligence and competence do the same job, you will come to accept that assessment as well.

    It is a fallacy to believe that George Bush is “dumb.” It flies in the face of reality and the facts.

    As I point out in the article, the two men had radically different intellects; Lincoln had “an expansive and inquisitive mind” while Bush was “incurious” about his presidency. It hardly means that Bush didn’t have smarts. But the way the two men used their noggin was vastly different.


    Comment by Levi — 1/16/2009 @ 12:21 pm

  2. However you have to have some compassion for the man that did not “sell his soul for popularity”. George was a great leader that did not care about his so called ‘approval rating’ and therefore made decisions based upon his unfaltering beliefs. While he is not perfect (And no man is) his virtue is to be compared with the nation’s greatest leaders. And for all the hatred that has been sent his way, I do believe that a comparison to Lincoln is well deserved.

    Comment by Nathan — 1/16/2009 @ 12:30 pm

  3. “Bush is no Lincoln.”

    Answering the question, “Can Rick Moran give an example of understatement?”

    We need to stop using Lincoln and Washington as points of comparison. It’s like asking if a woman is as pretty as Anne Hathaway or Angelina Jolie. I think our new standard of comparison should be Glenn Close. More realistic. As for presidents, why not Eisenhower? He was very good without setting an impossible standard.

    And of course Bush is also no Eisenhower. Or Glenn Close, for that matter.

    He’s got Angelina’s eyes, though.


    Comment by michael reynolds — 1/16/2009 @ 1:52 pm

  4. Bush out of his depth? Newsflash: every President is out of his depth. No human being possesses the range of attributes requried of a President. We choose amongst unqualifed candidates and hope for the best.

    Fact is, the second guessing ankle biters on Iraq will be swept away by history, just as all the WWII mistakes are no longer widely known (who knows that more than 1,000 died off of Normandy…..training for D-Day?). In a generation only a few Americans will know what Abu Ghraib refers to. Today some think it was the defining moment of the war.

    Amongst Clinton, Bush and Obama, if you could choose to ‘own’ the legacy of one of the three who would you pick, Rick?

    Comment by East Bay Jim — 1/16/2009 @ 2:34 pm

  5. if we are to say that bush was the wrong man at the wrong time (make that judgement), who is to say would be the right man at the right time? really gore? kerry? mccain? yes they all bring different things and people to the table, but the problem with this type of second guessing is to say that someone or some group of people would have done it better, who? how? what do you base this guess or hypothesis on?… the anti-bushes have been doing this hindsight crap since the beggining, which now the conseravative (george will and the rest of the elites) loving obama media is doing, what the heck, yeah hindsight is 120 but none of it is reality. we are safe and have been safe to conduct business pretty much as usual, you don’t know all the things that bush and his people have protected us from. haveing done special forces, and still knowing people that are in the business, I can promise you shudders up and down your spine to know the “truth” to the matter of what we have been protected from, therein lies bush’s biggest fault, he did not let the public know of what they were being protected from, just like he didn’t let america know why and how service members were dying (they were heros, risking their lives for each other and for afgan and iraqie civilians). he wasn’t open or transparent, but this comparison crap is just that, crap, we won’t know the ramifications of what he did until we are ancient, or even dead. give it up…

    Comment by jambrowski — 1/16/2009 @ 2:36 pm

  6. ed,

    What is the ‘reality’ and what are the ‘facts’ that point to Bush having a keen intellect? There are countless hours of video and audio tape proving otherwise. And sure, maybe you don’t have to be a great public speaker to prove you’re smart, but wouldn’t you expect to see a few more examples of policy successes over the course of 8 years than Bush could provide?

    I’d also like to know how you could consider someone both incurious and intelligent, because those attributes don’t usually go together. Being incurious is probably the single biggest roadblock to intelligence, wouldn’t you agree?

    I know it seems counter-intuitive to think that a moron could be voted into the highest office in the land, but that’s only if you think every American is a realistic and informed habitually eager voter. If you start thinking of Americans more realistically (as in, not very smart themselves), then it makes a little more sense.

    What is the ‘reality’ and what are the ‘facts’ that point to Bush having a keen intellect?

    Where do I say Bush has a “keen intellect?” Unbelievably dishonest on your part. I said he was smart - as evidenced by the fact that you have to have something upstairs in order to fly a jet. Even if you take into account that he may have received preferential treatment to get in to the program, are you seriously saying that a “moron” can fly a modern jet fighter - a task that requires an ability with higher math as well as a general intelligence that probably surrpasses yours?

    That’s pretty ignorant on your part if you are actually trying to make that argument.


    Comment by Levi — 1/16/2009 @ 3:45 pm

  7. I have always believed that our greatest presidents were Lincoln, then Washington, then Reagan. Having just completed “John Adams”, and assuming it’s accurate, John Adams would have jump to (near) the top of the list.

    Where Bush stands will be debated forever (as are all lists), but for anybody to say that he is the “worst president in history” shows incredible ignorance, and probably derangement. I think history will be much kinder to him than even his current apologists, and whereever he ends up in the list, it will almost certainly be ahead of Bill Clinton.

    With respect to his IQ: Bush is a miserable communicator, and fools like Levi in comment #1 are too obtuse to understand that poor communication presents the facade of stupidity. There are numerous examples of above average intelligence, not the least of which is a degree from Yale (his GPA was nothing to really brag about, but it’s a hard school, he partied his ass off, and he certainly outscored that gargantuan of intellect Al Gore).

    You are correct, Rick, that Bush is no Lincoln. He’s no Filmore either.

    Comment by lionheart — 1/16/2009 @ 4:12 pm

  8. ed,

    Jesus man, when I said ‘keen intellect,’ I meant it as a synonym of ’smart.’ Don’t have a cow, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, it all means the same thing, I’m not trying to dishonestly mis-characterize what you said, I just don’t like using the same word over and over again. Don’t be so defensive.

    As for your evidence -Bush flew jets- well, that doesn’t mean much. If you and I weren’t speaking specifically about Bush, but about what makes people in general smart, I don’t think either of us would bring up the ability to fly a jet as one of those characteristics, do you?

    Comment by Levi — 1/16/2009 @ 6:39 pm

  9. IQ in the political sense means bringing the right people together. I mean, it might be great if someone can explain black holes but that does not translate into a balanced budget. So again, whether you have gotten As or Cs in your class does not tell that much about future success. Of course, you shouldn’t have below average intelligence for the presidency. However, this was really never the case in my lifetime.

    Comment by funny man — 1/16/2009 @ 8:06 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress