Give him the benefit of the doubt

I been seeing a lot of complaints about George W. Bush’s refusal to take any real responsibility for failures of his administration. But wouldn’t we all be disappointed if our outgoing commander in chief were to suddenly become apologetic and contrite about the mess his administration is leaving us with?

Think it through.

Suppose the man were to show some actual understanding of the sheer awfulness of what has been wrought by a long succession of unfortunate policy decisions over the last eight years: the vast number of civilian war deaths (mostly Iraqi), failures of financial regulation and the consequent economic meltdown, erosion of civil liberties and citizen’s rights, alienation and loss of allies around the world, degradation of the environment, failure to help our own citizens in times of natural disaster, and so much more.

Suppose he suddenly “got” it – and then decided to use these last interviews to admit his mistakes, to make absolution with the American people. How would that make you feel? I suspect it would feel us all feel pretty lousy.

For this would be a clear indication that he understands the failures of the past eight years. Which would imply that he was actually capable, somewhere along the line, of making better decisions, that he really could have done better, and that all of this was, after all, unnecessary.

Now that would be truly depressing.

18 Responses to “Give him the benefit of the doubt”

  1. Bern says:

    The truly sad news is that no one cares what he thinks and they have been thinking that for a long time. At least this past election has given people a beacon of hope although we should all fasten our seatbelts. We are in for a bumpy ride for the next few years. But as usual, I am a hopeless optimist. πŸ™‚

  2. troy says:

    Funny, it was hard for me to regain my optimism after the election… I fear the rule of the mob…

    I cling to the hope that B.O. will change his naive views of national security after being properly briefed. And I applaud the past administration for keeping us safe in a dangerous world. I am, however, now optimistic that B.O. will wander towards the center and hope that his radically left ideas were only a ploy to get elected.

    Beware the Manchurian Candidate…


  3. admin says:

    If Bush had been all that focused on keeping us safe in a dangerous world, he might have taken a few minutes to read that briefing on his desk in August 2001. It might have saved a lot of tragedy down the road. But then, he’s never been much of a reader.

    But I’ve got to say Troy that you’ve let me down on this one. Sometimes you say something interestingly provocative, but other times you tip your hand, and then it’s obvious that you’re just playing around, hoping somebody will get riled up.

    In this last comment you’ve tipped your hand waaay too much. Obama is being so centrist that he’s upsetting the Left. Everything he’s saying and doing is about reaching across the aisle.

  4. troy says:

    I agree. I must not have verbalized it as well as I should have.

    B.O.. is definitely moving center, and I applaud that. I really do hope that his extreme left ideals were just a means to get elected and that he governs from the center. As I said, it took me awhile to gain optimism, but, I am optimistic.

    B.O. came onto the scene, in my opinion, as a thinly veiled socialist with extremely dangerous ideas about national security. I personally don’t believe in socialism, and, I care about security. So, B.O. was obviously not my candidate of choice. I wasn’t particularly happy with the alternative candidate, but, thought that he would have at least kept us safe for 4 years. (I was really dissapointed that Giuliani was a non-starter) πŸ™‚

    Your reference to the presidential briefing document makes perfect sense with hindsight… but, how would you have interpreted it, and what do you think should have been done with that information at the time? Probably the strongest statement of the briefing was:

    “We have not been able to corroborate some of the more sensational threat reporting, such as xxx service in 1998 saying that Bin Ladin wanted to hijack US aircraft to gain release of “Blind Shaykh” […]”

    “Sensational” really sets the mood of the brief. Also, “wanted” is far from “is planning”, or “will try” or even “is trying”. Yes, in retrospect it makes sense. But, at the time, who would have thought that “wanted to hijack” meant, “is planning to Kamikazi into the WTC”? Plus the labeling of “sensational threat” makes it seem less like an “imminent threat”.

    If GWB would have acted agressively on this, he would have been criticized for acting on sensationalized intelligence (of course, referring to “Information” and not his personal intelligence) πŸ™‚

    Yes, This should have kept Bin Ladin on the Radar screen- and it did, but, what else would you have done? Started making people take their shoes off at airport security? Invaded Kandahar? Shut down flight schools? (at this point, we didn’t know they were training to be pilots)…

    How many similar briefs do you think cross the presidential desk? Many. So, how do you act on these? Personally, I’d continue collecting data until a viable threat, or solution was manifest. How do you disrupt plans with such a vague rendering of uncorroborated information?

    Bin Laden has since been effectively neutered… Even today, he struggles for relevence and struggles to be heard, all due to actions that coalition forces have taken. I really hope that he is not captured for a long time. He is no longer a threat, but, Al Qaeda is still a real threat (with or without Bin Laden).

    As long as we are “hunting” for Bin Laden, we have a reason to pursue our national and global interests with greater public support than we’d have if he were captured. The threat of islamist extremism will outlast you and me. Personally, I know that it is not prudent to leave them alone.

    As for B.O., I’m sure that he will adjust his national security agenda once briefed. No intelligent person would employ his naive ideas of security given the actual facts of the situation at hand. And, I do believe that he is an intelligent person. So, hopefully, he is also an effective leader and an effective Commander.

    Next week, he will be my President and my Commander in Chief. I will support him as a symbol of a great Nation. I will voice my concerns and hope for the best. I will give the support that I can, if we follow paths that I believe are not in the best interests of the Nation, I will question the direction but support the decision. But, critical or not, he will command my respect and I will hope that he leads us on a path of recovery and progress while keeping us safe and continuing to allow those with a little determination, to achieve the American Dream.

  5. admin says:

    The phrase “a thinly veiled socialist with extremely dangerous ideas about national security” is very vague – were you deliberately trying to be vague?

    If I follow your logic here, president-elect Obama (or “body odor” as you apparently want him to be called) was pretending to be a dangerous radical-left nutcase with a commie agenda so that Americans would be more likely to vote for him. His fiendish subterfuge having succeeded, he can now reveal himself to be a good president after all.

    Because (if I’m following you here) Obama knew that American voters would never go for someone who pledged to be a responsible president, but only for a red flag waving dangerously left-wing radical nut.

    Apparently his dastardly plan worked, the clever bastard!

    Or am I getting some of this wrong… πŸ˜‰

  6. troy says:

    No, not intentionally vague. I assumed self evidence.

    The rest was so sarcastic that i’m not sure if you were serious or not.

    I’ll give a thoughtful response if you were, in fact, serious…

  7. admin says:

    No I wasn’t particularly serious, since I find the whole idea of this conversation funny – no offense intended. I mean, here you are assuming that the people who read this blog would think it self-evident that the positions taken by the Obama campaign were dangerously socialist.

    It’s not like this is the Fox News network – your entire set of starting assumptions is kind of in the minority here. It’s not that your opinion doesn’t count. It’s more that you can’t assume that anybody else reading in even knows what you are talking about when you call the Obama campaign socialist.

    Most people I talk to every day – almost all liberals of course, since I live in Manhattan – think that Obama was promising a refreshing return to healthy capitalism the way it has successfully operated in this country for most of the last century (including under Bush 41), before the outgoing administration removed the antibodies from the immune system and all hell broke loose.

  8. troy says:

    Well, I assumed they were at least smart enough to see “extremely socialist” if not “dangerously”. Guess I underestimated my audience. πŸ™‚

    And you gotta admit… B.O. is pretty funny… You know that if GBs name was something like Paul Underwood, you’d use his initials… πŸ™‚

    funny, my anti-socialist sentiments really started when I worked at NYU. Watching the United Staff and Clerical Workers Local take the University hostage… Still makes me angry to think about the wanton waste and expense that that union costs the college/students. Removing an incentive to perform (like the possibility of losing your job if you don’t work) really kept anything from getting done. But, they all get their paychecks and are well supported by higher tuition. Somebody’s gotta pay…

  9. troy says:

    sorry, small adendum… but can’t edit last response…

    The “dangerous” in my original comment referred to his views about national security.

    This is a much larger topic, that has much evidence from public statements/interviews/etc that B.O. made before and during his campaign. It seems that he is backing off of some of the hardcore “no more weapons research” “no nukes” “no Iraq” “No Afghanistan” types of statements, but, this all demonstrated a naivity that he had regarding security. Yes, it’s nice to imagine a world with no conflict and no war… but, we will not see that in our lifetimes unless we are conquered as a nation. you and I have minor differences in opinion, and probably always will. The US and Ismalists have major differences in opinion, and always will… And, they will always be probing for ways to bring down Golieth.

    Like I stated earlier though, B.O. seems to be approaching these subjects with a little more caution, and, being an intelligent man, I’m hoping that he rethinks his earlier misplaced positions after being briefed about the real issues in front of him. (not the liberal media version).

    As for the socialist agenda… We’re seeing that anyway, even with the previous administration with TARP/Bailouts/Etc….

    We’re all doomed… πŸ™

  10. admin says:

    To be consistent with all your previous posts talking about GWB, you would refer to the president elect as BHO. That’s also consistent with JFK, FDR, GHB, HST, DDE, LBJ, etc. It takes a lot away from the serious points that you are making (those times when you are being serious) if you insert a little gratuitous insult every time you mention our next president.

  11. troy says:

    He would have been GB if there wasn’t a GB Senior…

    it’s still kinda funny…

    After the 20th, I’ll be sure to change it to HBO.

  12. troy says:

    sorry, BHO

  13. troy says:

    LBJ took the IRT down to 4th Street USA…
    When he got there, what did he see?
    the Youth of American on LSD…

    -James Rado 1967

  14. admin says:

    And of course even before that was the master himself, Mr. Allan Sherman:

  15. troy says:

    hmmm…. seems like a bunch of TLAs to me…

  16. Dagmar says:

    Hmm, as far as I understood Ken’s original question was, how people would react, if George W. Bush would have admitted a mistake, like for example Colin Powell did.
    And what kind of expectation US people have in their president and if they would see this as a weakness that destroys all the achievements George W. Bush made or not made.

    I think it is not and never has been the question, if George W. Bush read this memo you quoted above, since that would imply he would have made a decision on his own and not a ‘consulted’ decision based on the opinion of the people surrounding him and the people he likes to listen to or not likes to listen to at a certain point in time.

    The mechanics of power go their own ways, with a lot of people involved with their own hidden or not hidden agendas.

    I didn’t realise that the USA is in danger become a socialist country without free elections and that all of you will be dispossessed. I am really sorry to hear this. πŸ™‚
    What I am saying is, please take a little care of your nomenclature, your definition of socialism isn’t based on facts, it is polemical.

    And I didn’t know, that the trade unions in the US are fighting for employees to be paid, if they in general don’t work. I always thought that trade unions fight for better working conditions, payments made for example when you are ill, etc.
    From an intelligent person like you are, I would expect that you really would have a close look at the arguments and that you carefully balance the pros and cons.

    And even after more than 15 years in management consulting and running companies I didn’t know that being afraid of losing the job is an incentive and motivates people to work hard.
    Because that would imply that the people I worked and work with are so lazy, they only want (my) money, without giving anything back.
    I see it like this, if the only argument I have to make my people work is, to threaten them with getting fired, I would be a dumb boss and hopefully would fail with my company.


  17. troy says:


    I’d argue that tax strategies to redistribute wealth and national healthcare are socialist ideals. Social Security is a socialist program. Nationalization of our banking system is a socialist movement. Intervention of free market capitalism in an effort to narrow economic gaps is at least socialism.

    Personally, I don’t want it. Socialized medicine? Michael Moore is a reactionary idiot. Do you really want your healthcare run by the same, idiotic beaurocracy that runs the Department of Motor Vehicles?

    I don’t agree with your assessments of trade unions either… Have you heard of the Job Bank that the United Auto Workers members enjoy? Does ANYBODY believe that’s fair or appropriate, other than laid off union members? Look at the production of other heavily unionized nations, such as Italy… Do you think the unions there are in anyone’s benefit? They hold the people hostage, and hold the country back.

    It comes back to people. Some people are driven and some are not. Unfortunately, those that have drive to excell are a minority to those who are just along for the ride. Given the choice, many people without personal aspiriations will simply “get by”… This is exacerbated in a situation where you really don’t have to perform… The fear of not having a safety net, is one way to keep people motivated. I agree with you on one level… I don’t want anybody working for me that doesn’t ABSOLUTELY want to be there. I don’t want employees that don’t believe in being part of something bigger, and believe in being part of a collective success…

    I address that by giving my employees ownership in the company. My own socialist experiment. I would never allow them to unionize.

  18. Dagmar says:


    I only tried to tell you that there is a big difference between ‘being a socialist’ and acting with a social conscience.

    For example, I didn’t know that Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck-SchΓΆnhausen (he invented the social legislation 1883 in Germany), was a socialist. πŸ™‚
    Actually he was pretty much fine with the Sozialistengesetz (law against the social democrats who are dangerous to public safety- that is the translation of the full title of this law). –
    That law would be yours Troy, right? πŸ™‚

    I don’t want to say much to the US-health care system.
    But I am proud that in my country everybody gets a proper health care and everybody pays for it. I think it is a scandal, that a rich country like the US stumbles with it’s health care system so much, that a lot of people (ca. 18%) who get ill wont be able to get any kind of proper health care.

    And well, I don’t know anything about the idiotic beaurocracy in the US. πŸ™‚

    I don’t want say much to the US trade unions too.
    But what is wrong with having a lobby, even if you are a worker? πŸ™‚
    At least you don’t stand alone and can’t be target of arbitrariness of an employer.

    And if you ask me what is the main benefit of trade unions – at least here in Germany they are an important part of what we call social peace. Because the trade union managers are the people, who have to deal with the workforce, if the times are bad and the wages don’t rise.

    By the way, we have one of the largest single trade unions of the world here in Germany. But it does not seem to weaken our economy. There is simply no relation between having an in trade union organised workforce and the weakness of an economy. Not in Italy, not in Norway, or Sweden, where the percentage of organised workers in the whole workforce is much higher.
    You Italy argument is wrong.

    Cheers again!

Leave a Reply