Monday, June 05, 2006

Judging Presidents

In his recent U.S. World and News Report article Michael Barone makes an interesting comparison between George Bush and Harry Truman in relation to the historical events during their time in office. Barone points out that bold action was the only solution for Truman in the 1950s and bold, unpopular decisions have been on Bush's agenda as well. Barone states:

Bold action: The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan in 1947, the Berlin airlift in 1948, the NATO Treaty in 1949, the Korean war in 1950. None of these was uncontroversial, and none was perfectly executed. And this was only the beginning. It took 40 years--many of them filled with angry controversy--to win the Cold War.

The struggles against Soviet communism and Islamofascist terrorists are of course not identical. But there are similarities. "Like the Cold War, we are fighting the followers of a murderous ideology that despises the Cold War, they're seeking weapons of mass murder that would allow them to deliver catastrophic destruction to our country."

Read the full text here.

The one thing that sprang to mind as I read this article was talk within the last few months about judging the Bush presidency. I know that during the implementation of the Marshall Plan there were people who denounced it. The Korean War was poorly executed in many instances and at the time those critics were justified to their opinions. These same critics would not have been justified in judging the whole Truman presidency, however, because it was too soon.

The passage of time has removed all barriers and blinders. We are able to see that the Korean War along with many other events that followed were all one long chain of events that made up what we describe as the Cold War. Truman's actions were some of the first to combat communism and those actions did eventually lead to the U.S. being the last man standing.

No one knows how the War on Terror will play out. Two things are for certain... history will remember George Bush for being decisive and acting against terrorists, and another U.S. president will be in office when the War on Terror is over. I only hope it won't be as long as the Cold War.


NYC Educator said...

As I recall, Truman's decisions were not accompanied by huge tax breaks for the super-rich, resulting in the largest deficit spending in history. His priorities now, as I understand it, are banning gay marriage and eliminating the estate tax.

I don't know a soul rich enough to be affected by that tax.

Nor did working people have it quite so tough. Mort Zuckerman, hardly a raving liberal (like me), just wrote a story in the Daily News to that effect.

I believe a longer version appeared in US News and World Report.

EHT said...

Thanks for the info concerning the Zuckerman article. I enjoyed reading it. The last sentence, "This means that government at all levels must give more of a hand to poorer qualified college students, expand preschool education, and develop a tax system that no longer turns the American dream into the American nightmare", struck a chord with me. While I wonder what 'qualified' refers to concerning college students I do agree about preschool expansion and the need for a new tax system.

Regarding the comparisons between Truman and Bush we need to remember that during Truman's first term the country's economy was in transition from a wartime economy to peace time. Truman wanted to continue many of the controls that had existed during the war such as price, wage, and production controls. Republicans and conservative Democrats attacked this strategy and President Truman mercilessly. During the midterm elections of '46 the Democrats lost control of Congress as they lost voter confidence due to high inflation and consumer shortages. Many predicted that Truman would loose his re-election bid. He surprised everyone including the newspapers when Dewey was defeated. Truman felt his victory meant he had a mandate for many of his domestic proposals, however, he miscalculated. Many of his policies (the Fair Deal) were rejected, there were charges of corruption and that his administration was soft on communism even in light of such debacles as the Federal Employees Loyalty Program, and the Korean War was a stalemate until after Truman left office. Still, history remembers Truman as one of our greatest presidents.

I realize that many people absolutely can't stand the fact that George Bush is our president just as many people couldn't stand Clinton or even Truman. The point I'm making is that no presidential legacy becomes clear until they leave office....sometimes the past becomes clearer as time passes. I look forward to seeing how today's events play out in the future and how history will view them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting analogy, EHT. Liberal Democrats probably won't appreciate it, though.

I supported our going into Iraq, but one major problem for President Bush is that the stated reason for it turned out to be wrong. That's a pretty big "Oops!" to overcome.

I also think there's a very big question about our attempts to bring democracy to Iraq. The jury is still out on that one, but it's tough to remain optimistic considering recent developments there. I voted for Bush in 04 because I thought we'd be sending the wrong message to the world if we voted him out at that time. I find the inability of the new Iraqi government to get it together, and the story of what appears to be a My Lai type massacre in Hadith pretty discouraging, though.

On one of the TV talk shows I was watching, there was another question that was brought up that is interesting, and a little scary: Can the United States win a "hot" war that lasts more than a month or two now that we are in the media age? I think the jury is still out on that one, also, but so far we're 0 for 1.

Anonymous said...

Wow! Right after I make my discouraging comment about Iraq, Al Zarqawi bites the dust, and the Iraqis finally get their government put together. Maybe I need to post discouraging words more often. By the way, does anyone think Al Zarqawi is hanging around with 72 virgins right now? I have a sneaking suspicion that he may have gotten an unpleasant afterlife surprise.

EHT said... more discouraging comments so we can nab bin Laden.

Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...and our own ignorance...the two of which, combined, elected our current regime.

Put the U.S. history books away and start reading some history of the Middle East.

WVU Ivey said...

Elizabeth, you sound EXACTLY like liberals sounded 20 years ago, saying that Reagan was going to end the world; that he was an idiot; that he was psycho. In hindsight, the conservatives were 100% right about how to fight the Soviet Union and the liberals were 100% wrong. Hopefully you can admit that, because it's pretty much indisputable.

In another 20 years when conservatives are proven 100% right again and the liberals are proven 100% wrong again on fighting Islamofascism, I only hope that you will have learned your lesson.

In case you can't, here's the lesson: the conservatives are not dangerous psychopaths. They don't love war or killing. They love their country and their children and act aggressively to defend them. We had no intention of attacking anybody in the middle east before 9-11. However, when it became apparent that Islamofascism was at WAR with us, we went to war with them.

You may never understand that, but we will always defeat you politically in order to protect you militarily. Just like Reagan did. Just like GW Bush is doing.

EHT said...

Hear, hear!

Welcome, and thanks for commenting.

Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

Yikes! People who teach U.S. history can't tell the difference between Ronald Reagan and GW Bush???

EHT said...

Elizabeth, please note that not everyone who reads my blog or comments on it is a teacher. At no point did wvu ivey indicate they were part of the profession. It is possible that wvu ivey is a student or simply a lover of political history. I welcome intelligent, logical comments from people who have differing opinions. I would expect everyone to express their opinions respectfully with information to back up what they say whether I personally agree with it or not. wvu ivey did that very well. If you differ in your opinion maybe you could enlighten other readers with more elaboration to your point based on wvu ivey's comments.