Karl Rove Reflects

by Ryan on September 2, 2007

in Politics

This National Review Online article was written by Karl Rove about George W. Bush.  In it Rove seems to think that history will judge Bush better than we view him now.  He starts off with contemporary media criticism of former presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Reagan and how very different they are from how history has since viewed them.  He then goes into President Bush’s accomplishments while in office– and there have been many.

Rove obviously likes his former boss.  I have a sense of history too (I teach it) so my point of view is slightly different than his.  I agree that Bush will be viewed more favorable as time goes on and as the issues of today blend what is studied about the 21st Century’s first decade in lieu of the 2010s and 2020s.  I think the comparisons to Harry Truman are the best, at least with foreign policy. 

Truman was loathed by many after he left office in January 1953: we were still mired in the Korean War stalemate over POWs, Congressional investigations indicated that there had been significant communist inflitration in our government, Truman’s many Fair Deal domestic initiatives were dying slow deaths as Republicans in Congress were keeping socialism at bay. 

Early in his administration Truman had to make one of the biggest decisions of the 20th Century:  should America use the atomic bomb on Japan?  He did, the war ended, but the Cold War with the Soviets began quite soon afterwards.  His people came up with containment, which had serious flaws in that you’re trying to coexist, not win, but such was the world after World War II and America turned out OK.  Yet, Truman laid the groundwork that future presidents would embrace or reject.  So has Bush, not with the Cold War, rather the War on Terror.  Bush came into office under the cloud of the 2000 Election.  Then 9/11 and the War on Terror.  He had decisions to make, which historians will one day view as critical to understanding America at this time, Bush as President, and how the subsequent two or three decades formed.  Not everyone likes Bush’s decisions, but like Truman, there they are. 

Rove, of course, glorifies everything Bush has done, referring to Bush as being “seen as an innovative conservative thinker with a positive, optimistic agenda for action” in the future.  The problem is that it’s too easy to see Bush’s conservative short comings on spending and the borders.  Like Truman, people love or hate Bush because he makes decisions and sticks to them for good or bad.  We tend to like that in our Presidents, even if it may not improve their poll numbers while in office, and even if the decisions are dumb (like this spring’s amnesty plan), but there’s something to like about a level of stick-to-it-iveness in the face of hardship.  Future presidents will accept the Bush Doctrine and preemption, some will not, but at least Bush made sound contemporary decisions from which his successes and failures will be judged as future events unfold.

Bush and Rove: AP photo.  Truman photo: from the Missouri State Archives.

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