Hoist By Your Own Petard

I don’t buy the common Democratic narrative that the Bush Administration was incompetent and criminally corrupt. I don’t think that the Bush Administration was any less competent than any other administration or any less corrupt. I think that all administrations are corrupt but they’re doing it for the good of the country, right?

I disliked the Bush Administration for other reasons, mainly that I thought that George W. Bush’s notions of risk and reward were so different from my own that I really couldn’t identify with them. With the single exception of Afghanistan, I’m not too dissatisfied Barack Obama’s foreign policy. I think he’s been a bit naive and inclined to leave things to the experts but that’s better IMO than being too bellicose. Since I vote for presidents for foreign policy, I’m not as dissatisfied as you might think with him. Still, time will tell. For most ills I blame Congress.

However, as Megan McArdle points out when you run on the premise that the reason your predecessor was so horrible was that he was incompetent and that you, on the other hand, are competent, you’re setting yourself up for criticism on the basis of how you deal with problems many of which may be beyond your control (as they were beyond the control of your predecessor).

Additionally, when you run as a reformer the hell of it is that people actually expect you to reform things. It’s a cruel world.

3 comments… add one
  • Brett Link

    One of the main irritations I had with Bush is that he took a serious problem (terrorist attacks in the US coming from part of central Asia), and escalated the problem to encompass a “long war” defeating terrorism everywhere (and manipulated to justify a long-desired overthrow of Saddam Hussein on the part of many conservative groups). Containment and minimizing it seemed to be foreign concepts to him post-911 until Iraq really went pear-shaped in 2005-2006.

  • That’s a perfect example of what I mean by a different view of risk and reward than I have. He saw the rewards of doing as you describe as much greater and the risks as much lower than I did.

  • steve Link

    I will agree on the corrupt part, but disagree on the competency. Bush, especially on foreign policy, was way too loyal to people who were clearly not acting competently. Rumsfeld alienated much of the military and was far too rigid. Rice was an abysmal NSA. He deferred way too much to Cheney. Once he did get more directly involved, and booted Rumsfeld while ignoring Cheney, he did perform better.


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