Tuesday, January 13, 2009

History is Written by the Victors

On Sunday afternoon, I had lunch with my friend Tom. We ended up at a little neighborhood coffeehouse, Murdoch Perk, where we discussed politics over the most decadent chocolate cheesecake I think I have ever consumed. And I've indulged in some cheesecake therapy in my day...

Part of the discussion was about the history of impeachment... but most of it was about how history looks back on former Presidents.

The impartial eye of history magnifies the accomplishments, and debacles, of former Presidential administrations, but it also takes the emotion out of the events.

Now, as some, most, or -- most likely -- all of you know, I am not George W.'s biggest fan. In fact, I have said on more than one occasion, I expect the person holding the highest seat of power in the land, nay the entire world, to be smarter than I am.

Which really isn't that great of a feat.

In fact, I am embarrassed that George W. Bush is not only our President, but that the American people elected him a second time.

But Tom argued that historians might look back with a more objective eye and see things differently. That if the war that I think is idiotic and completely unnecessary (and that Tom seems to concur on me about) takes a turn that will only underscore Bush's reasons for having a U.S. Military presence there, then the history books will be kind to him.

I protested vehemently, arguing that there is no way that Bush could pull out of the tailspin of his disastrous 8 years. But Tom returned with how FDR and Truman were vilified at the time, but look at them now...

Of which, I couldn't really dispute. Truman was practically vilified by the American public when he left office and now he is practically revered by historians... and Americans alike. What a difference a generation or two can make.

I was suddenly sweating if my animosity was misguided or, at the very least, a little too rabid. (<--Note, word use is a tip of the hat to Maggie. She'll understand.)

But then I saw this on CNN and it occurred to me that while things might yet turn out better for Bush than he will ever deserve, Katrina will forever remain a blight on his record. There is no amount of spin that can rectify turning his back on his own countryman.


Now, there are those who can argue that it was Congress that didn't allocate funding to help out the devastated areas of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but my God... If the leader of the free world is not at the forefront of helping the people who elected him, then what is wrong with this picture?

My same argument stands for 9/11. I may think that Mayor Giuliani was (and still is) nuttier than a fruitcake, but who was the one person that rallied a broken and terrified country to stand tall once again? Not the President of the United States of America, whose very country was attacked. It was the Mayor of New York, who had been battling tabloid stories and genuinely bizarre behavior. Rudy Giuliani was not made Time Magazine's Person of the Year because he was a good mayor to New York. But he was the best non-elected President of the United States we could ask for.

I could also argue that the first term of George W. was not one that he was elected to, but I'll spare you that diatribe for another post.

So Katrina... A horrific natural disaster that occurred in August 2005, of which the effects are still felt by the residents in the path of the hurricane. And not just irritations and annoyances are felt by those displaced for a period of time, then tucked back into their lives. We're talking about people who are still homeless. Why has George W. Bush not moved Heaven and Earth to help these people?

This was not a rhetorical question; I really don't have an answer. Maybe you know?

I hope that he has a few answers on Thursday night when he gives his farewell address. I have no real interest in hearing his convoluted phrasing of not only the events of his administration, but his infamous ability to butcher simple English grammar. But at an estimated ten to fifteen minutes in length, I think I can stomach the speech for that short duration of time.

Then, Super Tuesday! TRUE history in the making. And unless Obama totally falls out of step with his proposed changes, I think that his highlights will cast a serious shadow on the previous administration.

And, to be completely catty, it won't take too much work.

Maybe Tom and I should rendezvous in 20, 30 years and revisit the conversation. Because at this point, it's all conjecture.

And plus, I'm always up for any reason to have chocolate cheesecake.

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