Books as Christmas Gifts: Rush to Judgment

 

51NBH32lSOL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Some years ago, Stephen F. Knott, who now teaches at the Naval War College, published a fine study entitled Alexander Hamilton and the Persistence of Myth, in which he did for Hamilton what Merrill Peterson did long ago for Jefferson: he traced his posthumous reputation as it changed and changed again and again in response to the evolution of circumstances.

Three years ago, he did something similar with regard to George W. Bush in Rush to Judgment: George W. Bush, the War on Terror, and His Critics. Both books are first-rate, but here I am recommending the latter. For it has one great virtue.

Something happened of profound importance in the course of the Bush administration. Liberalism underwent a change in those years. I saw it in the academy. Suddenly it was virtually required that one display one’s conformity to right-thinking. Prior to the Bush years, it would have been considered rude and almost unprofessional for a scholar speaking on a subject (say, medieval Arab philosophy) completely unrelated to contemporary political issues to go out of his way to display his admiration or seething contempt for a political candidate or officeholder. Suddenly, every liberal in the land thought it appropriate, even necessary, to display partisan preference on any and all occasions. The rules of decorum has changed.

The demonization of Bush by mainstream Democrats, which Knott traces in detail, was unprecedented in recent times, and it marked a shift on the part of liberals that has transformed American politics. This book will remain important because, without in any way descending into histrionics himself, Knott has amassed the evidence for something that, I fear, will be an enduring aspect of liberal politics and American life more generally. Things have gotten really nasty — not only in the academic world but also in places like Silicon Valley — and, unless the 2016 election marks a seismic shift, they are going to get a lot nastier.

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  1. Tom Riehl Inactive
    Tom Riehl
    @TrinityWaters

    It will be interesting to read a factual analysis of Bush Derangement Syndrome.  Thanks, Professor!

    • #1
  2. mezzrow Member
    mezzrow
    @mezzrow

    Professor, should we get the seismic shift you describe, wouldn’t the volume and frequency of the contempt increase, not diminish?  Either way, it seems to me that it will become nastier until and unless things become truly existential for them personally.

    The nastiness is something I cannot control, therefore I will point it out as it occurs and go on my way.  It is a small price to pay when you consider what it would take to shut them up.

    • #2
  3. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Bush’s rope-a-dope strategy needed the part where he comes off of the ropes and wins a round or two. He didn’t even try — he just sat there and let the Republican Party’s reputation be trashed along with his own. Was he partly to blame? Yes, in this sense: he had a presidential role to play with informing the country of his reasoning and also a role to play by standing up for himself. He looked weak and bullies are attracted to weakness.

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I am adding this book to my list. Thank you. I think GW will be viewed as a great president someday. :)

    • #4
  5. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    I believe that the left’s anti-Bush derangement is a symptom of a larger cold civil war. Let us pray that it never goes hot.

    • #5
  6. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    Interesting how the two most ugly pathologies in public life these days both have the same set of initials- BDS.

    • #6
  7. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Larry Koler:Bush’s rope-a-dope strategy needed the part where he comes off of the ropes and wins a round or two. He didn’t even try — he just sat there and let the Republican Party’s reputation be trashed along with his own. Was he partly to blame? Yes, in this sense: he had a presidential role to play with informing the country of his reasoning and also a role to play by standing up for himself. He looked weak and bullies are attracted to weakness.

    I agree. Karl Rove blundered badly and Bush followed his lead. Rove has since admitted his mistake.

    • #7
  8. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Larry Koler:Bush’s rope-a-dope strategy needed the part where he comes off of the ropes and wins a round or two. He didn’t even try — he just sat there and let the Republican Party’s reputation be trashed along with his own. Was he partly to blame? Yes, in this sense: he had a presidential role to play with informing the country of his reasoning and also a role to play by standing up for himself. He looked weak and bullies are attracted to weakness.

    I agree. Karl Rove blundered badly and Bush followed his lead. Rove has since admitted his mistake.

    Yes, Rove admitted it the day after he could have done something about it. His timing is highly suspect and I worry that he is just trying to ingratiate himself to a new source of revenue: people who want his services and readers of his books. His timing also reflects that he did know about our many years of caterwauling and pleading with Bush to defend himself, America and the Republican Party. The question is still on the table: why in the world did they deliberately and with full knowledge choose the strategy of not fighting the lies?

    • #8
  9. Fritz Coolidge
    Fritz
    @Fritz

    Will have to read the book.

    In my own experience, what began as the viciousness of Kennedy’s assault on Robert Bork, and the lack of blowback against the over-the-top criticisms by a idol of the Democrats, grew into the legitimization of open character assassination for not holding liberal views. (Even reflected in lunchroom conversations in my then place of employment, where good-natured ribbing between the political opposites had devolved into nasty internecine power plays and back-stabbing).

    The later Bush campaigns and presidency provided a much wider field and with the press as cheerleaders, the game was on.

    • #9
  10. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Larry Koler:

    Paul A. Rahe:

    Larry Koler:Bush’s rope-a-dope strategy needed the part where he comes off of the ropes and wins a round or two. He didn’t even try — he just sat there and let the Republican Party’s reputation be trashed along with his own. Was he partly to blame? Yes, in this sense: he had a presidential role to play with informing the country of his reasoning and also a role to play by standing up for himself. He looked weak and bullies are attracted to weakness.

    I agree. Karl Rove blundered badly and Bush followed his lead. Rove has since admitted his mistake.

    Yes, Rove admitted it the day after he could have done something about it. His timing is highly suspect and I worry that he is just trying to ingratiate himself to a new source of revenue: people who want his services and readers of his books. His timing also reflects that he did know about our many years of caterwauling and pleading with Bush to defend himself, America and the Republican Party. The question is still on the table: why in the world did they deliberately and with full knowledge choose the strategy of not fighting the lies?

    My sense is that Rove (and Bush) thought at the time that it did not matter — that it was ancient history. I know for a fact that they blocked further efforts to investigate what Saddam Hussein was up to with regard to weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi dictator taped virtually every meeting he had. We captured those tapes and developed software enabling researchers to seek out passages where key words were being used. Considerable spadework was done on this at the Institute for Defense Analyses, but the folks there were discouraged from looking at the WMD question . . . and that was Rove’s doing. I think that his later apology was honest — that he eventually recognized that he had blundered — which is why he admitted it. Never underestimate the role played in human affairs by simple stupidity. We all have a tendency to believe what we want to believe — until reality slaps us across the face.

    • #10
  11. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    It’s not just liberals, conservatives like Donald Trump have been making some of the same arguments about Bush… Never mind…

    • #11
  12. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    Paul A. Rahe:

    I know for a fact that they blocked further efforts to investigate what Saddam Hussein was up to with regard to weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi dictator taped virtually every meeting he had. We captured those tapes and developed software enabling researchers to seek out passages where key words were being used. Considerable spadework was done on this at the Institute for Defense Analyses, but the folks there were discouraged from looking at the WMD question . . . and that was Rove’s doing.

    Do the tapes still exist? Did the IDA release the analyses it did of the passages not related to WMD? If there’s further evidence to indict Hussein and possibly vindicate the invasion, the world should see it.

    • #12
  13. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Cat III:

    Paul A. Rahe:

    I know for a fact that they blocked further efforts to investigate what Saddam Hussein was up to with regard to weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi dictator taped virtually every meeting he had. We captured those tapes and developed software enabling researchers to seek out passages where key words were being used. Considerable spadework was done on this at the Institute for Defense Analyses, but the folks there were discouraged from looking at the WMD question . . . and that was Rove’s doing.

    Do the tapes still exist? Did the IDA release the analyses it did of the passages not related to WMD? If there’s further evidence to indict Hussein and possibly vindicate the invasion, the world should see it.

    Yes, this is important for the history books. I lived through that time like most of us did and I can’t believe the revisionism that started as early as when Hillary and Kerry started their lying campaign of claiming Bush lied about WMD. The fact that these two people attacked America in the way they did should be considered treasonous.

    Many right of center people start out sentences with “Well, we all know that going into Iraq was completely wrong-headed and … (or but…).”

    • #13
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