Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Angry Reader #6 Responds to “Bush Reconsidered”

Angry Reader #6 wrote:

“VDH Trash”

VDH do you actually believe this? I have to doubt your sanity. So many examples but I think the breezy dismissal of Iraq, not mentioning torture, the health of the economy circa 2009 and the Bush tax cuts relationship to the deficits are the real doozey’s.

You basically say that intelligence about WMD’s is difficult to acquire so Bush portraying evidence of Saddam’s possession of them as ironclad is fine. Then bypass three years of general incompetence by skipping 2003-6 with a quick mention of Bush bravery with the surge. Laud the achievement of removing Saddam but don’t mention empowering Iran by installing a pliant Shiite regime next door.

Torture or even a euphemistic “enhanced interrogation techniques” does not warrant a mention despite the fact you note the continuity of Obama Bush counter terror policies. Similarly the words Abu Ghraib do not appear.

Breezily assert that TARP stabilized the financial sector but can’t be bothered to note that the economy was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month when Obama took office in January 2009.

The real knee-slapper came when you write “Apparently, he also conceded that the once-derided Bush tax cuts had actually increased federal revenue while spurring the economy”. What? First, Bush provided over anemic growth then an asset based bubble which collapsed into the worst recession since the 30’s. Although it is generally accepted that raising has some deleterious effect on the economy it seems unlikely the Bush tax cuts spurred any type of broad based, sustainable economic growth. Second, the assertion that the Bush tax cuts increased federal revenue is laughable. I think you would be hard pressed to find even loyal Bushy economists that believe the Bush tax cuts came remotely close to increasing federal revenues. This must be shocking to you but people study these things and revenue falls precipitously after 2001 and more after 2003.

It really is unfortunate NR countenances this type of drivel. Writers like Ramesh Ponnuru are thoughtful conservatives but their output is tainted when NR puts it impramitur (sic) on VDH trash.

VDH replied:

Note the usual Leftwing venom — “drivel,” “trash,” “I doubt your sanity” — all in lieu of any argument. Almost everything the reader wrote is nonsensical. So here we go:

You basically say that intelligence about WMD’s is difficult to acquire so Bush portraying evidence of Saddam’s possession of them as ironclad is fine. Then bypass three years of general incompetence by skipping 2003-6 with a quick mention of Bush bravery with the surge. Laud the achievement of removing Saddam but don’t mention empowering Iran by installing a pliant Shiite regime next door.

I wrote that everyone—majorities in the Congress, Bill Clinton, etc.—argued that there was WMD in Iraq. That’s why Clinton signed a regime change law in 1998, and the likes of John Kerry and Harry Reid called for Saddam’s removal. We installed a democratic process, not a person, in Iraq, and, in good liberal fashion, did not pre-choose the winner. Under democracy, a Shiite majority may well elect a Shiite leader. The verdict is out on what the effect of a non-Saddam Iraq upon Iran will be, but right now Iran is losing, not gaining, Middle East influence. There is not mass murder in Iraq as in the past and as in Syria, and a Kurdistan is booming in a way impossible under Saddam.

Torture or even a euphemistic “enhanced interrogation techniques” does not warrant a mention despite the fact you note the continuity of Obama Bush counter terror policies. Similarly the words Abu Ghraib do not appear.

On anti-terrorism, I wrote two things: one, the erstwhile critic Barack Obama embraced or expanded almost all the Bush-Cheney protocols that he once denounced. And, two, the chief difference between Bush and Obama was that the former tried to take prisoners and interrogate them, the latter simply to blow them up—inasmuch as in eight years Bush had killed somewhere over 200 suspected terrorists by predator drones, Obama well over 2,000 in just four. Most might think that suspects would be off in detention at Guantanamo rather than vaporized, along with anyone in the near vicinity, by Hellfire missiles. Yet in the age of Obama incineration of 2,000 plus suspected terrorists is considered far more ethical than waterboarding three confessed terrorists.

Blaming Bush for Abu Ghraib is like faulting FDR for American military executions of German prisoners in Sicily, or blasting Truman for occasional maltreatment of communist prisoners in Korea. After Abu Ghraib, soldiers were disciplined; the head of American detention facilities removed and demoted, and ultimately Gen. Sanchez was held accountable. Note how the reader did not mention my point that, in comparison, Obama-era scandals — like Fast and Furious, Benghazi, the EPA and HHS heads caught in duplicity, the Secret Service and GSA mess — are mostly ignored. Bush ensured that those responsible for Abu Ghraib were held accountable; has anyone really yet been punished for Benghazi?

Breezily assert that TARP stabilized the financial sector but can’t be bothered to note that the economy was hemorrhaging 800,000 jobs a month when Obama took office in January 2009.

TARP did halt the panic. The unemployment rate accelerated under Obama. In fact, in every single Bush administration month (96 of them), the unemployment rate was lower than in any single Obama month. Obama took a bad hand — brought on by Freddie and Fannie empowerment of Wall Street greed — and made it far worse by terrifying employers with the specter of Obamacare, wasting trillions in borrowed money on government stimulus and insider bailouts, and demonizing the productive sector with gratuitous slurs. Average deficits, unemployment rate, gas prices, and GDP growth over the Bush eight years and compare them to comparable averages in the Obama four, and the result favors Bush, as I demonstrated in the essay. My point was not, however, to whitewash Bush, but merely to show that his tenure, mega-deficits and all, was, in comparison to the last four years, not all that bad.

Second, the assertion that the Bush tax cuts increased federal revenue is laughable. I think you would be hard pressed to find even loyal Bushy economists that believe the Bush tax cuts came remotely close to increasing federal revenues. This must be shocking to you but people study these things and revenue falls precipitously after 2001 and more after 2003.

How predictable to see invective in lieu of fact. Here are some truths: Between 2003 and 2007, the US economy added 8 million new jobs. American median household wealth rose by $20,000 in real terms. From 2004 to 2007, federal tax revenues also rose by $785 billion. That was the greatest four-year increase in our history.  But as I wrote, the problem was that massive spending created deficits despite, not because of, the tax cuts, and so discredited the effect of the latter:

What helped to sink Bush’s ratings among conservatives, however, was the chronic budget deficits that over two terms added more than $4 trillion to the national debt. Barack Obama seized on that profligacy, calling Bush “unpatriotic” for it and promising to halve the Bush annual deficit by the end of his first term, while blasting the “Bush tax cuts” that supposedly were the source of fiscal shortfalls and had only benefited the rich.

But Obama more than equaled Bush’s eight-year borrowing in just four. Apparently, he also conceded that the once-derided Bush tax cuts had actually increased federal revenue while spurring the economy, since he soon insisted upon retaining them for all but those making over $250,000.”

The angry reader ignored most of the salient points of the article and instead misrepresented those that he chose to address. And he did so with falsity rather than facts: in short, another angry rant passed off as commentary.

©2013 Victor Davis Hanson

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture.

One Thought on “Angry Reader #6 Responds to “Bush Reconsidered”

  1. The Bush family is perhaps some of the most patriotic figures in American History. Bush’s are known for their honor and trust in shaping a strong America with military might. Texas is a perfect example of a booming America. The pride of our nation is an Army that not only moves on its stomach but one that is supported by strong economy.
    jwc

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