Over at in2thefray’s site, he suggested this idea a while back, so today is the day to talk about 1/20/08, a year before 1/20/09 and a new president, whoever it is.
And that means talking about someone who has disappeared in the public eye to a large extent recently. The endless campaign is now first and foremost in domestic news reporting, along with continual economic concerns, a neat combination of issues for those who thrive on it all while simultaneously worrying about where it’ll all end up.
And George W. Bush? Right now he almost seems to be at the level where shuttle missions were for a long while — happening, at work, and mostly shrugged at. His most recent domestic statements had to do with the tax rebate idea, which has been received with, at best, a dismissive ‘yeah, fine, but that’s it?’ As for his current Middle East trip, to say that the neocon wing has pounded its collective head against the wall for Bush ‘just being like Bill Clinton’ or similar understates. This Washington Post story, its usual combination of selective statements and intentionally-informed-by-leaks speculation, basically portrays someone just out for his legacy, and doubtless convinced that history will smile on him kindly.
Mind you, this is common enough stuff among people leaving the public stage — it just happens to be on the biggest public stage in the world, thus the interest or, more intriguingly, the lack thereof. As it is I’m not up to a full discussion of all the things that Bush has overseen on his watch which turned out to be a miserable mess at best — really, where to start? The vaunted base which voted for him has dwindled to a rump, as any number of GOP voters come to terms with something long apparent — namely, that all the time spent defending him basically boiled down ‘he would have been better than the Democrats.’ For some this may be enough, but call me skeptical at ranking that as a effusive demonstration of positive motivation.
And so looking back, a lot of people on the right will claim in a year’s time he was the right person for the right time for two reasons only, I figure — The Great Big Endless War to End War (good luck with that) and the Supreme Court vacancies that were filled. (And is it me or are certain justices making sure to stay alive just one more year?) Everything else is a mess of lofty expectations that translated into nothing, business-as-usual trough filling and obvious incompetence on any number of government levels. Complaints that this is something to always be expected on both sides are understandable but miss the larger point — after all the hyperinflated ‘BEST PATRIOT EVER’ attitudes that settled like a suffocating shroud upon his shoulders following 9/11, after the serious claims being bandied about in some corners that Bush deserved to be on Mount Rushmore and that someone like Donald Rumsfeld proved to be the nation’s best Defense Secretary ever (flawed as Edwin Stanton was, he cleans Rumsfeld’s clock there, now and forever), there’s not much left but a guy who either knowingly winked at the idiocies on his watch or honestly didn’t know what was going on. For his reputation’s sake, he might hope for the latter judgment.
These are the kind of sentiments that when expressed lead certain people — still — to scream “BDS! Nutroots!” and all that nonsense. No offense, but if you were venting a lot when Bill Clinton was in office at the mere fact of his existence then it seems you might be projecting a bit based on your own experience. Further, all you have to do is look at the election campaign now to realize that many of the loudest screamers then are now venting at themselves, looking at the collapse of Fred Thompson’s sleepwalk of an approach, the oily follies of Romney and much more besides and realizing that they have nowhere else to go. A telling sign, perhaps, of the waning of a certain generation’s influence — Rush Limbaugh, with his usual tact and calm mien, said before the South Carolina primary that if either McCain or Huckabee ended up being the nominee that it would destroy the Republican party. They placed one and two in said primary. That’s just one state, of course, and the whole thing is still up for grabs, but what if either scenario happens? Does Limbaugh take his ball and go home, or does he decide that, should one H. Clinton secure her own nomination, that there are bigger fish to fry? What price putative purity when it comes to power politics?
Amusing pipe dreams are already at play, of course — the dreamers at RedState are already talking about a new approach of activism to get things going the way they want them in the future, and even then the poster linked says, “I of course have no illusions that a sudden influx of a few conservatives on the Internet will change this whole national coalition party into The Conservative Party. That can never happen, because there are not enough conservatives to win a national election.” Which, arguably, is the whole point when it comes to the success of candidates in the primary, because right now it’s a party vote and next time it’s everybody. At some point, you slam up into reality.
And reality, to tie it back a bit, is that George W. Bush is still president for a year, and that strange things can happen in twelve months. He has given no overt sign of preference for a candidate. He’ll probably want to avoid being on the road with the GOP candidate at any point in order to assist his prospects by his absence. Fading into the woodwork behind a series of embarrassed coughs might be the best he can hope for. We can but watch, and wait.