Paul Krugman looks at the attempts by Republicans to rehabilitate George W. Bush.
But they have a problem: how can they embrace President Bush’s policies, given his record? After all, Mr. Bush’s two signature initiatives were tax cuts and the invasion of Iraq; both, in the eyes of the public, were abject failures. Tax cuts never yielded the promised prosperity, but along with other policies — especially the unfunded war in Iraq — they converted a budget surplus into a persistent deficit. Meanwhile, the W.M.D. we invaded Iraq to eliminate turned out not to exist, and by 2008 a majority of the public believed not just that the invasion was a mistake but that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war. What’s a Republican to do?
You know the answer. There’s now a concerted effort under way to rehabilitate Mr. Bush’s image on at least three fronts: the economy, the deficit and the war.
But it’s more than just rehab. Republicans have this maddeningly smug sense of entitlement, as if it was Destiny that George W. Bush was president in spite of all the roadblocks put in his way, including a disputed election in 2000. Had the Supreme Court ruled the other way, the vote count continued in Florida and Al Gore became president, we would still be hearing from the GOP, Glenn Beck, and every right-wing blogger that Al Gore stole the election, that Bill Clinton had bribed his pals in Florida and on the Supreme Court, and that the gridlock imposed by the minority Republicans in the Senate from 2001 onward was justified in by their sincere objection to the illegitimate president’s policies. As it is, they just put all of that off for eight years.
It didn’t really matter what George W. Bush did in office; he could have been the biggest doofus to occupy the White House since Warren G. Harding and the GOP noise machine would have made him out to be another Washington or Jefferson. After all, they had a lot of practice with Ronald Reagan (who, it turns out, wouldn’t stand a chance with today’s Tea Party thanks to all of his tax hikes and willingness to work with the likes of Tip O’Neill). To Republicans, obsequious duty to a president of their party, regardless of what he does, is Rule 1. Ironically, for all their years of combating Communism, it’s a dead ringer for Soviet-style legacy building.