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A President's Day Howler

Reported by Judy - February 20, 2006

Today is President's Day, but you would have thought it was April Fool's Day, given the joke Neil Cavuto came up with on "Your World with Neil Cavuto" -- putting George W. Bush's face on Mount Rushmore.

During today's show (February 20, 2006), Cavuto invited Michael Barone, senior writer for U.S. News and World Report, and Sascha Burns, Democratic strategist from San Francisco, to debate the idea, which they both managed to do with a straight face. Cavuto asked if Bush will go down in history as one of the nation's best presidents if Iraq turns out to be a success "down the road." It seems to me, we're pretty far down the road right now and there is nothing like a success in sight, although defining success after you smash a country to bits is pretty hard.

Anyway, Barone fudged the question and opined that Bush will go down in history as a "very consequential president" like Andrew Jackson or Harry Truman. Barone argued that Bush had made a major change in U.S. foreign policy and that domestically, his tax cuts had prevented deflation and that his Health Savings Accounts and the 2003 Medicare Bill will do to health care what 401K's did to pensions.

Those are certainly "very consequential" but I would not say they have had good consequences. The change in foreign policy produced the disaster that is Iraq. As for health savings accounts doing to health care what 401K's did to pensions, who wants that? In the first place, many people had HSA's before Bush anyway. And replacing company-financed pensions with accounts that employees finance themselves (or with some piddling "match" from their employer) hardly is a step forward. Consequential, yes. Good, no.

Although articulate, Burns was entirely too gracious during the whole affair. I would have had a hard time keeping a straight face. It's not as though Cavuto asked her how Bush would rank among presidents when people look back on this period. He asked her "if George W. Bush could go down in history as one of the best." I probably would have been giggling uncontrollably or else panicked at the thought of a national monument like Mount Rushmore defaced with Bush's smirk.

Anyway, Burns said, the lesson of Bush's presidency "is that commander-in-chief is too big a job for amateurs and that wars cannot be fought by arm chair generals with no experience." She said Bush is praised for his decisiveness and steadfastness, but that those are lousy traits when the decisions turn out to be wrong.

Barone, who is a member of the supposedly "liberal" mainstream media, then attacked Burns for spewing "mindless drivel" and said that the reason Harry Truman was such a great leader in foreign policy was that he had a responsible opposition while Bush just has a bunch of "chihuahuas nipping at his heels." I guess Truman's "responsible opposition" would have been Joe McCarthy and the John Birch Society, but Barone failed to elaborate.

I have trouble imagining what kind of historian would rank Bush alongside FDR or Lincoln. On the other hand, maybe thinking of Bush's head as a big block of stone is not so far off after all. I have always thought he had rocks for brains.

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