No Joke – Scholar Tells us President Obama Could Learn from President Bush


george-bush-3Writing on CNN Opinion on Wednesday, David Rothkopf, “CEO and editor of the FP Group, publishers of Foreign Policy magazine, and a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,” told us “what Obama could learn from Bush.”

The very premise is flawed, assuming as it does, a priori, that President Barack Obama has anything to learn from President George W. Bush. I would argue, on the contrary, that there is little, if anything Obama could learn from Bush, except how not to be president.

Yet Rothkopft tells us,

Since 9/11, the United States has swung unsettlingly from one set of flawed policies to another. First, the unilateralist excess of the first term of the Bush administration; its signature error was the invasion of Iraq. Then, the reactive swing of Barack Obama, toward disengagement and dithering. In a tragic irony, a war in Iraq may someday also be seen as the enduring symbol of his errors.

The specifics offered by Rothkopf to bolster his assertion are also of dubious merit, at best. According to Rothkopf, “Obama finds himself at the end of a string of errors of judgment and execution.”


What precisely are those errors of judgment and execution? He does not elaborate. Instead, he offers only that,

These have contributed to damaged relations or crises ranging from those in Syria and Iraq to Libya to Egypt and Israel, from Ukraine to Afghanistan to Africa. They include crises at our own borders and strained relations with our allies over NSA eavesdropping.

Sound like Rothkopft has been watching too much Fox News? Sure does. We need more detail than vague assurances that Obama screwed up, leading to unexplained “damage,” also not elaborated.

Yet Obama needs to recognize, Rothkopf says, that he has made mistakes. This would probably be easier for Obama to do if he knew what, precisely, those mistakes were. But neither we nor Obama are told.

“Who to turn to as a model?” he asks.

The best example may well be George W. Bush himself. Because whatever mistakes Bush made in office — and they were many — in his second term, Bush recognized the urgent need for change and instituted a sweeping reordering of his administration, its policies and priorities.

How true is this? Well, let’s take a look at Bush’s second term, which began at noon on January 20, 2005.

Just a few months into his second term, on May 19, 2005, the Pew Research Center informed us, tellingly:

Americans are critical of President Bush’s job performance in many policy areas, but negative opinions of his handling of the economy and Iraq are doing the most damage to his overall approval rating, which now stands at 43 percent. Just 35 percent approve of the president’s handling of the economy, down from 43 percent in February and 45 percent in January.

You can see what the White House wanted Americans to believe about the Bush presidency as of August 2005, by looking at the White House archives. Needless to say, these reveal a complete disregard for reality, reporting as they do a “growing economy” and a “decreasing deficit” that was to be erased, and then some, by 2007. They no more match reality than they do the public’s perception, either then or now.


If Bush’s second term was so successful, we might ask Mr. Rothkopf why it ended in even greater disarray and disapproval, with the economy in complete shambles as we sank into what is now known as the Great Recession, the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In 2007, the Brookings Institute told us that, “veteran conservative columnist Robert Novak now says that in fifty years of following politics he has never seen a president as isolated from his own party in Congress.”

The year 2007 was, of course, two years into the second term Rothkopf holds out to be so full of answers. As Philip H. Gordon wrote, presciently as it turned out, “I don’t know anyone, Republicans included, who thinks Bush’s problems are temporary, and that recovery may be around the corner.”

Looking back in retrospect in 2012, Bloomberg related some very specific episodes of continued Bush bumbling:

The former Republican president’s problems date back to the first year after his 2004 re-election. Miscalculating, the White House decided to focus on an overhaul of Social Security, without gathering any Democratic support. The proposal went nowhere and the political damage was considerable.

He then rushed to sign legislation allowing the federal government to prevent a Florida man from removing the feeding tubes keeping alive his wife, who was in a persistent vegetative state. Ultimately, that too was thwarted and an autopsy showed she was severely brain damaged.

Finally, when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Bush was AWOL.

bush-head-scratchDoesn’t sound like there is much to emulate, does it?

And we all know how it ended, with a crashed economy and two unnecessary, ongoing, and ruinous wars that had not and could not be paid for.

Rothkopft himself admits to the “in some cases historically significant, errors of the Bush years,” and though he tells us that Bush became “a kind of coach-in-chief,” it is not clear that any of the changes Bush made in his second term improved upon his performance in the first, or that being a coach-in-chief is better than being the president you are elected to be. The buck stops with the president, who must take ultimate responsibility for the decisions made.

Rothkopft tells us of a troubled Bush economic aid experiencing a crisis of doubt, and of how national security advisor James Jeffrey “listened as Bush bucked up his aide, restoring his confidence, telling him he was the best person for the job, letting him know he would back him on key decisions.”

You remember, of course, a more infamous occasion when Bush used the same approach, and that was in New Orleans, when he bucked up FEMA Director Michael Brown, exclaiming for all the world to hear, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job. The FEMA Director is working 24 – they’re working 24 hours a day.”

It doesn’t matter that you work 24 hours a day if you don’t know what you’re doing for any of them. If you could somehow work 36 hours a day, you would still accomplish nothing, which is exactly what the inexperienced Mike Brown accomplished.

Ultimately, of course, Bush himself was to blame, because he not only appointed someone without emergency management experience to the FEMA position, but he limited his control over federal agencies until a critical 36 hours had passed.

And just as Bush had been warned of an impending al Qaeda attack in 2001, he was also warned in 2005 that New Orleans levees would break. Apparently, he learned nothing from one term to the next.

In the final analysis, not only can Rothkopf not tell us what Obama has done wrong, but he cannot tell us what Bush did right. That is, other than a reshuffling of his cabinet which, from the evidence, seems to have accomplished exactly nothing. After all, if this was a good move, and one to be emulated, why did the performance of his administration not improve from 2005 until 2008?

Rothkopf’s final claim is staggering in its complete contradiction of the facts:

But what he may see is that at a moment of comparable foreign policy strains and dysfunctions, Bush was not content to give up or to punt to the future or play the blame game.

Comparable? Comparable? O where to begin?

Show us, please, where they are at all comparable. You cannot, because they are not. Obama did not invade a country innocent of attacking the United States (Iraq), and he did not bumble the invasion of another where enemies were actually to be found (Afghanistan), letting the guy he was supposed to be after, Osama bin Laden, escape in the process. No, Obama nailed bin Laden. Killed him dead. Nor were 3,000 innocent Americans killed in the attack that precipitated those invasions, unless you are going to equate four deaths in Benghazi to 9/11?

In that case, you have indeed watched too much Fox News.

Nor has Obama destroyed the economy, but rather, in the face of all obstruction that could be mustered, restored it; not only has he lowered the jobless rate but he has shrunk the deficit to historic lows. How, in any universe you can imagine, can the presidencies of Barack H. Obama and George W. Bush said to be comparable?

Unless Bush out-performed Obama, there is nothing Obama can learn from Bush, and the historical record is clear in damning Bush, while, as Paul Krugman has recently said, Obama is the most consequential president since Reagan.

40 Replies to “No Joke – Scholar Tells us President Obama Could Learn from President Bush”

  1. He must be high! This book should have been released on April 1. The only thing Obama can learn from Bush is how not to have a failed Presidency, and how to lie, cheat and steal elections when your too damn stupid to win honestly!

  2. Reading his examples of successful Bush “history,” is like watching an auto recycler pull the hubcaps off a totaled wreck. It’s clear his reason for writing this sad piece of fan fiction is to pump up sales of his book, and little else. He completely glosses over, or simply ignores Bush’s ideological decisions, such as selecting assistant attorneys general on purely partisan grounds, and his penchant for pushing off policy failures of his presidency to “the next guy in line.” It’s also clear he’s trying to influence real historical scholars into the belief that Bush really wasn’t so bad, by writing a “warts and all” analysis, that only lightly admits to the cancerous tumor on Bush’s administrative nose, namely his policy boss, Dick Cheney. I would imagine serious historians like Beschloss regard this silly/sad attempt as cartoonish fiction.

  3. I’d rate it highly, considering he was given both a crashing economy, mountains of unfunded liabilities, and since 2010, a do-nothing House, that actually forced a government shutdown, and subsequent downgrading of America’s credit rating. But since you’re nothing but a squat and drop troll, with no ability to argue a point, I’ll leave it at that. I only hope others don’t waste keystrokes replying to you, since you obviously won’t respond.

  4. President Obama would never do that because he has honor, something the racist republican party don’t have

  5. This guy reminds me of Nothing more than the 2% of scientists on the Right who deny climate change… Who argue the earth is 6 thousand years old… We sat in front row seats for the devistation of Bush and the Grand Ole Party direction that Hurt America, and killed 4k troops for nothing but a profit… I can’t understand the electorate in Red States, and have come to understand that they want to crash the economy as their policy and direction will do just that…. AGAIN…Kansas, Wisconsin in the toilet with the GOP wet dream of trickle baloney…

  6. but we do this to punish the uppity negroes, women and those dastardly unions who fight for workers rights.

  7. The hubris shown on this site is incredible. Anyone who thinks the president cannot possibly learn from previous administrations is just a bit too full of themselves. Whether you like or dislike the current or past administrations surely you know that lessons can be learned from history.
    How can you like everything this president does and nothing the previous one did when there are several things they’ve done the same? Patriot Act ? Drones everywhere ? The labor participation rate is the worst in years… A nobel peace prize winner with a HIT LIST including American citizens? You can choose to ignore the facts but that doesn’t change them.
    The do-nothing Congress is heard about often but little or no mention of Harry Reid sitting on a bunch of legislation instead of voting on it.
    Keep thinking there is nothing to learn and you will end up looking like you can’t learn.
    Good Day to you all !

  8. LOL, as a republican you drink the koolaid just fine.

    The legislation Reid sets on is nothing more then bills to eliminate environmental regulations, drop taxes on the 1% and corporations to nothing to starve this country tax money to nothing making YOU make it up. You really need to read those bills you are so worried about.

    You might want to do some research on the hit list they tell you about.

    There is much Obama or any president can learn from previous admins. I agree on that. However drones everywhere? I am betting you were just fine with high altitude bombing wernt you? Same thing. Drones in this country are ran by private enterprise. Look it up and stop making a spectacle of yourself

  9. All Presidents can learn from each other, that much is true. I think being POTUS is probably the hardest job on the planet; there are so many issues and problems one has to deal with, not just here in the U.S. but around the world. How they all manage to get out of office not wearing a straight jacket is beyond me.

    That said, painting a rosy picture of the George W. Bush Administration is a bridge too far. Mr. Bush is responsible for much of our problems today; that’s not a partisan attack – it’s just fact. He got us into two wars, ran the economy into the ground, put John Roberts in the driver’s seat of the Supreme Court, etc.

    So yes, Mr. Obama can learn a lot from the Bush Presidency – mainly in the area of what NOT to do when you occupy the Oval.

  10. “Old Democrat” is more aptly characterized as “Old Dixiecrat.”

    “The do-nothing Congress is heard about often but little or no mention of Harry Reid sitting on a bunch of legislation instead of voting on it.”

    The legislation Dixie mentions is all corporatist hog slop. None of it actually addresses any of the country’s current problems, but does give lots of money/power to corporations, and allows them to further destroy the country, with Congress’ stamp of approval.

    “A nobel peace prize winner with a HIT LIST including American citizens? ”

    Dixie conveniently neglects to mention that these “American citizens” are also terrorists, aligned with anti-American causes or factions.

    The only things Obama has to learn from Bush is what NOT to do.

  11. Again with the koolaid, really?
    Is there no room for criticism without the whole republican line? Really?
    You seem quite passionate about the issues, perhaps we can discuss points without a lot of name-calling fluffery from jr. high school.
    Kennedy would have dropped the corporate rate to something more competitive with the world market. Because they actually DO create jobs. So there’s that law that could be voted on. And the point there is that it could be voted on and passed or failed but it isn’t.
    I have seen several navy drone crashes along the coast where i live so they aren’t all private and I mean the domestic use by the gov. The first government use of them was against a farmer.
    So you’re a Kill List Denier eh?
    NYT anyone?
    Not the Fox news, I don’t watch them.
    Labor participation rate question remains unanswered.

  12. Hi heubler347. Though I suspect you intended it as a mark of derision, since I have some relatives from the south I welcome your ‘Dixiecrat’ moniker as a nickname of congeniality,thanks.
    Given the state of the economy I fail to see why corporate legislation would be irrelevant whether you like or dislike said issue, it is still just doing nothing. And lowering the rate usually ends up increasing revenues by attracting corporations to our shores. Kennedy knew this.
    So any American terrorists on the hit list do not deserve the rule of law because they’re terrorists according to the president (whoever he might happen to be in the future).That doesn’t sound Noble or Peacelike to me. And the problem with GITMO is what again?
    The administration is trying to build an international consensus to deal with ISIS together, somewhat like the last administration did.

  13. I call straw man. Nobody on this site has said that. I did not say that. You cannot simply say we said something and then say, “That’s a lie!”
    It’s not a lie. It’s a fantasy – in your head.

  14. So many points to address.

    A. “Dixiecrat” referred to the racist splinter of the Democratic party, and if you wear that with pride, any hope of a cogent racial argument from you is near impossible.

    B. As I stated, corporate-based legislation does nothing to actually create middle class jobs, since it wasn’t designed by its makers to do that. It was designed to give their shareholders more profit, while giving the government less revenue to address infrastructure problems. Trotting out Kennedy only shows you’re living in a fantasy world of the past. Rates were higher then, and it allowed for much greater infrastructure construction and maintenance, than we have today.

    C. The coalition Bush assembled consisted of offering bribes to foreign countries, for their assistance – something Obama hasn’t had to do, because this time the threat is real, unlike Bush’s sad attempts.

  15. Pimmelkopf is mistaken. What Obama needs to do is to “reorder” the Supreme Court and Congress, Cultural Revolution style.

  16. Ok so I am old enough to remember Kennedy but I must admit I was a bit young to catch all the insult you were trying to hurl at me. Well done, now everything I say is racist too lol. Same tactic that you all seem to fall back on, name calling and character assassination. Paint whatever picture of me you feel comfortable with,I don’t care.
    Nothing about the hit list, not surprising.
    Nothing about labor participation rate not surprising either.
    Nothing about the drones, again no surprise.
    If you honestly think there have been no mistakes or dishonesty from this administration or lessons that they might learn from the past you are displaying hubris.

  17. OK David, provide some examples. By that I mean specific cases of actual events. Not right wing vagueness, platitudes or opinions.

    We’ll be waiting.

  18. Last comment, because I’m actually working while I do this, tiling my bedroom. That you didn’t know the term was a reference to Southern racists who left the party doesn’t mean you’re a racist, so much as show your understanding of history is incomplete, and only covers a small sliver of it.

    Hit list – this list was complied by NSA, and is quite comprehensive. I’m sure you can produce links to posts made by you during the Bush years, that criticizes him for using drone strikes, right? If not, why not? If they are allied against US interests, and proof exists of the threat they pose, it seems rather naïve to expect us to put US assets at risk capturing them, to bring them back to the US for trial. How many soldiers’ lives are acceptable to you, in exchange for one captured terrorist?

  19. Hit list, continued. The secrecy of such a list is a given in this age of cyber-hacking, and if he were to just announce our intent to capture or kill certain terrorists, it gives them an advantage they can then exploit.

    Labor participation rate – Have you been living in a cave since the Bush years? Of course the rate would be low, as employers have decided they can use the recession as an excuse to claw back the gains made by labor, specifically, keep unemployment high, by employing more automation, and cutting work hours, so people need 2 or three jobs just to survive. Your point is laughably easy to refute, and I’m mystified why you don’t see the reasons yourself, and must have them pointed out to you. Why is that?

    And what evidence do you present that shows Kennedy would have lowered the tax rate? Campaign sloganeering doesn’t count.

  20. George W. Bush’s irresponsible and illegal invasion of two Middle East countries is the only “Shake up” he accomplished. As a result, W destabilized and entire region of the world. Deposing Sunni dictator in Iraq has resulted in Sunnis forming Islamic State/ISIS/ISIL. This organization is now threatening the entire Levant and every nation in it is scrambling to protect themselves, when they should be on the offensive. A “Caliphate” in northern Iraq and eastern Syria would guarantee war for decades, and possible acquisition of nuclear weapons from Pakistan would present an existential threat to Israel.
    Yeah, Pres. Obama could learn from W how not to be president, as the writer said.

  21. The only thing I see he can learn besides how NOT to crash the global economy is what happened to The Pet Goat, as he finished reading it, or letting the kids read it while America was being attacked.

  22. wow. this just proves how delusional and out of touch these republican whacko birds really are. I mean that is just sad and pathetic. how anyone could think that is beyond belief!!!

  23. This guy is not a ‘scholar.’ He holds a position he either bought or he’s been bought. Stop giving academics a bad name. It’s hard enough with the power structure trying to marginalize us.



  25. Labor Force Participation Rate in reference to the current labor market from a conservative like yourself is code for “its all we have cause the labor data is good”. The LFPR has been is structural decline for decades now Cletus.

  26. ush could teach Obama how to:allow the worst terrorist attack in US history to occur, allow the mastermind of that attack to escape,invade the wrong country AND allow a major US city to almost drown! So Bush can teach Obama to be the WORST PRESIDENT IN US HISTORY!

  27. Sigh!..Take it from a REAL old Democrat..sir you are NOT an old Democrat unless we are talking about the old “Dixiecrats” that in reality were and are Conservative Southerners. You have not said one thing that shows the Democratic mind and everything that shows Conservative non-values.

  28. Yes….President Obama, has found himself at the end of a string of errors, all put into place by the mental giant, gw bush. Everything that has fallen apart for Obama, is because gw bush put them into place and they were lies and half truths to begin with. The trouble with lies and half truths, in the end, they all unravel and whoever is left holding the bag….well you know how that goes.

    President Obama, can learn how to lie, deceive, over throw not so innocent countries….have people murdered, fired or worse. Yes…learning from the halfwit, gw bush, is really a treat into the darkest recesses of ones mental well being.

  29. Ok. So I forget an insult from the early 60’s and now my history is only a small slice. lol nice turn there.
    I originally tried to make the point that lessons can be learned from fools and from sages (apologies to LZ) and it takes hubris to claim otherwise. I then attempted to point out that the current administration is engaging in some of the same activities as the last one but is getting no flack for it.
    Drones over the US is new to this administration, I am less concerned with using them in a military setting as I am domestically so you won’t find any postings from me about that anywhere.
    A hit list does exist with Americans on it despite Shiva’s lack of research on it.
    Actually my cave is rather nicely appointed and is the ultimate in Geothermal efficiency, thanks for asking, but I don’t see how using automation could be claimed as ‘getting back at labor’ and an explanation for the low participation rate.

  30. You are apparently the one not researching. the Americans are overseas plotting and killing other Americans. A few years ago you wanted all of them dead. Now you feel oh so bad when a person is killed that wants to kill you. Arnt you just the cutest thing?

    I never said there was no list. I said you need to research what it is. You didnt. You failed. Fraud

  31. Also don’t employers hire and fire due to business needs more than to spite or promote a political ideology?
    Isn’t the recession over?
    How is ‘keeping unemployment high’ going to help claw back the gains made by labor? Many have had hours reduced in response to the ACA rules as one might expect a business to do.
    As far as Kennedy goes I said he knew something; I have no idea what he might have done about it, but I mentioned it because lowering taxes seems like such a terrible idea to a lot of folks.
    One more thing that I don’t understand from all the Obama fans (just for the record I didn’t like it when Bush did it either) is why are they fine with no one on Wall Street getting put in jail for the BS that went on with all the stimulus money? Obama got more money from Wall Street than you like to think didn’t he? And it was money well spent as none of those crooks are in jail.
    Cletus lol good one there Kevin, really put me in my place with that.

  32. I researched and provided a link for proof.
    Not fail nor fraud.
    I don’t think you have any idea what I wanted a few years ago Shiva you condescending typist. Why are you unable to make any point without a stupid insult with it? Do you really think it makes you look smarter or more correct? Or is mean your goal here?
    I have no problem with a hit list unless there are Americans on it. Are you saying that if the administration decides you’re a terrorist then all your rights are nullified? The drones in use domestically could easily be weaponized and used to target Americans on US soil, if not now then by a future administration. This is a concentration of power in the executive branch that started with Cheney. Still seem like a good idea?
    And Joe where does it say there are no conservative Democrats? Bill Clinton comes to mind Fiscal Conservative and Social liberal. And I ask questions too, is that not allowed? Talk about avoiding diversity and embracing groupthink…

  33. Too rich! Drones? Why drones? A F-18 could be used just as easily. Sorry, drones are just another weapon.

    Ok, I get it. You missed the Wanted Dead or Alive posters, you support Americans plotting with Islamics to kill Americans. Good for you

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