Thursday, November 06, 2008

Just the Luck of the Draw?

Harvard political historian Barbara Kellerman made headlines over at CNN by suggesting that history will be kinder in its assessment of George W. Bush's presidency than his current low approval ratings suggest.

Her quote:

"I think it's possible when people have stopped being as angry at the Bush administration as they are now ... that they will realize that some of this is just ... the luck of the draw."

Kellerman, author of the book "Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters," noted that Bush has not had luck on his side for the past eight years.

"He [Bush] has been a quite unlucky president. Certain things happened on his watch that most people don't have to deal with -- a 9/11, a [Hurricane] Katrina, the financial crisis, being three obvious examples," she said.

"And yet they happened on his watch. He is being blamed," she said.


Was Bush blamed for Hurricane Katrina or for how he handled Hurricane Katrina? Does Bush have low approval numbers because he is being blamed for 9/11 happening or for what he did in the wake of it? Is Bush unpopular because the financial meltdown just happened on his watch or because deregulation and a culture of greed contributed to it?

I certainly don't think President Bush has a top secret weathermaking machine in the basement of the White House that he unleashed on New Orleans in the secret hope that red-state Lousiana would learn a lesson. But I do totally understand how, in the wake of it, someone like Kanye West might draw the conclusion that George W. Bush "doesn't care about Black people."

I, of course, don't think that George W. Bush had anything to do with 9/11, but I certainly find persuasive the argument made in No End in Sight (and elsewhere) that his advisers and think tanks wanted to go to war in Iraq even before 9/11 and I don't think history will view the Iraq war as something that just unluckily coincided with Bush's time in office nor view it as a necessary response to events that did (i.e. 9/11). I do blame him for pushing the Patriot Act through and eroding our civil liberties in its wake and empowering people like Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Alberto Gonzalez to torture first and ask questions later. I don't think those things just "happened" on his watch.

I'm reminded of some people I used to play Euchre with online--who would win about 42-48% of the time over literally thousands of games (a good euchre player wins on average about 52% of the time, great ones make 53-54) and complain about how unlucky they were and how they never got good cards, especially at the key moments.

Yeah, that must be it.

1 comment:

Doug said...

An excellent post, Ken, I couldn't agree more. Bush doesn't have low approval ratings because bad things happened while he was president but because of his responses (or lack of responses) to them. All three of the events named were long predicted and potentially avoidable, as well.