God's Gift to Government
I was shocked (well, more like a disappointed with raised-eyebrows) when I got into a discussion about current events last weekend with Red's uncle to hear him spouting conspiratorial moonbat nonsense. I guess it's funny until it happens to you. Here I am at the guy's house, caught by surprise. Like a bad cold, I let the rant run its course and tried not to provoke him (I was sleeping in his house, after all).
Many of you are probably familiar with this discussion (a misnomer, since there's no real discourse, just one person spouting lunacy). Among the interesting things he had to say:
1) "George W. Bush is the worst president in American history and has done more to damage the United States of America than anyone else. Ever."
I don't know, we've had some lousy presidents in 229 years. Naturally, if you Google "worst president ever", I think you could probably guess what you'd get as a result. But I think Harding, John Q. Adams, James Buchannan, maybe Andrew Johnson (though I think he did get a bum rap on the impeachment. I think Thomas Jefferson wasn't particularly good, either (his handling of the Barbary State was haphazard at best, since he was a pacifist at heart), though I admire him in general. (I also share his birthdate, it turns out.)
Incidentally, Dubya also comes up, though with slightly less frequency, when you Google "best president ever", which just goes to show, I suppose.
Anyway, there have been plenty of poor Chief Executives, and I think it's difficult for most people to remove themselves enough from their feelings about current events to make objective judgements about the quality of leadership from a historical perspective. I watched the History Channel documentary "The Presidents" a few months ago and it was terrific until it got to Carter, then it skewed off into biased, opinionated apologetics, panning of Reagan, a relatively good assessment of Clinton without being too negative, and typical GWB moonbattery. Disappointing, to say the least. I don't think we'll truly know the impact of the current and last two (maybe the last four, though Reagan's and Carter's legacies are beginning to come into sharp focus) presidents on US history for 20-30 years minimum. 50 years would provide better hindsight, I think.
2) "Clinton did his share of whoring, but at least he balanced the budget." Mahndisa was under this delusion for a while until I pointed her toward a few articles on the subject. It amazes me that people are willing to selectively take certain things on faith while reading conspiracy into similar items.
Not surprisingly, Bubba is considered by some as both best and worst president ever, which just further demonstrates people's lack of historical perspective. I think it's too early to assess the historical impact of Clinton's presidency, but for someone who was really focused on his legacy, he didn't leave much of one. I'm more inclined to overlook his philandering than I am to overlook his attention-whoring. And from a military perspective he was the worst of two commanders-in-chief I have ever had; he lacked strategic vision, or even any concept of how to employ the world's most powerful military (which has befuddled many men of greater virtue).
Anyway, No, Bill Clinton Didn't Balance the Budget, says Stephen Moore (and neither did George H. W. Bush, though I don't know who is under that delusion). Frankly, a balanced budget sounds swell and all, but is not that necessary (opperating at a deficit has been shown historically to stimulate the economoy, though large deficits can cause inflation). As Moore says in the article, the budget-balancing myth was mainly a result of an increased tax base due to the Internet bubble absent corresponding increases in spending (if the government had predicted that influx of cash, it would've been spent years in advance) and decreased military spending (surprise! Clinton hated the military!). What Clinton and the GOP Senate at the time really did was set Clinton's successor up for huge deficits when the need for increased miltary spending arose combined with the disappearance of economic exuberance.
As it stands, the deficit in the president's budget request for 2006 is only about 2.9% of GDP. I realize the percentages are usually used to hide the actual size of numbers so that comes to between $370 billion and $375 billion. That the deficit is only a tiny fraction of our entire national GDP and that it has been decreasing over the last couple of years, is a sign of American prosperity and economic health. Unless you refuse to believe that because Buxh Is The Worst President Evar!!!111! Politicians like to get you to believe that the deficit and national debt are a huge problem when it's convenient for them (Republicans cooked up the Balanced Budget Amendment, after all), but for some reason, you can't get people behind real long term problems like bloated, ineffective government programs and foreign aid ($62 billion in 2005!). I understand the political function of handouts, but just once I'd like leaders who didn't care about whether they got re-elected and just rolled up their sleeves and fixed things.
I could (and did) go on and on here at some length, but I did not observe the cardinal rule of computer use (save early and save often). Therefore you have about have as much to read as you did before I lost my work. (Firefox has been choking on .pdfs) Lucky you!
3) "So what if Bill Clinton screwed around? All presidents and politicans screw around on their wives. George Washington visited his favorite prostitute in Washington D.C."
Another difficult-to-substantiate, let alone research claim. I would like, in retrospect, to have asked him if he screwed around on his wife, but the would've been incendiary. The only thing I could find was an obscure book containing an essay by an unknown (to me) author making the insinuations. Of course, I'm sure it's difficult to sell unflattering tales about the Father of Our Country.
4) "Bush doesn't really want to catch Bin Laden. We caught him and Bush let him go. A former marine said it onstage at [some event, don't remember if he even said what] and was draggen off-stage. I read it in the local paper [Fort Myers News-Press]."
I wonder if it was that Jimmy Massey guy? What with all his credibility and all. I did attempt what due diligence I could from bed while watching the Olympics (I'm bummed about missing curling) on this, but haven't been able to find anything yet. If you've made it this far and have the energy, be my guest.