Thursday, February 23, 2006

God's Gift to Government

Having ironically gotten into a discussion with James I was intent on not having, I'm reminded of last weekend, which I spent in Fort Myers, FL, with Red's mom, uncle and aunt. They're sharing a house in a nice little gated community (which Florida seems to have an overabundance of). I spent the weekend with my feet up on a chair, reading Neal Stephenson's "The Confusion" (the 1000-page second book of "The Baroque Cycle" trilogy), "The Commodores" (see sidebar) and getting addicted to Su|Do|Ku, which is one of many puzzles my mother-in-law dose to keep her mind limber.

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.


Blogger shoprat bloody well said...

My father is a conservative American who buys all this left-wing crap about Bush. His problem is that television is his main link the world, which means he gets all his info from Network news. I can't tell him otherwise and I just grit my teeth and endure when he goes on a tirade.

25 February, 2006 13:45  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon bloody well said...

What a difficult position to be in. I don't know how you kept your patience.

Carter was definitely the worst Prez. He was President when I first came to the USA and I really found it hard to believe that he had been elected. I still think that most of the voters were stoned and thought they were voting for the Pillsbury Doughboy and were shocked when they sobered up and realized that Carter was not as smart as the Doughboy.

Now Goober's saying we should suck up to Hamas - and Hillbilly is saying the Danish cartoonists should be put in jail. W is not perfect but he's much more than just the lesser of two evils when compared with these jerks.

25 February, 2006 13:51  
Blogger The Taker of Gist bloody well said...

The government is not a very Gisty enterprise. Perhaps they need a good injection of vitamin Gist!

25 February, 2006 23:30  
Blogger Rebekah bloody well said...

I agree with Patrick. I think the only reason people voted for Carter is because of disillusionment over Nixon.(Face it, he wasn't exactly great, never mind Watergate.)
My Grandmother is a staunch Conservative, but she voted for Carter.(She said it was her worst vote ever!)

realized that Carter was not as smart as the Doughboy.
ROTFL!! Yeah, that might be it, too!

Other than Carter... I don't know. There have been many truly awful Presidents. I definitely don't think Bush deserves that title.(But don't Democrats say that about any Conservative?)

26 February, 2006 00:28  
Blogger NEO, SOC bloody well said...

I personally feel that ant president or party that was the "voice of the minority" (races) was the worst. I won't deny the reality of continual racial bias in this country; but "speaking" for one group and ignoring the other is doing a great disservice to the country as a whole. I am sure; that it was not the best of situations of possible hate slavery and rule a country that promoted it. However, Acts 17:26, says that God has us where we are for a particular reason. Am I saying that God hated blacks to allow them this disfavor? God forbid! Were that the case; then He hated the Jews in Egypt (Pharoah) & Germany (Hitler); and every other oppressed people throughout history.

Am I saying that there shouldn't be a voice for those oppressed? God forbid! But, I am saying that it should be endearing and not exploitive!

In the end, Jesus is the only Perfect President! And He got a whole lot more accomplished in His three (3) year campaign than all our presidents did combined!

That must have been a hairy situation; but silence and respect was the best course of action. Sadly, the LIBS in this country could employ the same tactics in times as this; but then again, would they?

26 February, 2006 05:38  
Blogger Rebekah bloody well said...

Well said, Neo,Soc!

26 February, 2006 15:07  
Blogger Gayle bloody well said...

Well, I don't know how much energy I have, but I made it this far! :)

You poor thing! I hate being put in that position, but it has happened. It is extremely frustrating. Neo Soc is right, you chose the best path to take; silence and respect while staying in this person's house. You'd have been a real jackass to have done anything else. But it's still tough! Sort of like having to swallow bitter grapes.

26 February, 2006 20:25  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden bloody well said...

02 27 06

Well, I suppose you set the record straight with this post. I wonder if the discussion on Jame's blog helped you to vent, since you weren't in a position to do that at your relative's home. I just did a post and gave you a link.

About Carter; I agree. His decision with the canal was bad and I think China is running it now! BADDDDDDD ideas. I know Carter is a nice guy, but nice guys don't always make good national leaders. And Clinton, well I read the Cato guy's analysis and I even apologized for that;) Ha! Have a good day.

27 February, 2006 13:03  
Anonymous In Reality bloody well said...

What I've read from casual observers such as myself, is that the hate of President Clinton is extremely irrational. From terror to military cuts, that the was mood in America during the 1990's. Few of these people "fed-up" with our lack of intelligence capabilities were concerned about the money it took to maintain them. Remember the Balanced Budge Amendment??

That being said, I think Bush gets a bum rap as well. But 9/11 happened on his watch. That's the name of the game when you're in charge. You get more credit that you deserve, and more crap for things that were out of your administration's control.

Either way, I think people irrationally believe that their point of view has a monopoy on truth. Or that "the other side" is the only one that does this or that.

27 February, 2006 16:50  
Blogger Gyrobo bloody well said...

My point of view is always correct. Unfortunately, I have no point of view. I've never had an opinion in my life. But if I did, it would be the right one.

27 February, 2006 22:22  
Blogger James Manning bloody well said...


I look forward to you insightful point of view on the issues of the day - if you ever decide to give one - but since you don't, I'll continue to look forward to them.


I really can't judge a president as the worse or the best. I guess it would depend on the times and the mistakes they've made. But the country is still here so I guess none of them have done that bad. My beef with Bush is that I just don't like the guy - I don't like his politics and I don't like the people surrounding him. Is he the worst - well, I hate him more than I hated the first Bush and ole Ronny.

I can't see how people say Clinton was the worst. Ok, his morals were jacked but none of these guys are saints. He left no lasting impression. The worst anyone could say about Clinton is that they may have disagreed with his stewardship. But this President will leave a footprint like those of Lincoln, Roosevelt and JFK. His war on terror will be his legacy... and that is how we will judge him. In ten or 15 years I'll be able to tell you if he was the worst President.

28 February, 2006 15:10  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden bloody well said...

02 28 06

Hello Robosquirrel:
Here is a post from someone who is far less ignorant than I am on the port deal stuff. I figured you would like his perspective and that you would have a worthy debator;)

28 February, 2006 15:44  
Blogger The Taker of Gist bloody well said...

I followed your advice and invited every member of Congress to a pool party.

They aren't coming.

28 February, 2006 19:21  
Blogger Robosquirrel bloody well said...

In Reality: I think you have a point about no one having a monopoly on the truth. My goal is to get to that truth if I can. I go by my gut a lot, but I do my best to back it up with at least a little bit of research. Your point about 9/11 happening on Bush's watch is well-taken - just look at Herbert Hoover.

James: What I appreciate is you're up-front about where you're coming from, and never try to come off like your bias doesn't exist. Though I don't lead every post with mine, my libertarian, pro-defense, anti-stupidity leanings are out there for all to see.

I agree with you, at best Clinton left practically no imprint on American history, other than the fact he was present when things happened. I think 100 years from now it's entirely possible he'll be seen as a Benjamin Harrison or a Rutherford B. Hayes. Maybe a Franklin Pierce or James Buchannan. Not nefarious, but neglectful.

01 March, 2006 17:13  

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