George W. Bush was, at bottom, a tremendous mediocrity, born to privilege but never quite deserving it. He had one war thrust upon him that remains unfinished; he started another that also remains unfinished; and his fiscal stewardship was disastrous. The One Big Thing that his defenders repeatedly invoke is the lack of terror attacks in the United States since 9/11. This defense is indefensible: al Qaeda has engaged in more successful attacks in more places worldwide since 9/11 than before it, it has killed more Americans since 9/11 than before it, and its mastermind remains alive and free. By this standard, we would have declared victory in the Second World War after clearing the Atlantic seaboard of U-boats.As for W.'s successor:
If the former President was something tragic and sub-par, the new President is nothing at all. This is unfair to him if the view of his public record is limited to a Presidency that has produced nothing yet beyond festivities and oratory. Let us therefore expand our view to the whole of his public life, and find — festivals and oratory. I have written on this before, and there is little point in recapitulating it in full. It is enough to note that today’s speech, which I finally saw after the fact, and was in itself quite good, adds nothing to the plate. Barack Obama is our President now, and he may find greatness, or better yet, goodness, in the being. Yet as we are now ruled by a second Amory Blaine figure in succession, we do well to recall that a life spent in the becoming is no preparation for that.The Amory Blaine reference, which went right over my head (not yours, I'm sure), is from F. Scott Fitzgerald's first novel, This Side Of Paradise. I haven't read it, so you'll have to figure what it means by yourself.