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Monday, January 19 2009
As George W. Bush’s term in office as America’s 43rd President comes to a close, it is appropriate for political thinkers, scholars, historians, and citizens alike to critique the highlights and the lowlights of his eight years. Critics will undoubtedly point to the faulty intelligence leading up to the invasion of Iraq, or the failed effort to reform social security and immigration. Supporters will surely point to the undeniable reality that, against the expectations of virtually every “expert” following September 11th, President Bush has fulfilled his solemn duty to protect the American people from further attack. And therefore the debate over the relative success or failure of his administration will continue for decades to come. As it should.
As a student and teacher of history, one of the most intellectually absurd exercises that so-called historians undertake is arrogantly concluding where the current president will rank compared to previous presidents in American history. Each of the mainstream media outlets have interviewed these self-proclaimed psychics who predict that George W. Bush will be forever regarded as a failed president, if not the worst ever.
Douglas Brinkley (the same unbiased historian who called Jimmy Carter “the most principled American president since Harry Truman,” and who wrote a glowing biography of John Kerry during his failed campaign to unseat President Bush) recently told CBS News that “It’s safe to say that President Bush is going to be seen as the very bottom-rung of American presidents…as a judicial historian looking at what’s occurred on his watch, it is almost void of genuine accomplishment.” 
Not to be outdone, historian Joseph Ellis (the same man who idiotically scoffed at the notion that September 11th, 2001 would be anything more than a mere footnote in American history) concluded, “I think that George Bush might very well be the worst president in American history…Bush has nothing on the positive side, virtually nothing.” 
And so it goes. The mainstream networks, who have been waging an eight year public relations war against a president they never believed was legitimate, continue to parade out left-wing scholars who tell us all what future generations will believe.
With all due respect, this exercise unquestionably proves that many so-called historians are willing to betray their field for the sake of making a political statement. The legacy of modern presidents cannot accurately and fairly be evaluated for generations. Think about it: Abraham Lincoln was loathed in his day, with nearly two thirds of the American people voting against him in his first election. The Douglas Brinkleys of Lincoln’s day would have never been able to predict that 150 years later he would be held on par by some with the incomparable George Washington.
And even in our most recent century, FDR has long been regarded as one of the best. Yet just now we are beginning to fully grasp how much of a failure FDR’s New Deal truly was…how it prolonged the Great Depression by nearly a decade. There is little question that in the future, FDR will continue to plummet from his current position as one of America’s greatest.
Contrast him with his successor, Harry S. Truman. Truman left office extremely unpopular, and with a similar tag as what the current president wears. Yet today, his stock continues to rise, with historians recognizing that this “backwards hick” actually handled his office in an admirable way.
Where George W. Bush ends up on the list of all-time great presidents will remain a mystery long after the current crop of self-serving historians have passed. And what’s so ironic is that his legacy could easily be impacted by what his successor is able to accomplish. If Barack Obama bungles the situation in Iraq and it turns into an Iranian extension or hotbed for terrorist training, Bush’s decision to invade and “democratize” Iraq will look disastrous. But suppose that the progress now occurring there continues, and Iraq becomes a valuable ally in the region, one whose democratic processes rub off on its neighbors, thus transforming the world’s most volatile region into stability. Imagine that Bush’s War on Terror continues to successfully dismantle the world wide terror groups bent on death and destruction. 
Could George W. Bush one day be mentioned among America’s greatest? That’s something that not even the brash Douglas Brinkley could predict…so maybe he shouldn’t try.
Peter W. Heck
Posted by: Peter Heck AT 08:10 pm   |  Permalink   |  2 Comments  |  Email
Monday, January 05 2009
The World War II generation of Americans has been appropriately termed the “Greatest Generation” for a reason. Not only did they depose dictators, resist the mad schemes of those bent on world domination, and prove courageous on the battlefield, they made incredible sacrifices at home to ensure one basic philosophy: that the country they left to their children would be better than the one they inherited.  How sad that the selfless Greatest Generation has been replaced by the Most Selfish Generation.
Far from seeking to preserve the blessings of liberty to our posterity, our current generation seems determined to serve our own selfish interests regardless of the consequences, even if it means depriving our children of their liberty. We are the entitlement generation, so self-absorbed and egocentric, we seek any “solution” to our troubles that doesn’t require sacrifice. Sacrifice is out, bailout is in.
Consider the current economic situation. Our bloated sense of privilege has warped our minds to the point that we feel entitled to a home, an affordable mortgage, a plasma screen TV, two nice cars, a fat pay check, and a secure retirement. Forget sacrificing to gain those things…it’s our “right” to have them. And this deadly philosophy has driven our society to the precipice of economic ruin. So what do we do? Recognize that this is the direct result of our sins of excess? Of course not. We are the Most Selfish Generation, after all. Instead, we run to Washington, D.C. and ask for bailouts, bridge loans, or whatever other euphemistic term must be used to cover over what it really is: theft.
Lost your retirement because of poor investment? Steal from the taxpayer. Losing your home because you bought one you couldn’t afford? Steal from the taxpayer. Corporation going under because of an unwise business plan and unsustainable contract obligations? Steal from the taxpayer. Can’t afford healthcare coverage? Steal from the taxpayer. Lost your job? Steal from the taxpayer.
“Oh, but it’s not really stealing,” we comfort ourselves. No? Taking money that isn’t yours from unwilling parties to use for your own benefit…hmmm. “But it’s for the public good,” we rationalize. Really? Let’s think about that for a minute.
Government doesn’t produce anything, so therefore when government makes payments, it has to confiscate that money from those paying taxes. So, as the number of people receiving these payments increases, what happens to the tax burden of those paying the bill? It increases to the point that those taxpayers soon become in need of government assistance themselves, but there is no one left to pay for it. It’s an unsustainable monster. 
Government was never intended to be the great engine of the American economy. Rather, government was intended to protect an environment of economic freedom where small businesses and corporations could compete to grow and prosper, providing goods and services—and jobs—to the masses. Unfortunately, as the Most Selfish Generation has taken charge of the marketplace, the only competition that is occurring is corporations competing with one another to convince Washington that they deserve a bailout more than anyone else because they’re “too big to fail,” or because “the economy might collapse.”
Is this type of system really for the “public good?” Of course not. Few people in the Most Selfish Generation today are wise or reasonable enough to realize that when government is asked to prevent failure, it can only achieve that objective by preventing freedom. The great prosperity America has experienced was the direct result of a market that allowed people the freedom to prosper. But along with that comes the freedom to fail. Depriving the market of the latter requires depriving it of the former.
The current economic hardship being felt by citizens and businesses across the nation should drive us to be more innovative, creative, and invest ourselves in making the sacrifices necessary to prosper once again—sacrifices generations of Americans before us made with magnificent results. But instead of self-reliance, we have become obsessed with looking for saviors in Washington, D.C. We want Barack to turn things around or Congress to take immediate action to solve our problems.  With all due respect to both, they can’t because they are not the horse that pulls the cart. We are…whether it’s convenient for us or not.
Peter W. Heck
Posted by: Peter Heck AT 08:08 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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