From top to bottom, every stupid decision he made was handed to him by somebody else. The "Mission Accomplished" banner didn't originate with him. He didn't come up with the idea of appointing Harriet Miers on his own, and if he did, he could easily have been stopped. And I'm sure he wasn't even aware of how thoroughly Dick Cheney controlled his administration. No, these were all really bad ideas that were handed to him by people he trusted. Sure, he deserves the ultimate responsibility, whatever that means. But he was just a dope who went along with what he was told.
It's the ultimate cop-out, particularly when talking about a president, but he was just following orders. I'm sure he doesn't see it that way, but that's what happened. He had people he trusted who fed him specific information in order to get him to agree to a specific set of decisions, and he did. And had he had Obama's advisors feeding him information and advice, you can be assured that things would have turned out much better.
And whether or not he deserves the blame for trusting the people he trusted, the fact that he listened to these people and he failed is an indictment of their entire system. Bush didn't create anti-intellectual conservativism; he was its creation.
Blame the Man, Not the Movement
And this is an important distinction. Because the people pushing the "It's Bush's Fault" meme are trying to sell you something. The conservatives who say it are trying to use this as the explanation for why their dreams failed. Conservativism didn't fail; they'll argue. It was failed, by one man. And the liberals who say it are no better, trying to convince you that the results of the last two elections aren't part of a trend, but rather a mere fluke; again, created by one man. And they'll assure you that some day soon, America will return to insanity and start being stupid again.
And both sides are convinced that this is a mere blip in an epic struggle that conservatives are still winning, and use it as the only explanation for why all their predictions for the past few years have proven incorrect. It's not the model that's to blame, they'll say. It's the man. Oddly, these same folks also believe that history is shaped by events and not individuals, but somehow this is forgotten about. To them, one single incompetent man can be responsible for large unpredictable shifts in historical winds.
But again, all of this is wrong. Bush wasn't some tyrant who decided on his own to betray conservativism. Nor was he its creator. He did what it told him to do, and it turned out to be a huge failure. And all Republicans are to blame, as they, at one point or another, boosted him up and supported his every move while denouncing anyone who dared oppose him. Even now, the wingnuts at RedState will attack anyone who bad mouths Bush from the left; while agreeing with anyone on the right that Bush failed conservativism.
Talking to Satan
And I was thinking about this while reading Carpetbagger's post on how Iran is worrying about how to deal with Obama, now that Obama wants to meet with them without preconditions. Because one of Iran's strongest moves was to blame The Great Satan for all their woes, and suddenly, Satan wants to open a dialogue. And now they're worried that they actually have to negotiate, which isn't what they wanted at all. And all thanks to Obama's foreign policy stance.
And one of the commenters there insisted that Obama had nothing to do with this, and that this was merely a rebuke of Bush and his gut-based diplomacy. But that's entirely incorrect. Bush didn't invent our hard stance towards Iran. We've always had that. Even Clinton had a hard stance against Iran.
And the hardliner conservatives and neo-cons ALWAYS wanted them to do more, as a way of pushing us into war. This policy didn't originate in Bush's gut. It was handed to him by foreign policy "experts" who have made it their life's work to push such policies. And if anything, they think Bush didn't do enough. As a British official said before the Iraq invasion: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran."
And it's not just Iran. While Bush ratcheted things up a little, we've had these same stupid policies with Iraq and Cuba and North Korea and many other "rogue" nations for decades; including under Clinton. It's as if we've all forgotten that Clinton was constantly saber-rattling with Iraq and bombing them and trying to provoke them into war. And while I don't doubt that he was simply doing this to remove the pressure from the hardliner warhawks, that's the whole point. Clinton's appeasement of the warhawks helped grease the way towards eventual war.
Between Containment and War
This wasn't just Bush or the conservatives. This was standard foreign policy going back to WWII. On the one end of the spectrum of accepted policies, we had "containment," which meant economic embargoes and funneling money to our enemy's enemies. And on the other end, it was outright war. And anyone who didn't chose some option in-between these two stances was an unrealistic peacenik wimp who didn't understand how the world worked.
And again, even the Clintons bought into that line of thinking. It should always be remembered that Republican hardliners denounced President Reagan for even visiting Soviet Russia. And all Bush did was follow the advice of the hardliners. This isn't a rebuke of Bush and his gut. This is a rebuke of the entire foreign policy community; which was largely egged-on by the hardliners. And so Obama has actually done quite a bit by even talking about negotiating without preconditions. This isn't a return to normal. This is a first in sanity.
And if it works, it will be yet another nail in the conservative coffin. We're not just writing Bush's epithet, but that of an entire ideology. Rather than this being a speedbump towards conservative domination, conservativism will be seen as a horrible detour away from reality-based decision-making. If liberals are to blame for anything, it's for being too successful and getting lazy and fat. Conservatives will get the blame for everything else. And Bush was their mascot, not their creator.