December 29, 2008

Vanity Fair Finds Attempts Comprehensive Bush Hit Piece, Misfires Badly

BushTeam2001.jpgWell, it seems that the folks at Vanity Fair realized that they won’t have George W. Bush to kick around any more. So they decided to launch the journalistic equivalent of thermonuclear war against him in an attempt to get its shot at a “draft of history.”

In a 14 web-page tome (the photo at the top right is at its beginning) that fancies itself an “oral history,” the magazine hauls out every criticism, real or imagined, hurled at the president during the past eight years. It reminds everyone that the media’s favorite stereotype of conservatives and Republicans is that they’re dumb (I guess Ike’s orchestration of D-Day was some kind of accident, and George W. Bush’s MBA — he is the first president to hold one — was some kind of gift from Poppy).

Sadly, the magazine finds a few former administration officials to pile on. One of them likens Bush to Sarah Palin (that’s supposed to be an insult). We’re left with the long-discredited meme of Dick Cheney as puppet master and Bush as impotent since Katrina (then how did Bush get that Iraq Surge past everyone and make it stick anyway?).

All you really need to know to spare yourself a truly painful read is what is in the tease paragraph after the headline. Brace yourself:

The threat of 9/11 ignored. The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated. Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hurricane Katrina. The shredding of civil liberties. The rise of Iran. Global warming. Economic disaster. How did one two-term presidency go so wrong? A sweeping draft of history—distilled from scores of interviews—offers fresh insight into the roles of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other key players.

Gosh, I don’t really want to do this, because it’s so easy. But I’ll pick off some of the low-hanging fruit, and let commenters handle the rest. Here goes:

  • The threat of Iraq hyped and manipulated? Uh, there were weapons of mass destruction (yes …. there …. were), not to mention 550 metric tons of yellowcake uranium. Really, guys. Oh, and “the sixteen words” (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”) were, and still are, true. Take the blinders off.
  • The shredding of civil liberties? You guys must be referring to that FISA law that Barack Obama voted to keep in place.
  • Global warming? Vanity Fair, that is so 1998. Didn’t you know that “2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved“?
  • Economic disaster? You must be referring to the economic disaster brought on this June, just as the economy was growing again, when the Democrats’ leading lights gave rise to the “POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy.” The terrible triumvirate’s promises to starve the economy of the energy it needs to keep growing and to radically raise taxes as soon as they had control of the Oval Office and Congress caused businessmen, entrepreneurs and investors to batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. The Democratic-driven, decades-in-the-making debacles at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — enterprises that were run into the ground by Democratic cronies — ultimately led to the perceived (but, in my opinion, not actual) need for Treasury’s giant SUCKUP (the Seemingly Unlimited Cash Kitty Under Paulson) and the other bailouts that followed. If Bush and the GOP are at fault, it’s for not screaming loud enough or early enough, and for acquiescing to the bailout blackmail. But, as Billy Joel would say, “they didn’t start the fire.”

Commenters can feel free to expand on these points and deal with the others I didn’t touch on.

Cross-posted at


UPDATE, Dec. 30: A great comment from Jerry at NewsBusters –

Let’s see….

The threat of 9/11??? Grown and cultivated under Clinton (D)….    Ignored under Clinton (D)….  Meet with CIA heads twice in 8 years, Clinton (D)….  Bin Laden’s extradition turned down, Clinton (D).

Threat of Iraq??? Eliminated by Bush (R).

Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib??? Americans protected by Bush (R).

Hurricane Katrina??? Threat ignored by Gov. Blanco (D)…    ignored by Mayor Nagin (D)…   Lack of any hurricane evacuation plan in a major city that is BELOW sea level,  Nagin (D)…  Delay at requesting federal assistance, Blanco (D).

Shredding of Civil Liberties??? Denial of school choice, (D)…  Denial of retirement investment choice, (D)…  Denial of baby’s right to LIFE, (D)…  Denial of right to communicate with terrorists, (R).

Global warming??? A get rich SCAM invented by Gore (D).

Economic disaster??? Brought on by Frank (D), Dodd (D), Raines (D).

UPDATE 2, Dec. 30 — Thanks to Instapundit for the Instalanche.



  1. With you on most of the points, but let’s not let Bush off the hook on the economy. He is part of the problem. Bush once said “when people hurt, the government must act” and he has governed like this. Bush managed the economy in his 2nd term like a liberal Democrat. In his 1st term, he also signed the drug benefit entitlement which will have a slow bleed effect on pharmaceutical innovation as the government starts having a big effect on controlling prices. He also signed, with enthusiasm, Sarbanes-Oxley, in response to the Enron mess. That was the first gut punch to the American financial markets. It sent investors and IPOs overseas. His Fed chief could not hold Greenspans’ jock strap. And Paulson, a Bush appointee, came up with the original bailout plan and started this round of the government taking over businesses. The Democrats have simply ran with it and done their typical attempt to “spread the wealth” to their favored interest. Bush has not governed like a free marketeer in the least, despite his “ownership society” rhetoric and he should not be let off the hook for that just because his liberal critics are big fat liers.

    Comment by Russ Goble — December 30, 2008 @ 7:49 am

  2. #1, points taken, esp Sarbox, spending in general, drug plan, and acquiescing to blackmail/bailouts.

    Not sure I agree on Bernanke (a work in progress), and I think Greenspan’s legacy is a bit tarnished at this point (I don’t recall HIM making noise about Fred or Fan). Paulson’s decision to push the blackmail button really needs serious scrutiny. The timing of everything coming to a head 45 days before the election is also a bit too convenient.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 30, 2008 @ 8:17 am

  3. Bush does hold a responsability for a part of this economic downturn. While our economy soared under Bush’s leadership and a republican congress for six years through 9-11, Katrina, wars, and termoil that should have rightfully had us in a deep long depression the bubble quickly brust. Part of the reason it so quickly burst is almost never mentioned but something Bush ended up supporting – the increase in the minimum wage. We’ve already had two rounds of the three step 40% rise in wages, with round three coming middle of the coming year. THIS, which killed hiring and job growth at the entry and bottom levels, combined with soaring food and entergy cost, along with a downturn in the housing market which kept foreclosuers and bankruptcy’s in check, got us where we are today. Most all of it is government related or inspired. But Bush didn’t near about birth this baby alone. Most of it was due to bad policy. Bad democrat inspired policy.

    Comment by Big Al — December 30, 2008 @ 9:06 am

  4. Katrina is the one that always floors me. 100 years of almost exclusively Democratic governance and legendary corruption, storm hits, president doesn’t respond well, bingo, it’s ALL his fault, instantly and forever.

    As Louisiana voters demonstrated by throwing the Dems out at the next election, a fact Vanity Fair certainly isn’t going to bring up.

    Comment by Mike G — December 30, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  5. [...] realized quite how bad it had gotten. Glenn Reynolds is now apparently linking the likes of this post.  One of the many sad things to watch over the past eight years has been the erosion—and in some [...]

    Pingback by New Adventures in Hacktasticness — December 30, 2008 @ 10:21 am

  6. “Bush managed the economy in his 2nd term like a liberal Democrat.”

    Russ, that’s one of the stupidest statements I have ever read. Please review Article Two of the U.S. Constitution. You will find that it does not grant the President either the power or the responsibility to “manage the economy” in any way.

    Comment by Pat B. — December 30, 2008 @ 10:54 am

  7. Julian Sanchez says you’re “hacktastic,” but doesn’t point out any actual errors.

    Comment by Ellen Ricksburg — December 30, 2008 @ 11:11 am

  8. They quoted Maureen Dowd, for goodness’ sake.

    Comment by Gordon — December 30, 2008 @ 11:32 am

  9. Shredding of civil liberties? Those idiots are mixing their clichés up. Bush, supposedly, shredded the constitution. :) That one that progressives have never liked much going back to day one (Prez Wilson et all) and that is flexible and alive when they’re in power (translation: they can disregard and redefine to mean whatever they want). He did so by exercising his constitutional authority in a way lower courts and the legislative branch didn’t spell out was ok… until taken to court and loosing… and then stopping the policy… all according to what I’ve always understood to be a proper constitutional system of checks and balances.. alas, it’s ‘governing while republican’.

    Comment by Thomas — December 30, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  10. #5 and #7, substance-free, as usual.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 30, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

  11. Jan Wenner needs to get a life.

    Comment by Warren — December 31, 2008 @ 12:38 am

  12. Ooops! Jan Wenner is Rolling Stone, isn’t he! Well, same level of obcession! Who is the big cheese at Vanity Fair, anyway?

    Comment by Warren — December 31, 2008 @ 1:19 am

  13. [...] Bizzy Blog sez to VF: Oh yeah? [...]

    Pingback by A 2008 Round Up | The Anchoress — December 31, 2008 @ 2:05 am

  14. #6 (Pat B), if my comment is one of the stupidest comments you’ve ever read then your response is one of the most naive comments I’ve ever read. Believe me, I wish your retort were true, but it’s not and hasn’t been since FDR and Hoover. The federal budget, which is primarily administered and spent by the executive branch, is around 20% of GDP. Government regulations are enforced by the executive branch (and worse, they are “interpreted” by the executive branch) and it doesn’t take Milton Friedman to know that regulations skew economic activity. The Fed chief, appointed by the president, has no small impact on the economy through the regulation of interest rates and ultimately inflation and money supply (while you’re reading the constitution, perhaps you can find the part about the Federal Reserve. It seems to be missing but yet the institution exists). Whether its taxes, trade policy, and regulations the president most certainly has influence on the economy.

    If you want to argue over what is meant by “managing” vs “influencing”, then fine I’ll happily concede he doesn’t truly manage it since I’ve made the same point to my more left wing friends. But, his 2nd term, he’s definitely TRIED to manage it MORE than he did in the previous term. The president, perhaps because of Katrina, has attempted a Hoover redo in over reacting to the crisis and having the hubris to think that government can fix it. No, he is not alone in this false assumption.

    So please, you can show off your constitutional scholarship all you want, but the one downside of our vague constitution is that the 200 years of constant scope creep, bipartisan legislation (all signed by a president) and checked off by the Supreme Court has put the government knee deep in influencing economic activity, and usually in a negative way. Bush, regardless of his rhetoric, has proposed and/or signed legislation that is supposed to “fix” the economy. So he certainly THINKS he’s “managing” it regardless of the reality of its effectiveness. And his attempt to manage the economy, at least in the 2nd term, has been straight out of the neo-liberal play book.

    The sooner the political right throws Bush under the bus for his lack of market principles the better we can try to counter the prevailing Marxist winds. We, as the boots on the ground, need to review Bush’s term with open and critical eyes. He’s a good man and had some policy successes and is the victim of a Pravda level character assassination by our dishonest intellectual “elites” but let’s not make naive excuses for him.

    Comment by Russ Goble — December 31, 2008 @ 2:02 pm

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