As January 20 grows larger in the window, I’ve been thinking more often about the Bush legacy — specifically about certain aspects of the president’s record that are in danger of being completely obliterated and replaced with myths and wholesale fiction. Some of this effort is of course the purview of Karl Rove and Karen Hughes and their legacy project, while rough drafts of revisionist Bush history are being contributed by certain establishment media hacks — desperate to chisel into the record their take on this outgoing president.
For example. Last week on a special episode of Hardball, my favorite insufferable hack, TIME‘s Mark Halperin, remarked that one of the president’s greatest accomplishments was his response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
I do think he deserves high marks for his public presentations after a rocky start in the first few hours. […] You can’t be sure of it, but I’m confident that he performed there very well. And other presidents may not have performed as well.
Which other presidents? Lincoln after Fort Sumter? Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor? Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis? At least Halperin interrupted his verbal dry-hump to acknowledge (sort-of) that President Bush sat there in a glazed stupor for nine minutes after being told, literally, that America was under attack.
Like many Bush legacy myth-makers, Halperin has no sense of history. Or he does, but he conveniently ignores it. If he were able to peg this historical event into its proper context, Halperin would realize that the president’s “rocky start” was the first in a series of disastrous performances. The Indonesian tsunami. The Iraq insurgency. Katrina. The economic meltdown. And on and on. Halperin describes those several hours as if the president’s inexcusable behavior was an isolated incident — an aberration — a brief hiccup in an otherwise stellar eight years of lightning fast reflexes and unwavering heroism.