Legacies and Presidents: George W. Bush and George Washington


This morning, I am out in Chestertown, Maryland blogging at the “Play it Again, Sam Coffee Shop” and catching up with thing. My email at my office is out again, so now I am catching up on reading — stuff on paper rather than electronic bits.
One of the take-away gifts the Atlantic Monthly gave us after its excellent pre-party before the State of the Union address is a commemorative booklet of old Atlantic Monthly articles titled “Celebrating the American City.”
Regrettably, the collection of essays does not appear to be available in any other form than a tangible booklet form and is not on the internet. I am hoping that staff at The Atlantic read this and figure out a way to share these interesting essays from the past with the many Americans who were not able to attend the pre-State of the Union reception hosted at the Library of Congress. (pretty please?)
If you are into cities, particularly many decades old essays about them, the collection is wonderful. They include:

The Genesis of Boston (October 1935) by S. Foster Damon
Washington: The City of Leisure (December 1900) by A. Maurice Low
Chicago (July 1892) by Edward G. Mason
Seven Weeks in the Great Yo-Semite (June 1864) by Fitz Hugh Ludlow
New York After Paris (October 1906) by Alvan F. Sanborn

Here is the final bit of the essay by A. Maurice Low on the city of Washington, written 101 years after George Washington’s death and read 107 years after it was published.
It is clear how inspiring Washington was in 1900 in this snippet of Low’s commentary on the monument to America’s first president:

I look up once more at the monument to Washington.
It stands now veiled in a sea of silvery light, the Potomac, but a hand’s breadth away, a ribbon of uncut velvet, shimmering in blue and silver, until it fines down and is lost in the green of the Virginia hills, — the monument majestic in its size, colossal in its proportions, beautiful in its stern simplicity.
It stands there like a sentinel keeping watch over the city it so jealously loves; it stands there part of the genius of George Washington, a fragment of his creative force.
By day, warned by the sun, softened by the iridescence of the prismatic colors, it is the Washington of youth and faith and ambition.
By night, bathed in fantastic shadow, forbidding, cold, unapproachable, it is the Washington who has put ambition behind him; who has done his work; who, secure in the affections of his countrymen, can look with serene vision to the future.
Inseparably, it links the Washington of the past with the Washington of today.

It takes time to see the legacy of a president, but it’s clear that Bush 43’s eight year tenure ranks among the most botched presidencies in our history.
Even considering the attacks of 9/11, it is profoundly disturbing to see a great nation that had emerged in such good shape after the end of the Cold War fritter away its prestige, moral credibility and military competence — it’s very considerable mystique — so recklessly.
It is easy to imagine that George Washington — who George Bush reportedly reads about in various biographies — would be ‘pissed’ about the state of America today.

— Steve Clemons

P.S. — Note to the publisher and editor of The Atlantic Monthly, you should consider posting these excellent essays on your website — even for temporary access. SCC


19 comments on “Legacies and Presidents: George W. Bush and George Washington

  1. John Crippen says:

    California – Central Coast Writer To Be Nationally Aired On WNB West, September 21st, 2009
    Writer and Photographer John Crippen will be interviewed on ‘The Author’s Show’ hosted by Internet Talkshow Host Don McCauley . Crippen, the writer of “The Sweet Smell of ASH in the Morning” will talk live about his book, a humorous dedication to Atascadero State Hospital and also talk about the difficult struggles
    of the healthcare system. This book also takes a lighter look at what it’s like to be a Psychiatric Technician in the largest freestanding forensic mental Institution in the world.
    As a 13 year veteran Psychiatric Technician, and former Atascadero State Hospital Employee,Crippen has a lot of funny stories to tell about the hospital. The talk show will run on the 21st,
    and be placed in a loop for the entire day. To hear the internet talkshow, visit the link below.
    The book is currently available on Amazon.com as well.


  2. John Crippen says:

    The Legacy of George W Bush, A Collection of Conflicting Opinions ISBN-13 9781441455437
    The debate over George W Bush is probably the most visceral debate of our century. There often seems to be no in between. Folks either love him or hate him. As we approach the inauguration of Barrack Obama, the internet has been bombarded with opinions ranging from one extreme to the other. In this book is a collection of dialog from all over the world and every walk of life. In an eight hour period of time just prior to GWB stepping out of the White House, one that that rings true is that we live in an amazing country just to be able to have this conversation.
    Can a man’s legacy be drawn from an eight year period in time? What kind of a footprint has GWB left on the American people, or the world for that matter? Has he served his country well by protecting us from terrorism, or has a alienated America from the rest of the world. What role did Christianity play under the leadership of George W Bush? Has he acted as a Christian in his role as President of the United States, or has he misused the Bible as a means of procuring votes and evoking war? Was the rebuilding of Iraq set in motion years before the Twin Towers tragedy, or was this a rapid decision based on an emergent circumstance? Did Iraq have
    weapons of mass destruction, or should we have been focusing on catching Bin Ladin? What about North Korea and Proliferation of nukes in Iran? Was there miscommunication between the CIA and the FBI and why was Home Land Security restructured as it was? Were our civil rights violated by the Echelon Program? The list of questions will go on for an eternity and there will probably be more theories about the Bush Administration than the JFK assassination and the Watergate Scandal combined.
    I have tried to keep this debate as original as possible. That includes errors in grammar, punctuation and spelling. I have also tried to collect them in a somewhat chronological method in order to keep a level playing field. I have simply collected publicly posted comments of others from open sources with no expectation of privacy or concealment. This is simply a collection of what others have had to say. I have tried to eliminate
    personal attack between the folks debating (or at least leaving out what I thought may be real names of folks) Some of the statements are redundant, just as they came down the pipeline. What ever your opinion of George W Bush Is…. This is a compelling, and somewhat disturbing read.


  3. Ben Rosengart says:

    You’re the William Wegman of D.C. politics.


  4. Jon Tupper says:

    Just wondering Steve, do any substantive off the record diplomatic conversations occur involving indididuals who do not drink alcohol?


  5. Omniscient One says:

    RE: Bush’s Legacy
    In direct response to the horrific attacks of 9/11, George W. Bush *inadvertently* fathered a burgeoning fundamentalist Shiite republic which soon will unveil its longstanding hatred toward the USA.
    Lemme flesh this out a bit….
    On 9/11, tens of thousands of lives were ruined or seriously damaged beyond all repair and tens of billions of dollars in damage were incurred.
    In March 2003, Bush invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein to prevent another 9/11 attack.
    In the process, Al-Dawa, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and Al-Sadr thru democratic means seized he reins of power.
    Al-Dawa, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, and Al-Sadr are and have been anti-American for quite some time.
    Their empowering in Iraq is what Bush has done in direct response to the horrific attacks of 9/11.
    In short: 9/11 + Iraq = Bush’s Fundamentalist Islamic Republic in Iraq.
    In closing, Bush will be known as the inadvertent father of Islamistan.
    Had he quashed Al-Qaeda instead of empower Shiite fundies he would be far better recd by posterity.


  6. Lugbolt says:

    Note of interest..to me at least. Chestertown, Md.? My great,great grandfather had a farm in Cherry Hill, Md. In 1843 he had to appear before a magistrate and explain why he was working his farm on Sunday. I think Chestertown is close to Cherry Hill, Md. Just a thought.


  7. sab says:

    I’m just being shallow while you guys deal with world events. Oakley has a red collar, doesn’t he? So blue eyes and blue collar means it’s Annie in your photo. She’s getting big!


  8. Rick B says:

    One word to Atlantic Monthly:
    They cost about $60.00 at Fry’s. Or send it to me and I’ll scan them in, put them on CD and UPS them right back at $60.00 per hour (Cheap.)


  9. Nick Dupree says:

    Hell Steve, at this point it is easy to imagine that even Richard Nixon would be “pissed” about the state of America today.


  10. STS says:

    ‘Brzezinski concludes his testimony with the statement that it is “time for the Congress to assert itself.”‘
    Hear! Hear! May I suggest the first step in doing so be a one-time surtax (WAR TAX) on upper incomes with an exemption for taxpayers with family serving in Iraq or Afghanistan?
    It will never get past Bush, but might just create the sort of debate this country needs to have. Our all volunteer military, while very effective in some circumstances, has the unfortunate effect of allowing most of our most influential citizens to completely avoid inconveniences such as worrying that a child or other close relation might be killed or injured. Meanwhile, the same volunteers are sent to Iraq OVER and OVER and OVER again. Not exactly a shining example of shared national sacrifice.
    For those not risking death in Iraq, may I suggest that the risk of an extra tax bill might reawaken and active sense of responsibility for the ongoing carnage?


  11. gq says:

    OK, I’ll stop jabbing long enough to ask if the Iran conference will be available on the web for later viewing? I’ve seen other NAF videos online.


  12. gq says:

    Bush won’t have to worry about his legacy. Hagel VOTES with him 95% of the time and Hagel is a hero. If a hero is in line with Bush, why does Bush come off bad, but the hero gets praise?


  13. Pissed Off American says:

    If these cowards would follow through on some of their stated intentions, one could almost believe Steve’s wished for “purge” may take place. But, Rockefeller’s promise of further investigation rings quite hollow. It is surreal that an investigatory body could arrive at the conclusion that over a half a million people have died as the result of purposely fabricated “intelligence”, yet conclude that the fabrication of that “intelligence” was merely “inappropriate”. A moral Congress, a Congress comprised of patriots, would be demanding the criminal indictment of Feith and his superiors.
    Senator Rockefeller’s statement………..
    “The Inspector General’s report makes it clear in plain language that the actions of the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy were inappropriate.
    “Individuals in that office produced and disseminated intelligence products outside of the regular intelligence channels. These intelligence products were inconsistent with the consensus judgments of the Intelligence Community. This office did this without coordinating with the Intelligence Community and as a result policy makers received distorted intelligence.
    “Section 502 of the National Security Act of 1947 requires the heads of all departments and agencies of the U.S. government involved in intelligence activities ‘to keep the congressional oversight committees informed.’
    “The IG has concluded that this office was engaged in intelligence activities. The Senate Intelligence Committee was never informed of these activities. Whether these actions were authorized or not, it appears that they were not in compliance with the law.
    “In the coming days, I will carefully review all aspects of the report and will consult with Vice Chairman Bond to determine whether any additional action by the Senate Intelligence Committee is warranted.”


  14. Pissed Off American says:

    February 10, 2007
    Criminals Control the Executive Branch
    by Paul Craig Roberts
    Gentle reader, you are probably unaware of former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s damning indictment of the Bush Regime in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 1, 2007, as the United States no longer has a media – only a government propaganda ministry.
    Brzezinski damned the Bush Regime’s war in Iraq as “a historic, strategic, and moral calamity.” Brzezinski damned the war as “driven by Manichean impulses and imperial hubris.” He damned the war for “intensifying regional instability” and for “undermining America’s global legitimacy.”
    Finally, a voice with weight speaks. Brzezinski is a real intellect, a real expert, unlike the political hacks who have followed him in the office.
    Brzezinski told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam.” Brzezinski predicts “some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a ‘defensive’ U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.”
    There is something deadly wrong with a society and a political system that permits a regime capable of such insane and criminal “leadership” to remain in power. By the time Hitler launched World War II, the German Reichstag had no power to prevent him. But we have not yet reached that point in the United States.
    Brzezinski concludes his testimony with the statement that it is “time for the Congress to assert itself.”
    The reasons for impeaching Bush and Cheney exceed by many multiples all the reasons for impeaching every president combined in US history. The reasons have been enumerated many times and do not need repeating. If members of Congress were faithful to their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution, Bush and Cheney would already have been impeached and convicted.
    The very least Congress can do at this very late stage is to make it perfectly clear in no uncertain terms that any attack on Iran under any pretext without the authorization of Congress after a careful examination of the pretext will lead to the immediate removal of Bush and Cheney from power, as will any escalation of the war in Iraq without explicit authorization by Congress.
    Having delivered this ultimatum, Congress must immediately begin investigations of the Bush Regime’s attack on civil liberties and the separation of powers, on the Bush Regime’s use of lies and deception to lead America into a war with Iraq, on the Bush Regime’s violation of the Geneva Conventions, and on the Bush Regime’s plans to attack Iran.
    The American people and their representatives in Congress must face the fact that criminal and dictatorial persons control executive power in the United States and immediately rectify this highly dangerous situation.


  15. Den Valdron says:

    Haemorhoidica, Haemorhoidica
    land of the SUV!
    Haemorhoidica, Haemorhoidica
    no longer brave and free
    Haemorhoidica, Haemorhoidica
    invasion is our way
    Haemorhoidica, Haemorhoidica
    we love to drop bombs all day
    Come on, give it a chance. You gotta admit, the national anthem writes itself, and its catchy.


  16. Diane says:

    Hey Steve,
    Who is in the picture? Annie or Oakley? How about a shot of both? I know those puppies grow up fast. I dropped a note to the Atlantic Monthly, since I am a subscriber I thought that might help.


  17. DonS says:

    NYT story with Putin critiqueing US. McCain, Graham, Lieberman jump to the defense. Only problem is, they’re looking backward, because the present moment can’t stand scrutiny, not to mention what history will have to say about the behavior of the US.
    Haemorhoidica indeed. Too hard to spell. Sounds foreign.


  18. Den Valdron says:

    Sadly, I think that George the Third may well be the end of America. Or at least the end of any America worth the name.
    Frankly, we the other nations of the Hemisphere are becoming increasingly distraught with your use of our collective continental names to describe yourself. We feel that you should adopt a new national moniker.
    For the record, Haemorhoidica is still free. Grab it while its available. It’s such a perfect fit.
    So sayeth despair.


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