I know, I know: Reagan was our first president to proclaim government the problem, to cut taxes massively on the rich, to deliberately create a deficit so immense that the government's impoverishment did indeed become a problem. He waged a war of dubious merit and clear illegality in Central America; he pandered to the most bigoted elements in American society.
The United States would be a far better place had he not been elected.
"I have no outside advice" in the war on terrorism, President Bush told Bob Woodward in December of 2001. In an interview that Woodward revealed to Nicholas Lemann in last week's issue of the New Yorker, Bush insisted that, "Anybody who says they're an outside adviser of this Administration on this particular matter is not telling the truth. First of all, in the initial phase of the war, I never left the compound. Nor did anybody come in the compound. I was, you talk about one guy in a bubble."
Going into last night's climactic debate, President Bush switched his line of attack against John Kerry. Gone from Bush's stump speech was the charge that Kerry is a flip-flopper. Now he's a liberal -- and not just any liberal, but the most liberal senator of them all.
This shift was prompted by a chorus of conservative consiglieri -- most prominently Newt Gingrich. The Newtster, you'll recall, is the master strategist who forced the government to shut down during the 1995 Christmas season to dramatize Bill Clinton's commitment to liberalism. Gingrich's ploy probably contributed more to Clinton's reelection the following year than anything Clinton himself did.
Well, they done sent George W. Bush to Demeanor Re-education Camp. He don't scowl no more. Don't shout, neither.
Not scowly, not shouty, ol' W. was powerful better in the third debate than in those first two. By the second half, as he was movin' away from the 98th recitation of the 98 times John Kerry had raised taxes, he was actually able to fill the full two minutes without resortin' too much to repetition.
They taught W. the secret: Change the subject to something you can talk about and just talk about that. No matter what that Bob Schieffer feller asked, W. just plowed ahead.
Now we know that the president disagrees with the Dred Scott decision and is not likely to reappoint its author, Chief Justice Roger Taney (1777-1864) to the United States Supreme Court.
This comes as a relief. After all, several of George W. Bush's favorite justices have been elevating the doctrine of states' rights over those of the individual and the federal government during the past decade. If his term runs long enough, Clarence Thomas can reasonably be expected one day to declare that under a proper originalist reading of the Constitution, he should be enslaved. Bush's break with Taney in Friday night's debate, then, is good news for abolitionists.