The History Factor

Harry-truman


Brian Beutler recommends what's got to have been David Halberstam's last magazine article, an attack in Vanity Fair on the Bushie view that his actions will be vindicated by history. I agree with what Halberstam has to say, but I was actually a bit disappointed by the article. At this point, just about any hack pundit (me, for example) can do the sort of "I've read books about Harry Truman, and you, sir, are no Harry Truman" thing Halberstam has on offer here.

The world could really use a solid treatment of the role the concept of history plays in the Bushian worldview that goes beyond this kind of thing. If you read, for example, David Samuels' big Condi Rice profile in The Atlantic from earlier this year that at every point where the conceptual confusions at the heart of her agenda threaten to tear the whole edifice down, Rice makes an appeal to "history," but I almost feel like it should be written "History," as if she believes her worldview doesn't need to make sense because the World-Spirit is her copilot.

At any rate, I think there's some chance that Bush actually will be "vindicated" by history in some sense; I don't see any real evidence that presidents' historical reputations track their actual performance in office.