Falling standards

I know that the passage of time tends to smooth off the rough edges of history, but it’s still been rather disconcerting to read the obituaries of the late George Herbert Walker Bush, in which he is portrayed as a wise statesman who skilfully navigated the treacherous international waters of the early 90s, and not, as I remember him being thought of at the time, as an out-of-touch elitist who oversaw an economic nosedive, and suffered the ignominy of being thrown out of office after only one term. Establishment commentators have generally downplayed his domestic shortcomings, and focused on his role in cementing US hegemony in the post-Soviet world, as demonstrated by his orchestration of the 1991 Gulf War, taking for granted that this development was a good thing, which is of course debatable.

I guess the present incumbent has reset expectations to such a degree that the 41st President’s failings now seem more forgivable, and, to be fair, he was clearly dedicated to public service, albeit in a patrician fashion, rather than personal enrichment. Still, I suspect that, when posterity draws up the rankings, HW will be firmly mid-table – not as bad as Harding or Buchanan, but no Lincoln or Roosevelt.

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