So, don't be so hard on President Bush. He wasn't born with a 60 percent disapproval rating in his mouth. He earned it. ... 2:04 P.M. (link)
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2005
Back When: For the last five years, I've kept a close eye on the job market for Has-Beens. When Clinton left office, I told my good friend Gene Sperling to forget about the 22 million good jobs he created in the 1990s and create two good jobs for us.
Alas, except for college presidents, most of us are still waiting for the Has-Been Bubble to materialize. But Gene just published a smart book called The Pro-Growth Progressive, which you should buy now and give to all your friends and family this holiday season. (Full disclosure: Gene mentioned me in the book so I would do just that.)
As David Greenberg wrote on Monday, Hofstra University held a conference last week on "William Jefferson Clinton: The 'New Democrat' from Hope." It was like a Star Trek convention for Has-Beens.
One man asked all of us to autograph baseballs for his collection, which now numbers in the thousands. Another activist came to the retrospective to complain that we spend too much time talking about the past. Lady, if you had to spend a whole decade listening to Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow," you'd think about the past, too.
Professor Greenberg makes the self-interested argument that a disinterested observer can make best sense of history and that not being present at the creation works to historians' advantage. I can't pretend to be disinterested, but I think he's wrong.
As a general rule, historians are more likely to be honest than hacks. But for something as complex as a presidency, an honest eyewitness—if you can find one—has a much richer perspective than an academic who has to sift through a host of self-serving accounts and can't see the forest for the dead-trees.
Take Me, I'm Yours: Consider the most intriguing historical document of the moment: Sam Alito's conservative confession. Any honest eyewitness would know firsthand that Alito was either a shameless true believer or, just as bad, a shameless willing-to-pretender.
By contrast, the historian has to judge that document against the unreliable, self-serving spin of Alito's colleagues, most of whom will cover for him, and the even less reliable and still more self-serving spin of Alito himself.
On Tuesday, Alito apparently told senators that in 1985 he was "an advocate seeking a job" and should be forgiven for being willing to say anything to get it. Now he's an advocate seeking a place in the history books, which makes him even more willing to say anything to get it.
These days, it's hard for members of the Bush administration to stop thinking about tomorrow and what they'll do as Has-Beens. Some, like Karl Rove, just want to leave on their own terms. Others, like Condi Rice, have their eye on bigger prizes.