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The McLaughlin Group: The Toxic Legacy Of George W. Bush & Dick Cheney

[media id=5713] [media id=5714] (h/t Heather) I admit I get a slight case of schadenfreude in watching the mainstream media get forced to come arou

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I admit I get a slight case of schadenfreude in watching the mainstream media get forced to come around to what we in the liberal blogosphere have been saying all along: the Bush administration will be looked at as the worst ever. As we come mercifully to the final months of the Bush presidency, The McLaughlin Group asks its panel (made up of one "liberal" - Eleanor Clift and three conservatives - Monica Crowley, Mort Zuckerman and Michelle Bernard, naturally) just how toxic the legacy of Bush & Cheney will be. Try as they might to spin it to a more positive bend, none of the conservatives can truly deny McLaughlin's list.

Clift: Well, the notion that the terrorist threat would have been worse if he had not acted the way he did does not excuse a war of choice in Iraq that was then needlessly and poorly managed. And also you left off the list ‘shredded the US Constitution'. I thought your list was pretty good [laughter] and that's why President Bush has a 29% approval rating. He deserves it!

Big kudos to Clift as well for challenging Monica Crowley's mindless "we're winning in Iraq" meme. The clueless award goes not to Zuckerman for his equally mindless "at least we haven't had another terrorist attack" either, but to Michelle Bernard, who seeks to give credit to Bush for bringing our collective attention to education and women's rights, especially in the Middle East. Say what? I guess the fact that the conversation is about how lacking the Bush policies are in those areas doesn't negate that we're at least talking about them.

Transcripts below the fold:

McLaughlin: Is George W. Bush quote unquote radioactive?


Rep. Tom Davis: The President's the face of the party, he's absolutely radioactive at this point...

McLaughlin: Bush radioactive. For the National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Davis is frustrated and very gloomy.


Davis: We're seen as an appendage to President Bush and between an unpopular war, you take a look at the gas prices, the housing costs and everything, we are being tied to that.

McLaughlin: In the House of Representatives, three seats held special elections this year. In the last six months, Democrats have picked up three long time Republican seats. The GOP on March 8th lost an Illinois seat to a Democrat. Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert had occupied the seat for 22 years. Hastert resigned in November. In May, Republicans lost a Louisiana House seat that has been in Republican hands also for 22 years, since 1986, and most recently, Republicans lost a Mississippi special election. That seat had also been held by Republicans for 14 years. Question: how toxic is the Bush legacy for all 173 Republican House members up for re-election and 23 of the 49 Senate Republicans? Uh, Monica Crowley.

Crowley: Here's what Republicans have to do going into November. Number one, pray. Number two, if the President offers to come to your district and campaign for you...

McLaughlin: Run for your life.

Crowley: ...opt for the cardboard cutout of President Bush, rather than the actual guy. And you also have to run...they have to get back to conservative principles. They have to talk about reducing the size of government, lower taxes, fighting the War on Terror, continuing that on the offense, talking about a national energy strategy, in a very real, tangible way, because gas prices are dominating the conversation. And also talk about the need to appoint conservative judges.


McLaughlin: Let me...let me go ahead with this exit question and you can fill it in with your own point now. Exit question: Is it too soon to conclude the following about the Bush/Cheney legacy? One: They destroyed the GOP Congressional majority. Two: Tanked the value of the dollar. Three: Created unprecedented red ink in the federal budget. Four: Drew us into a quagmire in Iraq. Five: Left us with a recession and inflation. Six: Then skedaddled out of town. The question is, is it too soon to conclude that the foregoing constitutes the Bush/Cheney legacy? Zuckerman.

Zuckerman: Well, I think you probably have weighted the case just slightly, John. Now I don't know why I think that. [laughter]

McLaughlin: What are the redeeming features?

Zuckerman: Well, I mean, the one that you have to imagine, okay, is that...

McLaughlin: Imagine? Then it doesn't exist.

Zuckerman: No, excuse me. That the terrorist threat is something that might have been a lot worse had he not been as forceful as he was. And the thing that I think astonishes everybody about this administration is not that their policies [sic], but how incompetent they were in administering their policies.

Clift: Well, the notion that the terrorist threat would have been worse if he had not acted the way he did does not excuse a war of choice in Iraq that was then needlessly and poorly managed. And also you left off the list ‘shredded the US Constitution'. I thought your list was pretty good [laughter] and that's why President Bush has a 29% approval rating. He deserves it!

McLaughlin: Treat it as the abridged version. The executive summary.

Clift: You have to.

Zuckerman: He has a higher disapproval rating than Richard Nixon did in the last week of his presidency.

McLaughlin: Truman was the lowest though...I believe.

Clift: Well, by two points, he was at 27, I think, which at that time...

McLaughlin: That's a lower figure...

Clift: Well, he has time.

Crowley: Okay, so that was a pretty loaded question, John, and I do think it's too soon to pass judgment on the Bush/Cheney legacy. They still have a couple of more months in office, anything could happen. But on Mort's point, this is...
McLaughlin: You talking about Israel?

Crowley: ...this is, well, a number of things could happen. The economy could improve, and by the way, we're winning the war in Iraq now...


...which even left-wing media that opposed the war-the Associated Press and so on-now admits we're winning in Iraq. There are a lot of...

Clift: Could you describe what winning is? Winning, what does that mean?

Crowley: The violence is down dramatically, Eleanor. There's political reconciliation happening like mad in Iraq. That doesn't mean it's not reversible, but...

Clift: And all those refugees is winning?

Crowley: ...progress is in the right direction. And I will say, in terms of the Bush/Cheney legacy, there is some time to go and it's too early to pass judgment.

Bernard: Here is something positive, that I hope we'd all agree on about the Bush/Cheney legacy. Despite all the negatives that you just listed, which are probably correct, the Bush...President Bush brought education to the forefront of our national discussion. For the first time in a very long time, people are talking about what happens in our K-12 system, and how we prepare the future for a 21st century workforce.

Clift: But they're hating No Child Left Behind.

Bernard: But we are having the discussion. We have never had this discussion before, it is a national discussion, it's an important one to have, regardless of how you feel about No Child Left Behind, and also to President Bush's credit, for the first time in I think a very long time, we are actually talking about women's rights as human rights in the Middle East. We have had these discussions with Saudi Arabia, with Egypt, with Pakistan, with Iraq, and even in Iran, and I credit the administration for doing that.

McLaughlin: I think those are redemptive features. I also think Mort's point is quite helpful, helpful to redeem, and that is we haven't had a terrorist attack of the kind of significance that brought us to our knees with September the 11th.

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