Is Greenstein a bit presumptuous?

In our beloved textbook, Greenstein examines the latter President Bush, asserting that after September 11, the former president underwent something of a transformation, as his he excelled in public communication, and skyrocketed in approval polls.  Greenstein ends the chapter by observing the usual traits, a few of which I will briefly question.

            As Mark rightly noted in an earlier blog, we must be careful in drawing foregone conclusion about the most recent presidents, because really, history is still being written about their time in office.  It is difficult to fully grasp the legacy these presidents leave, due to our relative historical proximity to their time in office. 

            Greenstein’s chapter on Bush underscores this need.  This edition was published in 2004, only midway through the Bush presidency, and thus, there was no chance to view his time in office from a removed, historical perspective.  While Greenstein’s observations seem to hold true for some aspects of Bush’s remaining time in office, others seem a bit out of place.  Greenstein argues that in the post 9/11 era, Bush effectively used public communication and rhetoric, especially in his particular style of “stump speaking,” which “undoubtedly contribute[d] to his sustained high approval ratings.” 

            Although Greenstein readily recognizes Bush’s often divisive rhetoric, his analysis is a bit premature.  As Bush proceeded into his second term, we know that his ratings dropped to some of the lowest experienced by modern presidents.  We see him lose arguably any ability to persuade the public, and it is clear that he lacked could not maintain the eloquent speech he exhibited in the few years after 9/11.

            Similarly, Greenstein discusses Bush’s political skill in a favorable light.  Although this is more subject to debate, and perhaps a result of increasingly antagonistic political opposition, Bush’s second term would likely suggest a different picture, as least in some regards.

            On the other side of the spectrum, Greenstein does draw some accurate conclusions that seem to hold true throughout the remainder of Bush’s presidency.  In particular, I think Greenstein accurately portrays Bush’s emotional intelligence.  His willingness to stay quiet and to avoid rebuttals to Obama’s frequent criticisms demonstrates his capacity to control his emotions.

             Concluding though, I think the Bush chapter highlights the need to take Greenstein’s analysis in light of its historical proximity, especially as we discuss the most recent Presidents.


~ by aakort on December 1, 2009.

One Response to “Is Greenstein a bit presumptuous?”

  1. Good points. I think one of the advantages of history is that we can look back and see trends. With more recent presidents, it is difficult to decipher clearly these trends. We don’t have the advantage of a sufficients amount of passed time to fully appreciate more recent presidents by themselves or the trends of which they are a part. It is difficult to assess a president on his own and isolated from his predecessors and successors. We interpret a president’s legacy in light of those who came before and those who follow. Without the full scope of predecessors and successors, it makes it all the more difficult to judge a more recent president.

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