when you can reference past horrors

I saw the first inchings of the whitewashed “better back then” image for liberals and assorted opponents of the New Republicans toward the presidency of George W Bush a few months ago in a blog post from Andrew Sullivan — damning the light intellectual heft of Sarah Palin by evoking past conservative and Republican luminaries with an “even George W Bush” — parenthetically, mind you, but it was a first step.

We had seemed to got past that point with Nixon.  He had started to be touted as an ironic “last liberal president”.  Notwithstanding the willingness of Nixon to have his name blurbed on best selling books warning of dire consequences to Earth’s ecology, I don’t think people quite comprehend how bad Nixon was — and I refer to his Domestic Policy here, and not even cultural matters on that score.  His economic policy was short-sighted to the point of the 1972 election cycle, leaving Jimmy Carter to hold the bag or inherit the wind.  One of the Worst Presidencies Ever, however you slice it.

We’re getting the reinvented image of the Presidency of Bill Clinton.  “I never thought I’d say this, but…” say the repetitive talk radio audience, “Obama is making me wish we had Clinton back!”  It’s mostly that ahistorical attitude — the partisan animus of the moment, and there is less to invest emotionally in hating Clinton as against Obama.  To the degree that their hate should correspond with my love, I suppose it’s true:  Obama is better than Clinton — notwithstanding he’s a disappointment on some scores and not a disappointment on others, and though Obama has a much larger array of problems confronting him than Clinton.

Still, go back to 1996, and the presidential debate with Bob Dole taking a quick job through his working relationships and the honesty and integrity of George McGovern — a proud liberal, not like Bill Clinton who’s hiding behind his nonliberal record, and who worked on McGovern’s campaign, by the way.  Skip to today and you will find Newt Gingrich claiming McGovern held American Values– not like you know who.

And then we had that curious example of the Weekly Standard a few years back claiming Harry Truman as an heir apparent to the cause of Conservativism.  Foreign Policy wise, mind you, but that was all that mattered.  As it were, the Cold War was evolving, it took Eisenhower and Kennedy to evolve it past the haggard beginnings that Truman had to work with.   But I’d like to hope the ghost of Truman with Health Care would end that claim.  It’s evocation by convenience.  We’ll see it with Clinton sooner or later — the next step in that process that began with Bush at that odd Sullivan post damning Palin and the talk radio calls wishing Obama were Clinton.  Mind you, Clinton has no beef with Bush, as we see in him wanting nothing to do with a “death match face-off.”  All a game.

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