A Sad Legacy of George H.W. Bush

A NYT report of an encounter between Clarence Thomas and a bunch of high school students reminds us how irresponsible George H.W. Bush was in domestic affairs. He did better overseas, but not as well as is generally thought remembered.

Adam Liptak of the NY Times reports an encounter between Justice Clarence Thomas and a bunch of high school students. A charitable interpretation would be that Thomas recognizes that his job is above his capabilities.

George H.W. Bush’s reputation as president has recently been on something of an upswing, largely in comparison to that of his son. It’s worth remembering that Bush senior viewed Thomas as “the best qualified” person for the job, although the American Bar Association was split on whether he was even qualified –the Anita Hill and related accusations aside.

While Bush senior gets better marks in foreign affairs (again largely in contrast to Bush the son, and also on process grounds), it’s worth remembering that our current problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia — as well as the tangle the Clinton administration faced in the Balkans and even the survival in power of Saddam Hussein and the requirement to keep large US forces in Saudi Arabia — which so exercised Bin Laden, have important roots in decisions taken during his presidency.

Footnote Re the disintegration of Somalia — While the Clinton administration was in office during the infamous “Blackhawk Down” episode, it was George H.W. Bush that had gotten us into Somalia without an exit strategy. The UN Envoy, US retired Admiral Jonathan Howe, who pushed the strategy of picking sides and hunting Aideed, had been deputy National Security Advisor in the Bush administration and his appointment was sponsored by holdover JCS chair Colin Powell. The Clinton administration had already decided to change the policy but unfortunately had been too uncoordinated to communicate the decision to the field in time.