Bush Derangement Syndrome claims another victim.
The malady, identified and defined by Charles Krauthammer as “the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush,” has struck eminent historian Jean Edward Smith.
Though I think after this we can safely part ways with the “eminent” part of that title.
Smith has written critically acclaimed biographies of FDR, Eisenhower, Ulysses Grant and John Marshall. Now he’s published one of George W. Bush.
It’s so replete with factual errors and baseless assertions that it should call Smith’s credibility into question, make us reexamine his previous work and confront the crisis that the left’s politicization of history has brought about.
At Foreign Policy’s Web site, Will Inboden does a mammoth fact-check and concludes, as the headline has it, “It’s Impossible to Count the Things Wrong With the Negligent, Spurious, Distorted New Biography of George W. Bush.” Inboden worked at the State Department and National Security Council for five years during the Bush administration, so he isn’t neutral, but he is in a position to know what Smith got wrong.
And it’s a lot.
There are some big mistakes, like using a fabricated Bush quote to back up his claims that Bush wanted to invade Iraq for religious reasons, and using a fabricated Karl Rove quote as the foundation for “an entire chapter purportedly exploring the intellectual framework of the Bush administration.”
Then there are the smaller untruths that are so numerous as to make a very big difference: “I eventually stopped counting and am almost sure I missed some,” Inboden writes, before detailing a list. “Individually, each of these errors may be trivial, but collectively they display a sloppiness that undermines confidence in the integrity of the research and the reliability of the conclusions.”
He asks not only what Smith was thinking but why Smith’s editors and publisher seemingly went AWOL. It’s a good question, but it has an uncomfortably simple answer: It is considered acceptable to lie outright about George W. Bush in any setting — and that includes academia and historiography.
Much of the “journalism” on Dubya is a case study in the moral and ethical bankruptcy of a lot of news outlets. But media bias is nothing new. The more striking aspect of Bush Derangement Syndrome is how it has infected supposedly apolitical spheres of knowledge.
That’s a key point made in “Rush to Judgment,” historian Stephen F. Knott’s excellent and perennially relevant book on Bush’s critics.
“Although presidents have always been the target of heated rhetoric from their political opponents and the media, much of the demagoguery directed toward President Bush came from historians and political scientists, including those who consider themselves presidential scholars,” he writes. “This is a relatively new and disturbing development.”
Knott goes on to show academics and historians — Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Robert Dallek, Sean Wilentz, Douglas Brinkley, Gary Wills, Joyce Appleby, H.W. Brands, Jack Rakove, Howard Koh and current Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, to name a few — completely losing their sense of perspective and offering patently false claims about Bush intended to show a president ushering in the end of democracy in America. Or, as Wills put it, Bush’s reelection was “the day the enlightenment went out.”
But Jean Edward Smith wasn’t doing this in an interview or an op-ed. He went for the jugular — an 800-page biography.
Bush is to be blamed for everything including liberals not being able to sleep at night becuase they hear the trees calling to them