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Nicholas Lemann: What is George W. Bush's legacy?

Nicholas Lemann: It’s really tough to answer that because it’s very hard to trust your impressions in real time. In the conservative world, people are starting to say already, “See? It’s all gonna work in Iraq, and everybody’s gonna thank Bush for this.” I’m skeptical of that. I think the war in Iraq will look like a mistake by Bush, and that his . . . that generally his approach in foreign policy to, you know, eschew diplomacy and go with unilateral force will be seen as having been counterproductive and having decreased rather than increased American influence in the world. So I would predict he will be seen as a rather unsuccessful president in the realm of foreign policy. In the realm of domestic policy, but in my opinion by far the most important thing he’s done, is the No Child Left Behind Law which has been wildly under-covered by the press. And that’ll take years to sift out. But basically what he has done is it’s a little bit like Nixon to China – you know that a Republican president did this – is to say for the first time, we’re gonna make the federal government a real forceful, dispositive presence in the American public school system. And really this will be seen as the moment when we western Europeanized ourselves, and went from being a place where public education seemed just a completely local function to making it much more of a national function. And that will play out in lots of interesting ways – whether good or bad, I don’t know.

 

Recorded on: 11/30/07

Its hard to trust your impressions in real time, Lemann says.

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