What is the legacy of George W. Bush?

Matt Bai: Well I would say . . . I’ll tell you my own feeling about this. I mean you know you can . . . you can . . . you go out and go into the streets of New York and ask that question, you’ll get some people who are pretty fired up. I’ve never been a “Bush is the devil” kind of guy. I really take offense at sort of the comparisons to totalitarianism. Somebody sent me an e-mail recently and compared this administration, what it was doing, to what had been done in sort of communists . . . the early years of the communist Soviet Union. There was some comparison. And I just wrote them . . . I write these people, and I consider it my personal responsibility as a journalist to write people back – even when they’re praising me and being nice and I don’t need the fight – to write people back and say, “I have to reject this premise. This is not good.” There is nothing about this country today that was true in the early years of the communist Soviet Union. You know you say what you want about George W. Bush. He is not Stalin, so let’s not be ridiculous. Having said that, I think his legacy will be treated harshly. I’m not alone of course. That’s a majority . . . But my . . . If for no other reason, if you took all the policies out of it . . . Say you just took Iraq out of it . . . Let’s say Iraq is not the defining thing of his . . . defining issue we think it is now. Or let’s say it’s not foreign policy. If for no other reason than he entered office at a time of incredible, paralyzing division in the country, that he promised to mend it, and that he made it infinitely worse. That is his greatest disservice as a president. That alone makes him a failed president if nothing else did, in my mind, because he retarded the dialogue and the conversation in a country that desperately needed to advance it. And for that I think history will judge him harshly. And whatever else . . . You know whatever else comes out of his presidency will be judged beyond that.

Recorded on: 12/13/07

 

Bush promised to mend our country and simply did not deliver.

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Originally Poe envisioned a parrot, not a raven

Quoth the parrot — "Nevermore."

The Green Parrot by Vincent van Gogh, 1886
Culture & Religion

By his mid-30s, Edgar Allan Poe was not only weary by the hardships of poverty, but also regularly intoxicated — by more than just macabre visions. Despite this, the Gothic writer lucidly insisted that there was still a method to his madness when it came to devising poems.

In an essay titled "The Philosophy of Composition," published in 1846 in Graham's Magazine, Poe divulged how his creative process worked, particularly in regard to his most famous poem: "No one point in [The Raven's] composition is rerferrible either to accident or intuition… the work proceeded step by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid consequence of a mathematical problem."

That said, contrary to the popular idea that Edgar Allan Poe penned his poems in single bursts of inspiration, The Raven did not pour out from his quivering quill in one fell swoop. Rather it came about through a calculative process — one that included making some pretty notable changes, even to its avian subject.

As an example of how his mind worked, Poe describes in his essay that originally the bird that flew across the dreary scene immortalized in the poem was actually… a parrot.

Poe had pondered ways he could have his one word refrain, "nevermore," continuously repeated throughout the poem. With that aim, he instantly thought of a parrot because it was a creature capable of uttering words. However, as quickly as Poe had found his feathered literary device, he became concerned with the bird's form on top of its important function.

And as it turns out, the parrot, a pretty resplendent bird, did not perch so well in Poe's mind because it didn't fit the mood he was going for—melancholy, "the most legitimate of all the poetical tones." In solving this dilemma in terms of imagery, he made adjustments to its plumage, altogether transforming the parrot — bestowing it with a black raiment.

"Very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more in keeping with the intended tone," Poe explained in his piece in Graham's. "I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven — the bird of ill omen — monotonously repeating the one word, 'Nevermore,' at the conclusion of each stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone…"

It was with these aesthetic calculations that Poe ousted the colorful bird that first flew into his mind, and welcomed the darker one that fluttered in:

In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore…

The details of the poem — including the bird's appearance — needed to all blend together, like a recipe, to bring out the somber concept he was trying to convey: the descent into madness of a bereaved lover, a man lamenting the loss of a beautiful woman named Lenore. With that in mind, quoth the parrot — "nevermore" just doesn't have the same grave effect.

* * *

If you'd like to read more about Edgar Allan Poe, click here to review how his contemporaries tried to defame him in an attempt to thwart his success.

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