Having just witnessed (via television, I hasten to add) today’s coronation festivities in Washington, D.C., my mind naturally adverted to Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the great nineteenth-century compendium of anecdotes about herd behavior in the species homo sapiens by Charles Mackay. Doubtless, as the new administration takes charge, we will have plenty of occasion to savor the contemporary pertinence of Mr. Mackay’s trip through human irrationality, but for the moment I want to pause to pay homage to one of the most unfairly abused men in American political history, George W. Bush. Not that I think Mr. Bush’s tenure was beyond criticism. Far from it, as the phrases “prescription drugs for seniors” or “no child left behind” (among others) vividly remind us. But the Bush administration had real accomplishments, and I was happy that NRO decided to commemorate those accomplishments with a chrestomathy of “thank yous” from various writers, including myself. Like several others, I singled out the president’s success in keeping American interests safe from terrorism after the attacks of 9/11. It really was an extraordinary achievement. And note that not only was the United States itself not attacked again, but neither were our interests abroad: there were no more USS Coles, no more U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, no more Marine barracks incinerated. As I mentioned, there are some people who insist on regarding this as a sort of accident, a divine (or at least fortunate) dispensation. I don’t for one moment believe that, and neither should you. The reason neither the United States nor its interests abroad has been attacked is not because Islamic radicals haven’t wanted to attack us. It is because, beginning on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration made it increasingly difficult to do so. The also have made sure that there are fewer and fewer terrorists around to carry out the attacks. For that I believe we all owe President Bush a deep and heartfelt thank you.
A thought about gratitude