The Corner

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Niall Ferguson


He has written a typically glib and shallow piece on the upcoming elections. Like seemingly everyone else, he swoons for Sen. Obama. Not that anyone in the punditocracy seems to care, but the guy has never had a serious race. I don’t think their praise would keep him from having one in ‘08.

Ferguson finds the time to pat himself on the back:

The most prescient column I wrote in 2004 (for which I was roundly abused by many Bush loyalists) was “Republicans for Kerry”, which the Wall Street Journal ran two months before the presidential election.

My prediction was that a second term for Bush would be a disaster for the Republican Party. “Its idée fixe about regime change in Iraq,” I wrote, “was not a logical response to the crisis of 9/11. Its fiscal policy has been an orgy of irresponsibility.”

“If he secures re-election,” I argued, “Bush can be relied upon to press on with a foreign policy based on pre-emptive military force, to ignore the impending fiscal crisis (on Vice-President Dick Cheney’s principle that “deficits don’t matter”) and to pursue socially conservative objectives such as the constitutional ban on gay marriage. Anyone who thinks this combination will serve to maintain Republican Party unity is dreaming; it will surely do the opposite.”

Not bad predictions. 

I’m guessing that the “abuse” wasn’t all that terrible, but let’s ignore that. None of these four predictions looks especially impressive. 1) On foreign policy, what exactly could Bush have done over the last two years to invalidate Ferguson’s prediction? He hasn’t pre-emptively invaded any other country. It’s true that he hasn’t repudiated the Iraq venture, but did anyone expect him to? 2) As for “ignor[ing] the impending fiscal crisis,” Bush proposed a net-present-value reduction in future Social Security benefits of several trillion dollars. He spent the first few months of 2005 going on and on about the impending fiscal crisis. If Ferguson’s claim here is merely that Bush hasn’t raised taxes, then he gets another point for accuracy but it’s a trivial one. 3) Bush actually dropped the push for a marriage amendment fairly publicly in early 2005. But yes, he has continued “to pursue socially conservative objectives.” 4) Shockingly, the Republicans are having a bad sixth-year election.


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