Saturday Night Live’s opening skit last night featured George W. Bush feeling great about how most Americans are nostalgic for his presidency even though his term was pretty disastrous. He reminds us that we are still involved with two wars that he started as well as the housing bubble & crash and worst the recession since the Great Depression. But we are all nostalgic for Bush’s leadership because his behavior in his first year was much better than Trump’s and if the rise in popular mandate that Bush got from 9/11 hadn’t given him such a large boost in political power, he probably would have avoided some of the worst excesses of his presidency.
Power corrupts. Imagine if Trump’s popular power were boosted by a terrorist attack. What would he do with all of his newfound political power? Bush used the 9/11 attack to launch a completely unrelated war in Iraq which had been one of the longstanding pet projects of Bush and his band of neoconservatives. It was counterproductive in the fight against Al Qaeda because Saddam Hussein had been an enemy of Al Qaeda which immediately moved in to Iraq during the US occupation and ultimately created ISIS there. Although most Americans were initially in favor of the war (including Trump who famously made a statement in support in an interview), it soon became a quagmire that became extremely unpopular. It was still unpopular in 2016, when Trump was still using it to campaign against Jeb Bush and the Republican establishment for supporting the war. But what would Trump do in a situation like 9/11? Does anyone seriously think that Mr I’ve-got-a-bigger-nuclear-button would be more restrained?
Pence is much less rash and smarter than Trump. Pence is more interested in fighting yesterday’s culture wars than in shooting wars. (And Trump’s alt-right supporters are weirdly wanting to fight the culture wars of the 1930s!). Pence 2018.