Historians, as a profession, are understandably fascinated by change. Civilizations, as a phenomenon, are properly concerned with conservation. Tension is inevitable when the former apply criteria of success and failure ill-suited to the goals of the latter. The best recent evidence: C-Span has just released its Presidential Historian’s Survey for 2017. It is proof that historians celebrate Presidents the more change they achieve while consigning them to obscurity for governing prudently according to circumstance.
David Brooks is in an angry and spiteful mood. Perhaps he’s even getting to be a bit unhinged, as history is putting his vision of American conservatism onto its rubbish heap.
Washington forgives many things, from Oval Office indiscretions to executive abuses. But neither laughter nor defeat makes the pardonable cut, and George H.W. Bush has endured both, in each case for precisely the quality that most commends him: prudence.