But at least you always knew that Bush loved America and that he loved Americans. You knew that he valued America’s allies even if he didn’t always do right by them. You knew that his values were American values.

You can’t say any of that about his successor. ~Caroline Glick

Yes, this is what you would expect from Glick (or from anyone, for that matter, who thinks that the last two years of Bush’s foreign policy were his worst), but it’s offensive all the same. As tempting and easy as it would be to turn this formulation around on one of the worst Presidents of all time, I don’t assume that Bush did any of the things he did because he didn’t have “American values” or didn’t love his country. I don’t assume that he trashed our relations with Europe, Turkey and Russia because he wanted America to be isolated or because he loathed these other nations. It is certainly true that he harmed American interests, weakened American power, wrecked our fiscal house and isolated us from many of our allies and potential partners, but the world is full of stories of people who harm that which they love. Bush’s problem wasn’t that he didn’t love America. The problem was that he had no idea what he was doing and substituted ideological fantasies in place of understanding.

Indeed, most of his catastrophic blunders came from an excess of sentiment and emotion concerning these things, combined with absolutely incompetent execution and an ideological obsession with American virtue and strength that ensured that his actions would be excessive, arrogant, ill-conceived and unrelated to the real world. Bush’s love of country was something similar to what the Apostle called in another context “zeal not according to knowledge.” The man was actually overflowing with saccharine, do-gooding, Gersonian sentimentality and he had no shortage of emotional, demonstrative professions of patriotic devotion. So what? What good did it do anyone? It might even have been better had Bush been less enthusiastic in trying to protect the United States, since he would not have been so ready to see dire threats around every corner where none existed. America needs fewer paranoid, jealous lovers, not more.

When we look at policy and the results of policy, however, all of Bush’s love and emotion count for nothing. We also hear all the time how much Bush cared about dissidents overseas, but what we forget to mention is how much stronger authoritarian regimes of various stripes, both allied and non-allied, became on his watch. Bush loyalists very much want to have him and Obama judged on expressions of weepy sentiment and professions of good intentions rather than on concrete results, because they know that their idol has to fare very poorly if he is judged on the merits of what his policies produced. Amusingly, they would like nothing more than to damn Obama for not imitating Bush’s style, which they find reassuring or satisfying for one reason or another.

It may be that Obama will prove to be a poor President, and he could inaugurate policies that will fail as spectacularly as Bush’s did, but we would not be able to conclude from this that he did not love his country or share American values. If we could conclude such things from what politicians do, surely the man who launched aggressive wars, and who sanctioned illegal, arbitrary detention, illegal wiretapping and torture would not come out looking very good at all.