"The bin Laden operation is the perfect vindication of the war on terror. It was made possible precisely by the vast, warlike infrastructure that the Bush administration created post-9/11..."
-- Charles Krauthammer, conservative columnist, the Washington Post
"When the story of America's post-9/11 wars is written, historians will be obliged to assess the two administrations together, and pass judgment on the Bush-Obama era."
-- Ross Douthat, conservative columnist, the New York Times
"You're right," said Billy Bluestate to his cousin Ronnie Redstate. "Without George Bush, none of this happens."
Ronnie Redstate smiled for the first time in a week.
"Of course I'm right! About time you admitted it."
Ronnie Redstate had been feeling a bit left out lately. What with all the recent headlines -- the headlines and the TV bulletins, the speeches and the photo ops -- it was easy to feel overlooked. It was as if the whole country had thrown a big party and had forgotten to send him an invitation.
"Absolutely!" said Billy Bluestate, extending a hand. "None of this happens without Bush -- isn't it ridiculous to pretend otherwise?"
"Ridiculous isn't the half of it!" said Ronnie Redstate, grasping his cousin's hand in both of his. "You guys act like history didn't start until Obama took the oath. Like nothing that happened before then had any impact on anything."
"Hey," said Billy Bluestate, "when you're right, you're right. Without Bush's policies, without his decisions -- "
" -- without his tough decisions, the whole thing turns out very differently. We're looking at an entirely different result."
Ronnie Redstate was stunned -- stunned down to his shoelaces -- by his cousin's sudden show of good old common sense. After all, it's not like America's history came in neat little compartments: the "Bush years" there, the "Obama years" here. And it's certainly not like one person could take all the credit for something and not share it with those who came before him. Those who made it all possible.
Everything was connected to everything else, Ronnie Redstate understood.
"Like a chain!" he heard himself saying. "An endless chain!"
"There's plenty of credit to go around," said Billy Bluestate.
"And plenty of blame, too."
Ronnie Redstate's mouth was still smiling, but the rest of his face had gone tight. He dropped his cousin's hand. (And wiped his own hands on his pants legs -- whatever it was, he didn't want to catch it.)
Billy Bluestate tried again.
"And plenty of blame, too. For the unemployment rate. The deficit. For the whole economy going in the tank. Without George Bush, none of it happens."
Ronnie Redstate didn't like where this conversation was going. (Or was it -- and the thought came to him in a sickening flash -- where the conversation had been all along?) He tried rerunning everything he'd said, everything his cousin had said. Had he missed a sign? Stumbled right past a clue? What corners had he backed himself into while he was so blithely accepting congratulations?
"You guys" -- this was Billy Bluestate's voice now, but weren't the words someone else's? -- "you guys act like history didn't start until Obama took the oath! Like nothing that happened before then had any impact on anything!"
"Tax cuts. More tax cuts." Billy Bluestate was on a roll now. "The housing bubble. Wars we never paid for. Wall Street running wild."
"We're still digging out of the hole. But don't forget how we got there in the first place."
"Different," said Ronnie Redstate, over and over again. His teeth hurt. "Totally, totally different."
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Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at email@example.com.