Today conservative writers are facing an extraordinary challenge. With their beloved president leaving office reviled by record numbers of citizens, making him sound like a good guy can be pretty difficult. While a few people like Krauthammer are content to engage in the now-standard “Bush was right about everything always” revisionism, many others attempt to allow reality at least some influence in their columns. But how are they to do this, while still maintaining that Bush was a fabulous success? The answer comes in the form of future-past-perfect-tense alternate future-fuelled writing, which I’m tempted to call 'supervisionism.'
Here’s how it works: Because Bush did things with far-reaching implications, it’s impossible to say whether he was good or bad! Basically, if your mistakes have an impressively huge magnitude they become something else- no longer wrong, simply something that happened. If your actions leave one person dead, you have most certainly screwed up. But if they leave tens or even hundreds of thousands dead, one country ruined, and an entire region destabilized, congratulations! You have officially ascended above all judgment and occupy some ethereal spot beyond good and evil.
One of the most recent example of this argument is provided by British columnist Bruce Anderson, who writes in The Independent that “as he has set great events in motion, it will be impossible to judge his Presidency for many years. It is not impossible that history will offer a partial vindication.” Catch that? While he may have made awful decisions, they may later accidentally turn out to have been good. For that reason and that reason alone, we should all consider Bush to have maybe turned out to have been a success! Trying to express this philosophy in words leaves you with some pretty tortured grammar, but you get the idea.
Let’s see where this idea takes us: As far as I can tell it means that no leader is truly responsible for their actions, because forces outside their control may at any time change the verdict. Anderson isn’t talking about the foreseeable future, which normal people ask their leaders to take into account. No, we’re talking potentially hundreds of years from now. Do whatever ghastly sort of thing you want- the innocent people tortured and killed might have ended up birthing some horrific ideology that destroys half the world in the distant future! Random acts of senseless brutality have some insignificant chance of doing good through a convoluted and unfathomable event chain, so forget trying to figure out if leaders across the world are ruling wisely.
The ultimate expression of supervisionism would be to get rid of leaders altogether and replace them with random decision-making machines. You might as well if there’s no way of deciding the best course of action, right? Just code it to make random choices regarding every possible aim of foreign policy- Invade country X? Destroy ideology Y? Persecute ethnicity Z? Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if this sounds like a good idea to conservatives- they’ve seen the laughably poor results provided by Bush and friends, and literally anything has to be better than that. What better way to truly wreck the federal government than by replacing it with a single computer which, thousands of years from now, will maybe eventually turn out to have been making good decisions all along?