Gibbon’s discussion of the divisions among historians about the legacy of Constantine makes you wonder whether the current divisions over Bush’s legacy will also endure a thousand years. In the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Chapter 18), Gibbon says:

The character of the prince [Constantine] who removed the seat of empire, and introduced such important changes into the civil and religious constitution of his country, has fixed the attention, and divided the opinions of mankind. By the grateful zeal of the Christians the deliverer of the church has been decorated with every attribute of a hero, and even of a saint; while the discontent of the vanquished party has compared Constantine to the most abhorred of those tyrants who, by their vice and weakness, dishonoured the Imperial purple. The same passions have, in some degree, been perpetuated to succeeding generations, and the character of Constantine is considered, even in the present age, as an object of satire or of panegyric.

So both Constantine and Bush are viewed positively by Christians. In Bush’s case, make that by evangelical or fundamentalist Christians. Gibbon ends this chapter on the successors to Constantine with the following passage:

The most innocent subjects of the West were exposed to exile and confiscation, to death and torture; and as the timid are always cruel, the mind of Constantius was inaccessible to mercy.

This passage sums up what I think is wrong with the Bush administration: “the timid are always cruel.” We have torture, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib because the Bushies are cowards. Bush and Cheney both avoided service in Vietnam — Bush by hiding out in the National Guard. Then, he had the effrontery to call up the National Guard — his hidey-hole — to bear much of the fighting in Iraq. As President and Vice President, when the US was attacked on 9/11, Bush disappeared into Louisiana and Nebraska on Air Force One, while Cheney disappeared into the bowels of the earth in his famous undisclosed location. A courageous man would have immediately appeared on national television to assure the national that he was in charge, would repel the invaders, and would care for the victims. Bush did this about three days later, when he was sure it was safe to come out. But he and Cheney are still afraid, hence their resort to torture, and their refusal to comply with international or domestic law where they fear physical threats, such as their illegal use of NSA to intercept domestic calls.

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