It was funny today to watch the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. I have to admit I love to see the living presidents together. I'm a sucker for Barbara Bush joking with President Obama. I'm a politics junkie. An event like this isn't exactly heroin, but it's still a bit of a rush.
Still, it was impossible not to note how each president had to struggle for good things to say about the Bush years. Carter was very generous, but he did mention the dispute over the 2000 elections -- which was handled despicably by Bush, and which implicitly argues that Bush should never have been president in the first place. The elder Bush focused on how nice it was to have his family together. Clinton focused on W.'s post-presidency paintings. Obama focused on his predecessor's personality -- but in the process demonstrated how confident Bush is, even when he knows nothing.
Bush himself talked about freedom and liberating people -- without a single mention of Iraq or weapons of mass destruction, which was the stated reason for invasion, despite all this rhetoric about freedom. Bush joked about how he didn't use to hang out at libraries -- as if to underline how truly odd it is that Bush, not exactly an intellectual or deep thinker, would have a library. Shockingly, Bush even referenced Katrina -- as an example of the resilience of the human spirit, ignoring that people wouldn't have had to have been nearly so resilient if, you know, Bush had done his job the way every other president present had done in their national emergencies.
It's amazing to see how absurd the apologists for Bush are. Bush mostly kept us safe! Well, except for 9/11, which happened after he'd ignored cries from the intelligence community about an impending attack. Bush stood on the World Trade Center rubble -- a great moment! Except that he promised the culprits would "hear from all of us soon," then ignored bin Laden and said he wasn't even a significant concern, while attacking Iraq instead. Bush liberated peoples! Except that both Afghanistan and Iraq were botched wars, with almost no realistic planning and, in the case of the latter war, massive lies to the American public, fear-mongering about "mushroom clouds," and bullying of foreign nations to support the effort. Then there's Katrina. Then there's becoming the world's leading proponent of torture. Then there's the massive illegal wiretapping program. Outing a CIA agent because her husband told the truth about weapons of mass destruction. Turning a budget surplus into unprecedented deficits to pay for this nonsense, plus tax cuts that almost exclusively favored the rich. The failure that is abstinence-only education -- which the Bush administration even forced on other governments, if they wanted foreign aid. Appointing as U.N. representative a nincompoop idiot who wanted to end the U.N. Oh, and then there's presiding over the biggest crash of the U.S. economy since the Great Depression -- a crash caused primarily by the deregulation Bush endorsed. There's incompetence, and then there's George W. Bush. There are disastrous administrations... and then there's George W. Bush.
I'm sure he's a nice guy. And yes, he did make decisions, as his apologists love to point out. Bush even titled his post-presidential book Decision Points. There's a gallery in the new library with the same title. Well, they were decisions. So is burning your house down. Which, if you tried to do to the nation, probably would have performed slightly better as a strategy than the presidency of George W. Bush.
Let's try a thought experiment, shall we? It's 2020 or so, and Barack Obama is opening his presidential library.
Is there a single speech, talking about how, um, Obama sure can paint? Or how it's so charming that he doesn't know anything but is confident anyway?
Instead of "we didn't have a terrorist attack -- except for the worst one in our history, which we don't blame him for," you have "he got bin Laden." I mentioned him earlier, but you might not remember him. He's that guy who masterminded that terrible terrorist attack on Bush's watch. He's the guy Bush said didn't matter. Instead, Bush got Saddam Hussein. Bush might have stood on the rubble, promising the culprits would pay, but he didn't deliver on that promise. Quite the opposite. Obama did.
Instead of helping to cause the Great Recession, Obama helped America recover from it.
Instead of getting us into America's longest war, or the quagmire of Iraq, Obama got us -- or is getting us -- out. Maybe it's not fast enough, but at least it's movement in the right direction, as opposed to the wrong one.
When they dedicate Obama's library, someone's going to mention that he got health care reform -- which most presidents since World War II have called for, yet failed to accomplish.
No, there won't be any of this nonsense when it comes to dedicate Obama's Presidential Library.