November 10, 2010
George Bush at PeaceBy C. Edmund Wright
George W. Bush -- plush with family money and a taxpayer-funded retirement package that few will ever enjoy -- may be at peace with his decision not to "sully the presidency" with trivial matters like, you know, defending conservatism, but as one who will be forced to help fund his retirement, I am not.
And it's not the money part that bugs me. It's the "at peace" thing that does. In fact, I'll go counter to conventional wisdom and submit that it is a quiet self-centeredness at the root of this strategy.
Consider that Bush is "at peace" with his decisions to take the fall for issues that were not his personal issues to take the fall for. What the 43rd president still apparently does not get is that his presidency did not and does not belong to him and him alone.
As he said yesterday on the Rush Limbaugh Show -- under some pretty stiff and repeated questions on the topic by Rush --
That sounds very high-minded. Perhaps it is. Or perhaps it's the feelings of a man who has forgotten just who owns the presidency. And it doesn't change the fact that when Bush was called a liar, we were called liars by extension. His presidency belonged -- and still belongs -- to all of us as well. And by "us," I mean those who supported and defended him along with sharing his values (or what we thought were his values).
Thus, when he failed to defend himself, he failed to defend us -- which is precisely why we elected him. Day after day Bush was trashed unfairly, illogically, and inaccurately -- along with all of his supporters -- yet his White House never uttered a peep of resistance. What? Did they think they were in this by themselves?
And if it were simply a matter of a distant bitter memory, it would be bad enough.
But it is not distant and not really a memory. Public opinion polls indicate that just about as many Americans still blame Bush (and thereby us, his supporters) for the bad economy as blame Obama. One can certainly chalk a lot of this up to ignorance on the part of many Americans. But it is not mere ignorance alone.
It is ignorance driven and multiplied by the fact that while Democrats who actually helped "drive the car into the ditch" were out in public slamming Bush and capitalism and conservatism in general for a souring economy in 2007 and 2008...the mild-mannered man from Texas was luxuriating in his self-righteous "new tone" strategy of not sullying the presidency.
Well that's just great. We all get sullied instead. So does free enterprise. So does all of conservatism. So does aggressive counter-terrorism. Is that a bargain? Is that noble? I submit that it is not.
More importantly, however, is the fact that Bush's decision not to enter the arena of ideas on his behalf has contributed greatly to the ignorance of the public. Moreover, that ignorance is still extremely dangerous. You can be sure that the Jurassic media and the remaining Democrats in Congress will play off of that ignorance to demagogue any efforts the new 112th Congress makes to pull the car out of the ditch.
Ronald Reagan gave us a peace dividend by winning the Cold War. Bush has left us a public relations and information deficit thanks to his new tone. And who knows just how devastating that information deficit will prove to be, ultimately? It has already helped elect a Democrat Congress in 2006 and Barack Obama in 2008. Need I say more?
In fact, it can be argued (and I have argued) that this new tone disaster so sullied the Republican brand and so muddied the message that it led to the emergence of John McCain as the GOP's nominee in 2008.
Now that the Tea Party movement has made a pretty good start at purging a lot of the new-tone and reach-across-the-aisle instincts of the ruling class Republicans, a Congress they helped elect must try to put their desires into action. Nothing less than the fate of the Republic rests on their being at least somewhat successful.
And our enemies across the aisle -- just using Obama's own term here -- know full well what is at stake, too. They will be relentless in their attempts to demagogue and block every single fiscally responsible and pro-free enterprise measure the Republicans put forth. And the media will be right there as their ally.
But so will a chunk of voters who have been misguided and mal-educated about what the roots of our problems are. Many are voters who came of age during the eight years of one-sided PR during the Bush administration's new tone. They've never heard the head of the Republican Party give a good, solid defense of what made America great -- because the last one to do so was Reagan.
And in doing so, he never sullied the presidency, by the way.
And yet, all of this seems so obviously lost on Bush 43. He still looks at this as being all about him, and he is at peace with his decision not to confront his enemies. As he said later on under repeated questioning from Rush,
Well, fine and dandy. For George W. Bush. But my question is this: will truth win out in time for the 112th Congress to turn back Obama-ism? Will it win out in time to save the Republic? Maybe it will, but without a doubt, the way Bush conducted himself in office makes that mountain a lot higher and steeper to climb for the rest of us.