For all that he did while operating as America’s chief “decider” for eight years, President Bush ought to be living under a rock, giving his eye sockets hell from an outpouring of tears of remorse. Or, you know, sitting pretty and country in a cell, depending on whom you’re talking to. If I were Dubya, I’d be reluctant to give up the freedom that comes with “not feeling like I’ve got to be in the limelight,” too.
However, Bush has Texas two-stepped back into the spotlight to pour salt on open wounds to honor of the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Our ex-president gave quite the interesting interview to the Dallas Morning News published this week. Yet, through the good fortune of dumb luck, not much media attention has been paid to his recent musings.
That’s too bad because Tom Benning notes, “He’s listing no new regrets. He’s focused on the center’s policy institute, which builds upon the main themes of his presidency. And he delights in taking on preconceived notions of him — on everything from his fiscal record to his artistic talent.”
By that he means, “People are surprised. Of course, some people are surprised I can even read.” I’m not surprised he can read. I’m not even surprised he’s so gung ho about defending his place in history. In President Bush’s farewell address, he declared, “There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results.”
Sure, if you take a tour of Bush’s site, you’ll see lots and lots of bragging about all of those “tax breaks” given to the nation, plus him “leading” the response to the financial crisis of 2008 said tax cuts helped create. Well, deregulation helped make that mess too, but we’ll get to former President Bill Clinton another day.
Meanwhile, when Bush was leaving office he touted “a new Department of Homeland Security has been created.” And that the “military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed.” Plus, “Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists’ movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots.” Then there was a listing of the accomplishments stemming from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Never mind the false circumstances that created the war in Iraq or the mess left behind for President Obama to try and clean up in Afghanistan. Ditto for his administration ignoring warnings that led to the terrorist attacks that prompted the formation of a new government agency.
That said, as Time’s Justin Fox notes, “By almost every measure — GDP growth, jobs, median incomes, financial-market performance — he stacks up as probably the least-successful President on the economic front since Herbert Hoover.”
You can also check with the Congressional Budget Office documents, which further outline just how much Bush contributed to the national deficit. Even Bruce Bartlett, who had senior roles in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations explained that if Bush II would’ve maintained a “continuation of tax and budget policies and economic conditions in place at the end of the Clinton administration would have led to a cumulative budget surplus of $5.6 trillion through 2011 – enough to pay off the $5.6 trillion national debt at the end of 2000.”
And when it comes to the Iraqi war, though there is a disparity in the count of the number human lives lost, most now acknowledge that the deaths were ostensibly caused by faulty information used to justify an unjustified war. Not enough has been said about the 10-year anniversary of the Iraqi war – not even from its architect in a new interview. Bush did manage to throw out, however, “It’s easy to forget what life was like when the decision was made.”
Overall, Bush maintained, “I’m comfortable with what I did. I’m comfortable with who I am.”
If only the rest of us were as fortunate.
I suppose his lack of self-awareness is understandable considering he is the person doing press over a center honoring him based on six areas: “economic growth, education policy, global health, human freedom, military service and women’s rights." The stats don’t match the statute and it doesn’t seem to matter. But can you spare us the smugness?
To make matter worse, Bush pushed for a return to “compassion conservatism” and “the idea that articulating and implementing conservative ideas leads to a better life for all.”
To him, “The best way for people to understand what I meant by ‘compassionate conservative’ is to look at the programs we implemented and look at the results.”
We live with these results, and if he’s not going to talk about them in earnest, I invite him to fall back into the abyss. As for the GOP, know that voters aren’t as delusional as Dubya and you’ll be damned if you put your trust in brother Jeb.
Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick