Worst President in America History Is Trying to Spin His Nightmare Legacy
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I blamed the worst of his presidency on Vice President Dick Cheney, one of the worst people in the world. I thought his low profile since he left office (compared with Cheney’s brazen attacks on Obama) might reflect self-awareness that he’d been a screw-up, just like his days at his family-funded Arbusto Energy. I even saw an attempt at expiation in his oddly vulnerable self-portraits, several of them in the bathroom or shower no less, at least one featuring his reflection in the mirror. Maybe he was examining his failures and trying to wash away his sins?
No way. Bush is unapologetic in his new round of interviews, telling USA Today, “There’s no need to defend myself. I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.” A few years ago, Bush told Bob Woodward he didn’t care about history. “History,” he replied. “We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.” Now he’s counting on his presidential library to shape history’s verdict, calling it “a place to lay out the facts.” (Oh, and don’t read anything into his painting. “It’s mellowing, and there’s nothing wrong, particularly for a Type A personality, to mellow out,” he also told USA Today.)
The most fascinating feature of Bush’s library may be an interactive exhibit called “Decision Points Theater,” that includes everything from the 2003 Iraq War to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to the 2008 financial meltdown. It lets visitors assess “the decisions that I had to make and the recommendations I received,” he says, and then make their own decisions.
What an oddly passive thing to say, to put the emphasis on “the recommendations I received.” It lets Bush pass the buck, again.
Here are some decision points that belong in “Decision Points Theater,” but probably won’t be there.
When he got the Aug. 6, 2001, presidential daily briefing, warning, “Bin Laden determined to strike in the U.S.,” he told the briefer, “All right. You’ve covered your ass,” and then went fishing at his Crawford, Texas, ranch. (That “Type A personality,” by the way, took more vacation than any president in modern history.) Is that what the average Bush Library visitor would have done with such a warning?
After 9/11, he did not tell Americans to go shopping, contrary to popular myth. But he did tell us, “ Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.” He squandered national and international goodwill in the aftermath of the attack, and told us to go to Disney World, while he went ahead with budget-busting tax cuts and put two wars on a credit card, along with a pricey but popular prescription drug benefit for seniors. I’m not sure how “Decision Points Theater” is going to depict that sequence of decision-making.
I wonder if the Hurricane Katrina exhibit will feature the “recommendations” and advice that led him to praise failed FEMA director Michael Brown with his memorable “Heck of a job, Brownie.” Will Bush finally reveal that while he claimed he thought New Orleans had “dodged a bullet” the day after the storm, the White House had actually been informed that the levies had failed and there was massive flooding the night before? Any American visitor to “Decision Points Theater” presented with that information might second-guess the sluggishness of the administration’s response to a great city’s drowning.
Jennifer Rubin’s crowing about “7 1/2 years of growth and prosperity” under Bush might be the most deluded passage of her delusionary piece. Under Bush, the U.S. experienced the slowest overall rate of economic growth since World War II. Although wages had declined for many groups since the ’70s, household income had remained steady, mostly because families sent a second earner into the workplace. But under Bush, household income declined, too, for the first time since the Census Bureau tracked that data in 1967. Almost 22 million jobs were created under the Clinton administration; only 3 million net new jobs were added under Bush, fewer jobs than in any president’s two-terms since World War II.