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Worst President in America History Is Trying to Spin His Nightmare Legacy

Are you ready for the George W. Bush comeback tour?

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Labor force participation had reached an all-time high in 2000 under Clinton; it dropped steadily under Bush. Unemployment jumped from 3.9 percent when Clinton left office to 7.2 percent at the end of 2008. And despite the supply-side notion that tax cuts would lead to more entrepreneurialism, in fact, the rate at which start-up companies created jobs actually fell between 2000 and 2010.  Clinton left Bush a $236 billion budget surplus; Bush would leave his successor saddled with a $1.2 trillion deficit.

I don’t know how “Decision Points Theater” will tackle any of that.

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The bottom line on the Bush presidency is this: After losing the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore, the man who’d run as a “compassionate conservative” known in Texas for reaching out to Democrats ran a hard-right, divisive administration instead. The guy who inveighed against “nation-building” let his neocon advisers push two deadly and impossible nation-building projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving almost 7,000 Americans dead, more than 50,000 wounded at an ultimate cost of $4 trillion-$6 trillion, according to a recent Harvard study.  His tax cuts blew out the budget, his economic policies favored the rich and the economy cratered on his watch.

It’s going to take more than a series of softball network interviews to rehabilitate Bush’s legacy. But Republicans need him to come out of hiding if his brother is going to have any chance of being president. So watch for not only flacks like Jennifer Rubin but leading party figures to act like the Bush rehab tour is a great success. They should face the truth: Bush’s ratings only improved because he went away. His comeback campaign is likely to remind people of the disaster he left in his wake, and backfire on him, his brother and his party.

Still, getting it out of the way now at least prevents charges that the GOP is hiding its last president, which let’s face it, has looked so dodgy given Bill Clinton’s prominence in his party. I’d predict Bush’s re-emergence will be a short-term media go-round, designed to erase the idea he’s been hidden away. Then he’ll be hidden away again, painting dog pictures. “I’m happy to be out of the limelight. I truly am,” he told USA Today. “I am happy.”

UPDATE: The PR blitz continues, with this  ode to Bush from former press secretary Dana Perino, and innumerable  Tweets from Karl Rove.


Joan Walsh is Salon's editor-at-large, and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." Read more of her work at Salon.

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