Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Bush Silent Treatment

Former President George W. Bush is hitting the media circuit of late to promote his memoir, Decision Points. Throughout the interviews and trips down memory lane with the likes of Matt Lauer and Oprah, Bush remains adamant about not wanting to re-enter "the swamp," his way of referring to the public back and forth about politics. Even when it comes to replying to the numerous attacks made on his presidency by his churlish successor, Bush stubbornly maintains an impenetrable silence. At one level, I confess that I do admire this discipline. It must be maddening to the left that Bush cannot be lured back into the colosseum. As I see it though, Bush is wrong to spurn every opportunity to pointedly retaliate, at least in some way, to the sources of the criticism. He owes it, not so much to himself, but to his loyal supporters of eight years to fight back.

Bush sees the issue as being about two things: the importance of maintaining a dignity with regard to the office of the presidency, and a personal disdain for political mudslinging. He genuinely sees it as beneath him. A former president should not criticize his successor, according to Bush. To do so would be unseemly, à la Jimmy Carter, who never ceased lobbing sour grapes at the Bush White House. (Never mind that no one was really listening to Carter anyway.) To be fair, the argument has its merits. Usually when Jimmy Carter is offered as an example of what you're trying not to imitate, I'm likely to be sympathetic. Carter seems to revel in being undignified and surly, and his name is used by both parties as a political epithet and the paragon of what every man who enters politics hopes not to become. I understand the fear, but George W. Bush, the man who stood atop the rubble of the twin towers to rally America to retaliate, doesn't have to worry about mirroring the rabbit fighter Jimmy Carter in any way, shape or form.

Those who voted for Bush, defended his presidency then, and his legacy now, would like to receive some support from the top gun himself. Instead, we repeatedly observe our reticent former president slapped by any and every Democrat who passes by. To see our point man shy away in the face of countless accusations against the policies that defined his presidency feels not unlike an abandonment of troops in the midst of an ongoing fight. As much as W. would like to fancy himself an ordinary citizen who should be free to "submerge" (his words) under the still waters of normalcy and anonymity, he cannot. Bush will forever be a very public, controversial figure, and will always be inexorably linked to his time in office and the policies that were hammered out during those momentous eight years.

The fighters for conservatism, still in the trenches mind you, or "the swamp," as Bush would have it, went to the mat for him year after year, in good times and bad (and there were some pretty miserable moments if you recall), and now they simply expect Bush to do his part. There's no hiding allowed in this business.

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