With the dawn of 2016, there is hope that the long presidency of George W. Bush will finally be over.
He served the maximum two terms, and tried to stay out of the spotlight. But President Barack Obama made sure that “W” was an integral part of his own administration.
His unofficial title for the past seven years has been Secretary of Screw-ups in the Department of Blame. And he has been the most reliable member of Obama’s Cabinet, always ready to serve.
He was there on Day One in 2009, when Obama signed his executive order to close the Guantánamo Bay prison in one year, and blasted the “false choice between our safety and our ideals” that George W. Bush allegedly imposed. And, like that prison, Bush is still there today.
He is responsible for almost every mistake; he is the standard against which almost every achievement is measured. Lately, he is even cited as an example to follow. He is omnipresent.
In his last weekly address, Obama cited his “top 10 things that happened in 2015,” by which he meant things that he should be given credit for, perhaps because no one else will.
One of these was the economy. Obama touted “13.7 million new jobs over a 69-month streak of job growth.” Note that 69 months dates back to the beginning of his presidency, not to any economically significant date, such as the start of the financial crisis or end of the recession.
When he tried to defend the disastrous Iran deal, which Iran is already mocking with ballistic missile tests, Obama used to Bush as a foil. Not only had Bush failed to stop Iran’s nuclear program, Obama argued (as if the junior Senator from Illinois had been any help in that effort), but the same arguments Bush used to defend the Iraq War were also being used on Iran, he said. (In other words, we must surrender in 2015 to win an argument from 2003.)
In recent weeks, however, Bush has found a new role in the administration. Instead of a war-mongering, economy-destroying, globe-alienating idiot, he is now a model of tolerance, worldliness and cultural sensitivity.
Obama cited Bush in remarks to a press conference in Antalya, Turkey last month, explaining why he would not acknowledge that radical Islam was to blame for the terror attacks in Paris just days before–and taking a swipe at his Republican opponents, from abroad, at the same time:
I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse.
If Obama was “proud” of George W. Bush after 9/11, he certainly kept his feelings quiet. Today he has conveniently found a new appreciation for his predecessor. Obama won’t say the words “radical Islam,” but he has, near the end, brought himself to praise “W”–if only to slam the Republicans who are seeking to replace him in January 2017.
Surprisingly, some Republicans are also resurrecting George W. Bush’s political career. Presidential straggler Jeb Bush, in desperation, has roped his brother into his campaign effort. And frontrunner Donald Trump has, for some reason, revived the regrettable practice–hitherto confined to extreme left-wing quarters–of blaming Bush for 9/11.
But their use of George W. Bush, too, has an expiration date. When the polls close in November, and the votes are counted (and hopefully not re-counted), the figure of George W. Bush will finally pass into history. “43” will enjoy his retirement at last, and Obama will take his place in the Cabinet–no matter who wins–as Scapegoat-in-Chief.