6) UN first; U.S. second. If Bush was a supposed “cowboy,” there at least was never doubt that his first and foremost interest was the U.S, not the “international community.” One Obama bow was OK; one apology about genocide tolerable; one smug cast-off line that we are not exceptional understandable; one mea culpa sent to the corrupt UN human rights crowd I suppose forgivable. But add them up and we sense that our president is embarrassed about America’s history and culture — but not quite embarrassed enough not to enjoy its material bounty to the fullest.
7) Who will criticize the critics? American elites crucified Bush. Vein-bulging Al Gore called him a liar. John Edwards and John Kerry tag-teamed him in vicious attacks. Alfred A. Knopf published a novel imagining his assassination. The Toronto Film Festival gave first prize to Death of a President, a 2006 docudrama about killing President Bush. I could go on again, but you remember the times, in which everyone from John Glenn to Garrison Keillor played the Bush Nazi/brownshirt card.
And now? John Edwards imploded in scandal. John Kerry was exposed as a tax-dodging elitist hypocrite. Al Gore, if not a sex poodle, at least is a green-con-artist of the billionaire sort, who both hyped a world-ending crisis and then profited from his rhetorical overkill by selling supposed green snake oil in the fashion of medieval penances. CBS, the New York Times, and Newsweek now totter near financial insolvency, after showing both poor judgment and questionable ethics: from the Times’ offering a discount for the MoveOn.org “General Betray Us” ad to a Newsweek senior editor declaring Obama a “god.” Suddenly bad things have happened to most of Bush’s loudest critics. (Note I’ll pass on the post-Bush Letterman or the post-Bush Rangel).
8. Bush’s disasters proved not quite disasters. Take the two most famous: Iraq and Katrina. Iraq is calm and can make it as a consensual state. Kurdistan is booming, not on a genocidal watch list. We killed thousands of al-Qaeda terrorists in Anbar province. That helped to keep us safe from another 9/11-like attack. Libya gave up its WMD. Dr. Khan shut down his nuclear franchising. American troops left Saudi Arabia. Syria got out of Lebanon. Iraq neither attacks four of its neighbors, nor does the government there give shelter to the likes of Abu Nidal and the architect of the first World Trade bombing attempt. Understandably, Biden and Obama now see something to claim and hope we forget their own assurances that it was either lost or to be trisected.
The BP mess (oh, how Nemesis likes to strike in the same locale!) reminded us how the federal government is inept under any president, whether during a manmade or nature-induced calamity. Shutting down oil drilling in the Gulf may be the worst legacy of the spill. Much of Katrina’s mess, in retrospect, can be attributed as much to anemic local and state responses and an endemic New Orleans culture of dependency as to Brownie’s FEMA incompetence.
9) Bush was not corrupt and ran an especially ethical administration. Before Obama even started, we had the Blago mess (of which the final story is not yet in) and the Bill Richardson, Tom Daschle, Tim Geithner, and Hilda Solis ethical lapses. Bush condemned Republican malfeasance and kept his distance. But suddenly the culture of corruption is not so corrupt when Chris Dodd, Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, and others prove as compromised as Duke Cunningham and Larry Craig. The Chicago crowd makes the Crawford crowd look like pikers. Bush said not a word about Obama and BP; Obama viciously attacked Bush as incompetent during Katrina. You decide.
10) Bush was authentic. He mangled his words. A liberal industry grew up around both “nuclar” and its sometimes corrective “nucular.” He strutted and talked Nascarese-like “bring ‘em on.” Much of this was excessive, but we knew at least Bush meant it. We got worried when he extemporaneously expounded for long riffs about freedom at press conferences, as his eyes rolled and he drifted from topic to topic. He put his arm on Angela Merkel and cried out “Yo Blair.” The media told us he was a yokel; we might add: albeit an authentic one who could duck properly when under shoe attack.
But Obama? He cannot really speak off the teleprompter without pauses, repetitions, and constant self-referencing (as in “me,” “I,” “my,” etc.). He is stiff and not comfortable with himself off the court or golf course. Bush made decisions and stuck by them; Obama the professor offers a perennial “on the one hand”/”on the other hand” mish-mash and a sorta, kinda, almost answer. Americans would prefer to be in a foxhole with George Bush, who would swagger and announce as decider-in-chief at H-hour, “OK, pard, we’re going over the top together on this one.” They wouldn’t want to be with Obama, who would stutter and give a long-drawn out exegesis why race and class had condemned us to such an unfair predicament, whose only solution is to go into a fetal position and condemn “them” who did this awful thing to us.
Who knows? At this rate America may play Brandon DeWilde to Bush’s Shane: Bush — Come Back, Bush, Come Back!