The Strange Disappearance of George W. Bush

Kevin Drum asks an interesting question: what ever became of George W. Bush? Not so much literally—I've always assumed that he spends his days playing "Call of Duty: Black Ops" with bored Secret Service agents—but as a presence in our national life. It's partly because, as Kevin notes, his own party wants nothing to do with him, since most of his big projects turned out to be colossal failures. If Republicans don't want to talk about him, then we can't have an ongoing argument about his legacy, since one side of that argument changes the subject every time he comes up. But as Kevin says, "It's just sort of astonishing that a guy who was president only three years ago, and who loomed so large for both liberals and conservatives, has disappeared down the memory hole so completely. In the end, for all his swagger, he was a mile wide and an inch deep. Once he left the White House, it was as if his entire presidency had just been a bad dream."

In some ways, this is more remarkable on the liberal side than on the conservative side. To say George W. Bush loomed large is an understatement. In fact, he remade the entire American left. Opposition to Bush gave a moribund movement new energy and purpose. Organizations were created, people changed their careers, and by the end of the Bush years liberals had actually become good at politics. Yet today it's hard even to feel all that mad at the guy (mostly because the Republicans that followed him have made him look like a moderate).

On a personal note, George W. Bush certainly changed my life. In 2000 I thought I was going to spend my career as an academic, writing articles about media and politics that almost no one would read. But Bush made me so mad that I started writing things that were much more topical and strident. First I began emailing them to friends, then I had a kind of proto-blog, and by 2004 I had left academia altogether, written an anti-Bush book, and started an online magazine, the better to shake my fist at the White House. Yet just a few years later, it's almost hard to imagine I was so worked up about him.

Not that we aren't still living with the legacy of Bush's tenure, particularly the human and financial cost of Iraq and Afghanistan, the enormous deficit he created, and the spectacular expansion of the national security state. But Kevin is right—it's possible to go months without Bush ever crossing your mind.

It's good to remember that there will be more Republican administrations, and you'll probably be just as mad at them as you were at Bush. Or even more, since the next Republican president is likely to be even more of a doctrinaire right-winger than Bush was. But whoever he or she is, that person will have to work awfully hard to match Bush's record of destruction.

Comments

Like Charles Krauthammer says "the staute of limitations on whining has run out".It is unprecedented for a princess like Obama to weep for 4 long years abotu what he inherited from Dada. George Bush and Reagan were real men who both inherited recessions and never complained and got to work. Let's blame George Washingtonwhy don't we.

In theory, Republican principles should help: smaller government, decreased spending. In practice, Republicans get into office and burn money. Reagan certainly did (although everyone seems to have forgotten). W certainly did.

Clinton handed W the reins of a healthy horse, and W drove it into the ground. He burned money like a rich kid will, because there's always more from daddy. It took his eight years but he killed that horse.

That said, I agree that Obama can't continue to blame things on the previous administration. Did his policies avert a true depression? No way to know. Did they prolong or will they shorten economic bad times? Who knows.

But when it comes to money, Republicans are like drug addicts: they tell us this time they'll actually stick to their principles, and that this time it will be different. It never is. Sure, they make their rich friends richer -- see oil prices before and after an oilman got into office -- but they drive the rest of us deeper into the ground.

Congress spent the money, not Bush. Who did the most spending in recent years? Democratic congresspeople - by far.
You are the drug addict with your absurd stereotypes about Republicans.

The former president might have opted to lead a low profile life henceforth. As the time when he was president was hell of lot hectic for him including disaster such as 9/11.

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I think that one main reason he is not up front in the cameras these days is because everything he did kind of wore off. He is not in charge of making big decisions anymore, and he really doesn't play a part in anything rather important. So there is not going to be any mention of him anywhere anymore. He is probably playing golf all day and sipping margaritas ;-)
Justin
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