Wednesday April 24, 2013
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The Mullings Director of Standards & Practices and I are heading to Dallas for the opening of the Presidential library of George W. Bush on Thursday.
I know that there will be many who, echoing the outpouring of venom in Great Britain upon the death of Baroness Margaret Thatcher, will elbow their way in front of TV cameras to be as ugly as necessary to get on the air.
I can't fix that, and I won't try.
I have known George W. Bush since I was hired to be the spokesman of his dad's PAC, the Fund for America's Future by Lee Atwater. That was when H.W. was the sitting Vice President and George W. (whom we incorrectly called "Junior" although not to his face) made regular trips to Washington, DC to help out.
A front pager in Tuesday's Washington Post by America's senior political writer, Dan Balz, looks at Bush's place in American politics as he prepares for his library opening.
A new Washington Post-ABC poll asked respondents "Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush handled his job as president?"
The answer was 47 percent approve; 50 percent disapprove.
As a calibration, in the Gallup three day track last Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday (before the Boston Marathon attacks) had President Barack Obama's standing at 49 percent approve, 43 percent disapprove.
Americans are a tough audience.
We can't rewind the clock and know what would have happened if we had not invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Watching the results of President Obama's having supported the removal of Muammar Gadhafi in Libya and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt you can see why he is a little reticent about unseating Syria's Bashir al-Assad.
Historians who, like everything else in our lives, feel they have to rush to judgment, are still, well, iffy about the Presidency of George W. Bush. Going back to the polls, Bush left office in January 2009 with an approval rating of only 25 percent, so if rehabilitation of his legacy is necessary, it appears to have already begun.
Harry S Truman's lowest approval rating, by the way, was 22 percent. And he has since been granted a legacy reprieve by historians.
Since leaving the White House George W. has taken a decidedly different tack than Bill Clinton (lowest approval rating 37 percent in May 1993). Where Clinton uses his celebrity for good works in raising money for his foundation or, with H.W. Bush, raising money for Haiti; George W. has taken up painting.
There will be hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken in support of, and in opposition to, the Presidency of George W. Bush. Others, like Karen Hughes, Karl Rove, and Ed Gillespie to name but three, served at Bush's side and will have a better perspective than the rest of us.
We will read and hear more, I suspect, about Hurricane Katrina, than Bush's bold - and lifesaving - commitment to reducing HIV/AIDS in Africa with his support of the PEPFAR program. We will read and hear more of the economic collapse at the end of his second term than we will of his willingness to reach out to the very Hispanic voters that the GOP is accused of alienating today.
Notwithstanding how difficult bringing stability back to Iraq has been, citizens - especially women - in the Gulf States enjoy political freedoms unthinkable before the Bush State Department helped Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and even Saudi Arabia find their way into the 19th century - if not yet the 21st.
I don't know George W. Bush all that well. Certainly not well enough to tell you what he's thinking or what his plans might be.
It does appear that he is comfortable in his post-Presidency.
It will be fun to be around others who worked in the Bush Administration. We'll retell old stories, catch up on children and grandchildren; former colleagues who didn't make the trip, and those who have left us.
I was proud to have been given the opportunity to serve during his Presidency and I think, decades down the road, he will be seen as a force for good in the world.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Dan Balz Washington Post article, to a short summary of the Bush Presidency by Ed Gillespie and a graph showing Bush's job approval through the years.
Also a license plate Mullfoto with which you will likely agree.
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