With the nostalgia borne of five years of non-stop partisan bickering and traditional media's 180 turn to focus on deficits, the rehabilitation of George W. Bush, whom historians nearly unanimously rank at or near the bottom of American presidents, is in full-court press. Of course, the opening up of his library--which includes an interactive exhibit that asks you if you'd make the same choices as Bush did for certain events and then tells you you're wrong if you didn't choose as he did--is part and parcel of this race to soften the image of the man who spent trillions of dollars enriching his cronies and killing thousands of Americans in two unnecessary wars and ineptly-managed disaster relief while almost causing a global financial crash, which drove an wealth disparity in this country not seen since the Gilded Age.
Those are messy facts that are hard to dismiss. But they're easy to ignore. Especially when you decide to focus on a completely irrelevant aspect of George W. Bush: how nice he is on a one-on-one basis. So, of course, this is the tactic Dancin' David Gregory takes in interviewing GWB's Iraq War bestie, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair:
GREGORY: You saw President Bush up close as a man during very difficult times for any leader. Talk about your relationship, what it was like to sit there today and this moment of finality even for a former president at the dedication of his library.
MR. BLAIR: Well, I thought it was a great (Unintelligible) for America today by the way. I mean, you had five presidents including President Obama, and all behaving with a sort of graciousness and-- and civility towards each other. I thought it was fantastic. And President Obama actually put his finger on it when he said it’s impossible to know George Bush and not like him. So, you know, often people say to me back home, they say, come on, you didn’t like him really, did you? And I say, you can totally disagree with him but as a human being he is a someone of immense character and genuine integrity. So, you know, you can say-- people have different views about decisions, but there’s a very few people who-- who don’t like him and respect him as a person.
I'm sorry, but what a load of crap that is. I'm sure that there were contemporaries of Millard Fillmore and Warren G. Harding who found them charming and friendly and enjoyed their company personally. Fillmore was able to charm and romance his schoolteacher into marrying him. Harding was famous for his poker parties while corruption ran rampant during his Prohibition years.
But despite those warm, personal relationships, neither Fillmore nor Harding could ever be considered good presidents. Why? Because those close personal relationships didn't translate into acting well on behalf of the larger nation. In that, their personal charm failed them--and the country--utterly.
And it is the same with Bush. So no, I don't care if Tony Blair found him likeable on a personal level. "The kind of guy you want to have a beer with" is not what should measure George Bush's presidency. What I --and what David Gregory should -- care about is whether the presidency of George W. Bush actually benefitted the nation at large.
By any measure, that answer is no.