02/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Where Has the Time Gone?

Dear President Bush,

Has it been eight years already? Where did the time go?

I know I've been critical of your administration, especially on the key issues -- Iraq, WMD's, torture, your attempt to dismantle Social Security, your slow response on Katrina, etc.

I never thought I would say this, but I owe you a debt of gratitude.

In your eight years I never experienced a columnist's worst nightmare -- on deadline with absolutely nothing to write about. Writer's block was never a concern. All I had to do was peruse the morning paper, and like clockwork, you would provide the fodder for the next column.

You were unaware, no doubt bogged down with more important matters. But because of you, I wrote my first book, "Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War." I even listed you in the acknowledgments, along with friends and family though we have never been formally introduced.

You had more impact on the country than any other president in my lifetime. Historically, one may have to go back to FDR to find a commander in chief that had more influence on the republic.

I realize the last statement, taken at face value, will cause consternation among those on the political left. But impact, as it is defined, is not necessarily a positive virtue.
Tell me, who has played as loose with the Constitution as you and gone virtually unchallenged by the legislative branch.

In 2007, your attorney general justified your signing a law that stripped federal courts of their authority to hear habeas corpus suits by noncitizens labeled "enemy combatants," stating: "The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas."

The mere fact that the attorney general's erroneous declaration that calls into question the bedrock of the Bill of Rights did not cause a re-enactment of Shays' Rebellion on a national scale is itself a minor miracle.

With the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, you managed to make the Fourth Amendment a secondary consideration and a bipartisan majority of Congress went along with the farce.

As you leave office, you clearly reestablished power to the executive branch not seen in the post-Watergate era. I suspect the new guy will not be leading the charge to relinquish the power you've bequeathed him.

Members of your party, which also constituted the majority in Congress for a good portion of your two terms, failed their constitutional responsibilities by not asking the tough questions as they contemplated the most serious action this nation could undertake.

The other party, with few exceptions, cloaked themselves in the shroud of fear, as they aided and abetted your desire to fast track an unnecessary war.

Let us not forget that it was members of your administration who came up with the grandiose strategy to politicize the judiciary branch with the intent of making the GOP a permanent majority party. That action might trump Nixon's "plumbers."

But the area I am most indebted is your contribution in assisting me in defining my writing voice as public morality. Public morality is based on the simple premise that we take the notion of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, along with the American experiment seriously.

You honed for me, like no other president, that being an American is much larger than watchwords, slogans, shibboleths, or anything that might fit within the contours of a bumper sticker.

As discussions abound about your legacy, what I will take going forward is no individual, political party or issue can be granted the benefit of the doubt if the downside can cause us, as a people, to infringe upon our public morality.

On Jan. 20 at approximately 12:01 p.m., you will become a private citizen. I will reference you and your administration only for historical context. I will not be an apologist for the new administration by blaming you for current events saying: "Bush did it too!"

Disagreements, notwithstanding, it has been a journey I will not soon forget. But in case I do come down with the occasional writer's block, can I call you from time to time?

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at or visit his website:

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