Who would have thought? It's another October Surprise! But this time, no fake-raising of the Terror Alert chart to scare voters. Former president George W. Bush has returned! Twelve days before the election. On a silver platter for Democrats. Telling voters that his greatest failure while president was not privatizing Social Security!
George Bush, Republican icon, is the gift that keeps on giving.
Oh, sure, most of those gifts you'd love to return unopened -- the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, two wars that include one started on a lie, approving torture, doubling the national debt to $10.7 trillion, creating a $482 billion budget deficit from a surplus, and causing disastrously-high unemployment.
But this gift? O it's an early Christmas! Fa la la.
Among other things, it gives lie to the snarky quip from Republicans on behalf of Mr. Bush -- "Miss Me Yet?" Sarah Palin, the former half-term Republican governor, has had joyful fun describing how much she misses George Bush. John Cornyn (R-TX), chair of the Republican Senatorial Committee, told C-SPAN, "I think a lot of people are looking back with a little -- with more fondness on President Bush's administration."
Yet somehow, Republicans have avoided embracing Mr. Bush's glorious return. Go figure. But then, it's always easy to glorify the distantly remembered past, but once it reappears in full view the angst comes rushing back. It's like pining for an old boyfriend, and then after running into him, agonizingly remember, "Oh, my God!!!," why you despised the guy and broke up.
When George Bush left office, he had a 20 percent approval rating. (By comparison, in the latest Newsweek poll, Barack Obama is up six points, to 54 percent approve, with only 40 percent unapproving.)
And now George Bush is back. And the voting public gets to remember how oh-so-very-little it misses him.
The thing is, he makes it too easy. Perhaps that's what comes when you don't have Dick Cheney and Karl Rove whispering in your ear. Consider:
At a financial convention in Chicago last Thursday, Mr. Bush defended his $700 billion TARP package, explaining, "I did not want to be a president overseeing a depression greater than the Great Depression."
Who would?! Instead he left it to his successor. The cluelessness and total coldness of this statement is breathtaking. Avoiding a "depression greater than the Great Depression" is a pathetic accomplishment, as if "second worst" is okay. But more deplorable, his suggestion of success blithely ignores the financial disaster he did oversee.
Yet better still for Democrats, by acknowledging that it was he, George Bush, who created TARP, it explodes the myth that it was Barack Obama. (Mind you, many consider these payments important. But TARP is despised by today's Far Right and members of the Koch-sponsored Tea Party corporations, so, for them it's important to give full credit where due. George Bush.)
But it's even better still for Democrats. Because Mr. Bush also said, amazingly, "I would like to be remembered as a guy who had a set of priorities, and was willing to live by those priorities," adding, "my biggest accomplishment is that I kept the country safe amidst a real danger."
How honestly clueless does one have to be to say this? Having priorities and living by them sounds noble, but it's the same thing likely said by Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden. Or Dick Cheney. Or Lord Voldemort. Or Count Chocula. What's important is what the priorities are. But worse, to say he "kept the country safe" is spitting on the graves of the 3,000 who died when America was attacked as he sat reading My Pet Goat after ignoring a Presidential Daily Briefing.
But it's even better than that for Democrats. Because at his speech, Mr. Bush also told the audience -- are you ready? -- that his biggest failure as president was... not passing Social Security reform.
Never mind that he doesn't view crushing the U.S. economy as his greatest failure, or having American soil attacked. No, his top failure was not privatizing Social Security -- an idea that a recent Wall Street Journal poll shows 68 percent of Americans view either "very uncomfortably" or unfavorably.
Some estimates are that seniors might have lost up to 40 percent of their retirement funds if he'd succeeded, had they needed them when the stock market crashed.
"Miss Me Yet?"
You can almost hear the agonized gasps from Republicans nationwide when seeing Lazarus rise this close to the election, in time to remind independent and moderate voters how horrifically bad George Bush and the Republican Party was.
But even worse, this is the start of Mr. Bush's book tour for his autobiography. In time to remind those undecided voters what going back to the Bush Era would actually mean for America. And it ties George Bush directly to the words of John Boehner (R-OH), the man hoping to be Speaker of the House, when he recently presented the GOP "Pledge to America" --
"We are not going to be any different than what we've been."
And now we have George W. Bush's.
And that is the most important thing about George Bush reappearing, just in time for the elections. And Halloween. Because it gives full body and memory to precisely what the Republicans want to do if elected, what the far right and Koch-sponsored Tea Party corporations have on their agenda, and what return to the days of George W. Bush are about.
"Miss Me Yet?"
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/relisberg