After eight years of acting on gut instinct and ignoring the tide of public opinion, George W. Bush is coming to recognize the extent to which his Administration has damaged the country. Marking this recognition is a concerted effort by the White House to stage an all-out defense of Bush's presidency. While it is common for presidents to take an active part in shaping their own legacies with autobiographies, charity dinners and victory laps around the lecture circuit, rarely has a president done so while still in the Oval Office.
The most prominent example, so far, of the Bush Administration's eagerness to defend its
record has been the White House publication of a 41-page document entitled "100 Things Americans May Not Know About The Bush Administration Record." In any list of "100 Things..." I would expect each claim to be numbered. Either, I have set the bar too high or the White House predictably failed to find a hundred positive achievements to number, because they didn't number them. In any case, of the hundred-ish so-called "achievements" highlighted in this document, I cannot find even one to convince me that these past eight years have been anything but an unmitigated disaster.
Let me begin, as the document does, by drawing attention to the claim that the Bush Administration has "kept America safe." In a breath-taking caveat, this document notes that its claim only includes the period after September 11th. The document papers over the fact that the Bush Administration was on watch when the terrorists struck. Choosing to relegate these attacks to the position of footnote -figuratively speaking, that is - is the equivalent of calling post-1994 post-murder O.J. Simpson a responsible member of society. In casting aside 9/11, the Bush Administration is not only demonstrating their willingness to be selective in their use of facts, but it is endangering U.S. actions abroad by engendering extremism, in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Another equally significant point is the self-defeating claim that the Bush Administration
"warned of the risk that government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac posed to America's financial security beginning in 2001." Told as I am that this is a document being used to highlight success, I find myself questioning - as I frequently do -the intelligence of Bush Administration officials, particularly those responsible for this document's production and publication. Drawing attention to this sort of 'achievement' - particularly given their crony Congress's complicity (until 2006 anyway) - merely draws attention to the Administration's failures. Though addressing problems with Fannie and Freddie at an earlier date would not have diverted us away from a recession, it may have reduced the number of Americans who have been badly affected.
What this document tells me is that the Administration's efforts to positively shape the President's legacy will continue to be marred by the same degree of incompetence that it has exhibited these past eight years. Here is a suggestion, Mr. President: have your staff ghost-write your memoirs, making the target audience the Under-10s demographic. That way, those who read your book will not have been victims of your incompetence and, as such, they will be more receptive to your efforts to convince them of your version of history. Plus, if it's a book for children, it will be the sort of thing you could enjoy, back at the ranch. Win, Win.