With the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum set to open tomorrow, many journos this week are examining the life and legacy of the 43rd president. While some remain sour on his presidency, the latter Bush's approval rating has in fact gained 14 points since his final poll in office, bringing him to a lukewarm 47 percent. Jennifer Rubin's column yesterday "Bush is Back" seems to feel this is a landslide victory in the eyes of history. Her main points:
1) "Unlike Obama’s tenure, [under Bush] there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11."
Not true, but even if it were, why does Bush get a pass for the largest terror attack in American history? While you can read a list of several such attacks after 9/11 here, as a native Washingtonian the DC sniper attacks are a particularly prominent memory. In October 2002, my high school went into "lock down" after reports that men in a white box truck were shooting people at random in the vicinity. That spree, which Lee Boyd Malvo later testified was motivated by "jihad," killed ten and wounded three. Obama rightly gets heat for Boston and Benghazi later in the piece, but Rubin's logic is warped.
2) "It turned out that the triumvirate of Iraq-Iran-North Korea really was the Axis of Evil."
According to whom? This so-called Axis of Evil is one person's perception of the world rather than a fact (unlike, say, whether or not a country is stockpiling WMDs) and can't be proved or disproved as an objective truth. I have no doubt that Obama himself is another point on Rubin's personal Axis of Evil, but she neglects to reiterate that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction as Bush purported. In addition, what kind of diplomacy does labeling certain countries as inherently "evil" beget? While North Korea is truly out there, perpetuation of this language has served only to further complicate our relationships with Iraq and Iran at a time when more careful diplomacy is necessary.
3) He presided over "7 1/2 years of job growth and prosperity" and "can be credited with helping to calm the markets and stabilize financial institutions."
Bush's policies continue to constitute the largest portion of the current public debt, and it's anticipated that the effects of this will be felt long after Obama has left office. Rubin conveniently seems to forget the 2008 global financial crisis, which brought the market to its knees and pushed unemployment through the roof.
4) "Even [Bush's] dreaded enhanced interrogation. . .contributed to our locating and assassinating Osama bin Laden."
Stanley McChrystal himself said that enhanced interrogation did not work and concluded that "sitting down and just talking with people" proved far more effective. As far as Bin Laden goes, a 6,000 page Senate Intelligence Committee report found that torture did not produce any valuable intel that led to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
Rubin's review of the Bush 43 legacy glosses over 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, staggering debt and large intelligence gathering failures preceding the Iraq War. Perhaps it's unsurprising then that she's able to come to such a sunny conclusion. While the Bush library may present an opportunity for the president to refresh his image, he's going to need far more help than Jennifer Rubin can provide to come out on top.