Nick Fickling: At the end, president reaches out
Vail, CO, Colorado
In past columns I have been less than complimentary about President George W. Bush. I have questioned his judgment, how divisive his administration has been, how he has reacted to events rather than anticipating them and how under his presidency spending has ballooned out of control, adding to the national debt and so creating a delayed tax hike for future generations.
Until recently I could only think of two positive things to say about Bush’s eight years in office: the absence of a serious terrorist incident on American soil since 9/11, and the impact that the Bush administration has had on combating Aids around the World, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In recent weeks, however, Bush appears to have become a changed man, working as hard as he can for a seamless handover of power. Seemingly he has instructed his team to cooperate in every possible way with the Obama people.
In this lame-duck period, it would be easy to follow the poor example of President Clinton, who allowed his White House to make life difficult for the incoming Bush team, even allowing childish pranks such as removing the “W” from every computer keyboard in the White House.
So is Bush attempting to be the unifier and the center-right president he promised to be back in his first inaugural address, a president for all Americans? It is rather late for this effort to be made, but, as they say, better late than never.
When I mentioned my newfound admiration for “the Decider,” a cynical friend suggested that Bush is solely focused on legacy and that his efforts are merely an attempt to raise his poll numbers above abysmal before he leaves office. He pointed to a report of a study by University of Illinois researchers that the White House has been altering past press releases and other documents on its Web site to change the historical record of how many and which nations supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
OK, altering the facts to improve one’s legacy is nothing new. I am reminded of how the Tudors successfully “invented” Richard III’s hump on his back to blacken his name and cover the fact that they had stolen the throne. We all now believe Richard of York was an evil humpback, and that Henry Tudor, who was just as evil, was justified in taking the throne.
The manipulation of the facts and the historical record is, frankly, to be expected. Of greater concern is that making up stuff for the White House Web site must demand some pretty high up authorization. It is not the sort of thing that the person maintaining the website would just come up with.
Sadly, my newfound admiration for the lame-duck president has been replaced by a mental picture of “the Decider” sitting in the Oval Office with an atlas, various historical records and a Sharpie, and eventually picking Angola and Ukraine to add to the list of the original coalition.
Doesn’t he have more important things to be working on, such as the economy, two wars, health care and education, to name but a few? Sadly the answer is probably no.
Nick Fickling is retired from the British military and lives in the Vail Valley. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org