When I first wrote that George Bush the Younger would be the Worst President in United States history, it was before he had taken office. Too many of our members, perhaps used to the give and take of backroom politics, seemed to think I was using hyperbole, or, more likely, just being mean to the guy heading the other, winning team.
Although most humans are not capable of real mental change, I would like to think that our members are smarter and more open-minded than the average human being, and that, as we have gone through all of the increasingly-crazy and damaging results of Bush’s time in office, they have come to see that I was not being unkind, just predicting something true.
Now we know, as much as one can ever know something: George Bush was indeed the Worst President in the history of the country, by any measure. The list is so long, and so impressive: lying to the people to get them into a war which he had literally mapped out with oil company names almost a year earlier, for example. That has to be a capital offense of the most egregious kind. Killing half a million to a million innocent civilians in the process. Wow. Institutionalizing torture in the U.S.; eavesdropping illegally, domestically; vitiating most of the Bill of Rights; stocking the Justice Department three levels deep with hires (and firings) based solely on political litmus tests; stealing elections with compromised votes on the Supreme Court. And destroying the world economy, or nearly so, with a little prior help from Clinton and the banking lobby.
It’s an amazing list, and much longer.
And now George appears to have earned himself one last Legacy Crown. What else will he be remembered for? With Jimmy Carter perhaps the best act in the role of ex-presidency, we now have a new entry: the Most Invisible Ex-President.
Many presidents honor the unwritten rule of not criticizing their replacements; it is more dignified, better politics, and suits the country’s foreign interests more obviously. But what we see today is not reticence, it’s something altogether different. Hopefully we have some excellent historians in our ranks, and I would like to issue this as an academic challenge: if there has been any ex-president who was less visible, starting the minute of his replacement, please let us know who it was. I am not a historian, but it seems unlikely that it would be humanly impossible to pull off a more effective disappearing act.
What caused Bush to vanish? This is not about him “working on his memoirs.” Immediately after leaving office, he put himself on the speaker’s market. There was, in all of the civilized world, only one city that bit: Calgary, the only major oil city in North America outside of Texas. Compare this to Bill Clinton, with all of his PR problems after leaving office, charging $250k+ per speech, and booking speeches several nights per week around the globe for years after his departure from office – while he wrote his memoirs. It’s how he paid off the $12MM or so in legal cost debt he took from public office.
No, this silence is something else. It could be fear of prosecution, internationally for war crimes, nationally for any of a series of crimes laid out for alternative radio by Al Gore, and in print by others. There are no lack of grounds, or prosecutors. Efforts have already begun outside the U.S. to bring him to international justice.
Or it might be something deeper than fear of retribution. Perhaps he is just starting to catch on to what he did to the country and the world, and as it sinks in, he can think of nothing but hiding in shame from public view.
Nah, no way. He’s just scared. The handlers told him to shut up so Jeb could get to work re-framing the family name, in time for his own run at the big job.