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George W. Bush unplugged


 

Call it a motivational series or a legacy-burnishing tour: President George W. Bush has been on a cross-Canada speaking tour conveying the lessons he learned over the course of his eight years in the White House. He governed through some of the most challenging crises in U.S. history and has been using the events to explain and defend the policies he implemented during those tumultuous times. Furthermore, his speaking tour serves as a prelude to the book he intends to publish next year. With Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld soon to publish their own accounts of the Bush years, it will be interesting to see if Bush’s view of his tenure differs in any substantial way with that of his collaborators. Historians and critics will surely have a field day parsing through the interpretations.

For the sake of full disclosure, I should note I acted as moderator for last week’s stop in Montreal. The event began with a speech by Bush and was followed by a conversation on topics related to his remarks and his overall presidency. It was not meant to be a substitute for a journalistic interview nor was it intended to be a debate on some of the more controversial aspects of his presidency. The segment with yours truly lasted approximately a half-hour and covered, among other topics, the events following 9-11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, his view of the future of the Republican Party, and his own assessment of his achievements and shortcomings. Time being short, some topics like the financial meltdown and Canada’s role in the world were not covered.

It became clear from the outset of his address that Bush enjoys these events. Whether or not you agree with him, he is certainly entertaining and engaging. He showed he still possesses that “I’d-have-a-beer-with-him” quality many say played a big role in his political success.

Bush expressed few regrets with respect to his policies in the aftermath of 9/11. One critic wrote that he envied Bush’s no remorse view of his presidency. To be fair, his speech was not just bluster; he admitted some things could have been done differently and did offer some regrets, especially with respect to Hurricane Katrina. On the whole, though, he remains certain his decisions to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq were correct, and that his efforts to bring democracy to the Middle East and prevent a new attack on U.S. soil are the stuff historians will take into consideration in their assessment of his years in office. He was most eloquent and appealing when he spoke of family, the spread of freedom, and the importance of values in the conduct of his office.

Those opposed to Bush’s policies, both domestic and foreign, will no doubt remain so despite his affable nature. And there are compelling accounts to support the critics’ claims his decisions were not based on sound intelligence and accurate information. Harsher critics point to the “criminal” nature of his administration’s alleged disregard of the U.S. Constitution—the torture memos, for instance, remain an important factor behind the decline of his popularity and have led to some strong early indictments by some historians. Still, it cannot be ignored that some of Mr. Bush’s opponents conveniently forget they failed to ask the key questions or challenge assumptions at critical moments, preferring to follow the popular tendency of the day. And that is saying nothing of the obvious complicity of some of the media outlets who embedded themselves with troops on the battlefield.

In the short term, it is difficult to see how the Bush 43 presidency can be salvaged. I have been very critical of the past administration and suggested that George W. Bush’s presidency was a factor in the rise of Barack Obama. In the long term, however, it is less certain that his presidency will be seen in such a negative light. Should democracy become well installed in the Middle East beyond Israel over the coming years, Bush will deserve much of the credit. Bush likes to remind his audiences that Harry S. Truman left office as a very unpopular president. Sixty years later, Truman is considered a successful president.

A prominent Democrat suggested to me that when Bush is forced to choose between decency and ideology, he generally chooses decency. This explains his attempt at achieving a bipartisan solution to immigration reform and his dedication to the fight against AIDS in Africa. At the Montreal meeting, Mr. Bush showed a side of himself that was gracious, charming, unpretentious, and downright likeable. Sure, he remains a polarizing figure. But, at the end of the day, in the interests of enriching our historical perspective of the man, it is a worthwhile exercise for Bush to be out there unplugged.


 

George W. Bush unplugged

  1. "A prominent Democrat suggested to me that when Bush is forced to choose between decency and ideology, he generally chooses decency."

    That's generous of prominent Dem. Bush is either decent or conservative, can't be both apparently. It's amazing the self-regard liberals have for themselves.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/arti

    • The prominent Democrat forgets that over 4000 Americans are because of a lie. Yes ,decency and conservative are NOT the same thing , jolyon.You should know better.

  2. Good point. I can't see how this false choice exists, considering the fact that most people choose an ideology that is decent.

    • To scf and jolyon :

      You guys have problems . i see this account as trying to be fair to BUsh . He certainly does not desrve it . Over 4000 Americans died and 100000 Iraqis because Cheney fabricated a war with wofowicz and Rumsfeld . Parisella is too kind . These guys are CRIMINALS . Bush should have been impeached . Cheney is a liar and unconvicted felon . Rumsfeld should tried with war criminals . That is the truth . Bush allowed this to happen. He should be banned from Canada for lying and getting innocent people killed. Worst president ever who happens to be a conservative . And no , he is nor decent . He is a LIAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!scf and jolyon still defend that moron . Chretien`s aide was right .

  3. I don't think that's an accurate read of the comment at all, jolyon. Clearly, there are cases where doing something ideologically consistent would also be indecent. The Dem seemed to be saying that in those cases, Bush chose decency, not that every choice was between decency and ideology.

  4. When is Alex Jones coming to Canada on his speaking tour or how about former FBI agent Colleen Rowley to discuss the still unanswered questions about the lead up to 9/11.

  5. I was frankly amazed Mr. Parisella that you were allowed to be a moderator seeing how you wear your political and ideological allegiances on your sleeve, when I read the account of the evening in Marissal's column in La Presse.

    I guess if you're outside of politics, as George W. is now, you don't quite have the advance team as when you're still in the game.

    • Here's the column jarrid is talking about and the article Agnès Gruda: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/international/etats-unihttp://www.cyberpresse.ca/opinions/chroniqueurs/v

      I find it quite funny that Parisella got the moderator job knowing that he did campaign for the democrats in New Hampshire in 2000, 2004 and 2008, although he is well connected in the province.

      "And that is saying nothing of the obvious complicity of some of the media outlets who embedded themselves with troops on the battlefield."

      Reminds me of a documentary on how the media did no investigate the WMDs claims of the White House prior to the Iraq invasion. When ask why the media did not do there job, the late Tim Russert answered that the Democrats were not against it, both parties were on the same page so the media did not see fit to investigate.

    • Here's the column jarrid is talking about and the article Agnès Gruda: http://www.cyberpresse.ca/international/etats-unihttp://www.cyberpresse.ca/opinions/chroniqueurs/v

      I find it quite funny that Parisella got the moderator job knowing that he did campaign for the democrats in New Hampshire in 2000, 2004 and 2008, although he is well connected in the province.

      "And that is saying nothing of the obvious complicity of some of the media outlets who embedded themselves with troops on the battlefield."

      Reminds me of a documentary on how the media did no investigate the WMDs claims of the White House prior to the Iraq invasion. When ask why the media did not do there job, the late Tim Russert answered that the Democrats were not against it, both parties were on the same page so the media did not see fit to investigate.

  6. Interesting piece.

    Honest admissions (like this) that Bush is neither idiotic nor evil must really rock the world of those who've been screaming "Bush!tler" for the last 9 years.

    • A better comparison is that poor old lovable clown Hindenburg.

  7. Sadly we will have to wait for the details of what "torture" successfully achieved in avoiding planned terrorist attacks. It was only used on specific high level terrorists and we have been told terrorist acts were stopped as a result. Just as CSIS has had to not reveal evidence against terrorists currently on trial in Canada because it would reveal their ongoing operations the Guantanamo interrogations must for the moment be kept secret. This is not new, it was always the case in WW2 and other wars.

  8. History will note the association of the rapid decline of mass media, and the reporting of the Bush years.

    We saw the fawning converse with the Obama election.

    Bush's greatest "fault" was having an unapologetic vision that markedly differed from some voters, and every single member of the press.

    And so Bush was never just mistaken, he was a "liar!!". He didn't have honestly held beliefs, he was malevolent. He was characaturized, insulted, and generally disprespected for it, yet he never showed the thinned skinnedness that we now know Obama has.

    Sadly, we will also see the juxtaposition of a leader who takes security of his country seriously, and who does not bow to adolcent beliefs that war is caused, not by radical regimes and belief systems that vow to do harm to benevolent democracies, but by us not being "nice" enough to those misunderstood radicals,

    with a leader who is beholden to those groups, and hand extending to every leader no matter how vile, radical, and no matter how they'll interpret the soft warm extended hand of the paper tiger being snickered at.

  9. The present is fickle, but history is enduring.

    While we slowly stop adoring Obama's call for "peace in our time" history will recall another man, also adored at the time, who uttered those words, and who history has never forgiven. A virtual historical pariah, Chamberlain was absolutely loved in the fickle present.

    I dare say, Bush's course is turning out to be quite the opposite.

  10. "Still, it cannot be ignored that some of Mr. Bush's opponents conveniently forget they failed to ask the key questions or challenge assumptions at critical moments, preferring to follow the popular tendency of the day."

    Sorry, but that's bulls**t. Many, many people asked "key" questions and challenged assumptions PRIOR to the invasion of Iraq. THEY were the ones who were "conveniently" ignored, or dismissed as unpatriotic. And yes, the media were complicit in this.

  11. When will we get over the myth that the media's "job" is to hold government accountable? The media's job is to sell advertising, nothing more, nothing less. There may once have been a "higher purpose to media (I'm talking about "mainstream" media, not the internet or independant outlets), but the last unambiguous example of that is Thomas Paine and his contemporaries.

    That doesn't mean that the media CANT have an important role in holding the government accountable. But the primary responsibility of holding governments accountable falls to the citizen, not to private commercial interests. So disengagement from the political process is not really a responsible option.

    Mainstream media does not lead, it follows. If there are socio-political trends present in the population, it will naturally exploit those to ensure its relevance and continue to sell advertising. But given the lack of resources allocated to true investigative journalism, and reliance on "press releases" as the basis of "stories", it is pointless to rely on the media as a font of "truth"

    • Get real ,Martin. The media had their flags on their lapels and opinionated journalists like Dobbbs and Matthews just followed . Fox is the Bush press office . Democrats voted with a strong majority to give Bush a blank check. Clinton , Kerry , Edwards all said yes . Obama said no but he has to pick up the pieces today . Bush was never challenged. FLAGS ON LAPELS-even Jay Leno . It was hysteria and Bush had 90% rating . Where were you Martin ?iN HIGH SCHOOL ,I assume.

  12. Perhaps you had better re-read what I wrote, Imn. I'm sorry you were unaware of the serious questions and doubts that were raised at the time. Perhaps if you read , listened to, or watched anything BUT the mainstream media you would have known that. Also, I think you may be confusing the hysteria around 9-11 and the decision to attack AFGHANISTAN with the later decision to attack Iraq, which is what I'm refering to. Don't you remember Powell going to the UN and trying to "prove" that Iraq had WMD's? Frankly, it was pathetic and transparently desperate.

    FLAGS ON LAPELS….really? In the aftermath of 9-11, when the Americans had been attacked on home soil for the first time since Pearl Harbour, when they first realized that they too were vulnerable to the type of attacks that have plagued the rest of the world, OF COURSE they're going to unify. But it wasn't the media that was leading this, it was the people.

    In any case, Americans are prone to wear flags on lapels even when they haven't been attacked or are feeling vulnerable. It's just what they do. I wouldn't get so worked up about it.

  13. Bush's motivation creed – can't beat 'em, cheat 'em.

  14. Yeah , OntarioTown . You got it . The guy was a dangerous and dumb cowboy who was following the real president -Dick Cheney . Rumsfeld and Cheney should be tried.

    As for Martin ,we seem to agree about bush and what he really was. But Democrats could have done better and POWELL SHOULD HAVE RESIGNED. Instead , he lied to keep his job. The media was complicit including MSNBC. It aws not just mainstream . CNN was spinning Pentagon crappola .

    • Ah, see, there's the problem! I consider MSNBC and CNN both to be very mainstream.

  15. Pandering understatement of the week: "…there are compelling accounts to support the critics' claims his decisions were not based on sound intelligence and accurate information."

    I think this Canadian focus has been an attempt to make it look like Bush can visit foreign countries without getting arrested for war crimes.

    I'd say all he has proven so far is that he is free to travel to countries which are headed up by one of his very few friends that haven't been thrown out of office yet due to their association with him.

    • You make a strong argument against giving him a forum . It is all about justifying what Americans judged to be unjustifiable when less than 30% approved of him in office.he has been across Canada but not too present in his own country .

  16. G.W. Bush is not a bad person but the people he surrounded himself with are some of the venimous creatures ever lived. The likes of Donald Rumsfelf,Cheney,and Richard Perle and other warmongers that put the whole world to a standstill and utter misery. Yes, he has to take the blame for what happened, but every keen US politics analyst, knows that Cheney was the one calling the shots, therefore, let's cut some slack for the guy. He left us some of the unforgetable bushisms that made us laugh heartly.

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