Dear Mr. Former President Bush:
On the day you left office, our local newspaper ran a cartoon that capitalized on your departure and the US Airways plane that had landed in the Hudson River several days before.
There you were, grim smile on your face, standing on the highest part of the fuselage (I suspect the cartoonist’s subconscious thought that to be a metaphor for the people waiting to be rescued from Hurricane Katrina …you remember, the first hurricane ever caused by a US President) as the airship of state, re-liveried by the cartoonist to simply say USA, floundered, on its way to foundering, I suppose, in the Hudson.
On that same day, you showed enormous grace in the final transfer of power to our new President, as you had, and for which he had recognized you several times, throughout this transition to what all of us hope is a brand new day.
How odd, that at a time of great hope, we are treated to so strange a juxtaposition: A cheap, clever-not-creative, rude to the office of the presidency cartoon, laying all the blame for everything on you and cheapening the heroic performance of the brilliant pilot who saved all those lives… against the generous courtesy and decency of your and Mrs. Bush’s interactions with President and Mrs. Obama on the steps of the Capitol and in front of Marine 1.
So, that is where we stand, Sir. It’s “President-as-lightning-rod.” Defined by the founding fathers as a society dedicated to responsibility, we have created, instead, a culture of blame and accusation. Therefore, it’s your fault we were hit on September 11, 2001 because you were the President; it’s your fault that the economy tanked at the end of your Presidency. It’s your fault that our stature in Europe is diminished and it will be your fault if anything at all becomes President Obama’s fault because it was your fault that you left him all this mess!
How do I know all this? Easy! Wolf Blitzer and Campbell Brown told me so (by the way, have you noticed that the big-time American “journalists” no longer win Pulitzers; they win Emmys?). Apparently, millions of Americans agree that you are to blame for everything. You enjoyed (actually, you probably didn’t enjoy it at all) the worst approval numbers of any President in our history. But, I wonder, were those approval ratings meant for you or, if we were honest, might we say they were really meant for ourselves, only we were to chicken to accept the blame for our own role in it all. Let me tell you what I think I mean with one gory little allegory:
Back when my stock portfolio was earning 30% gains (and I had no idea why), I loved Wall Street, I loved America and its Presidents (Clinton and you, since my gains occurred during your terms). Now that my stock portfolio has lost 28% (I’m one of the lucky ones) I hate Wall Street, I can’t believe what’s happened to America and I must therefore blame you. And, do it with a lack of civility; with a hard, sarcastic edge, with a near venomous disdain for you and with a few choice insults to your intelligence and your motivation thrown in for added effect.
I think, Citizen George Bush, that we looked at our own reflections, didn’t like what we saw and blamed you. It was much easier to do that than to control our own greed or admit our own mistakes or assume our responsibilities to each other in some way other than slogans.
History will judge your place in the big picture of things. Many of us believe your War on Terror was and is necessary. Many of us think you threatened our freedom and privacy with it. Few of us still understand the difference between threatening ourselves vs. threatening those who wish to extinguish our dream and, in our inherent goodness, we posit the fine and decent notion that, somehow, we need to allow the hit to happen on us rather than impede the freedom of someone to make that hit.
History will judge if our standing in Europe declined because of you, or simply because, given the choice of doing hundreds of billions of Euros of business with Iran over standing against its new adventures in Jihadism, our Eurofriends chose the money.
What history will not judge is how little value our shrill loudness, our intolerance, our lack of kindness, our surrendering our own ability to think to the so-called “thought leaders” in the media, add to the joy of our lives and the progress of our nation.