As President Obama joined four ex-presidents for the dedication of a facility honoring his immediate predecessor, comparisons were unavoidable.
Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were teenagers during the depression. The childhoods of Bill Clinton and the honoree, George W. Bush, spanned the 1950s.
Generational and political differences jump out from any perusal of these five presidencies. But on a cool, sun-splashed morning in Dallas, there was harmony all around for the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.
But as soon as the kind words of the morning were concluded, I dove back into the messy remains of a week containing tough, pressing issues: What to make of the Boston bombers? How to fix immigration? And what to do about an administration forcing pain onto citizens to make them fear spending cuts?
And that’s just today.
Who knows what the future will bring in the remaining 45 months of the Obama presidency?
With those prospects wrapped around us constantly, amid a week of revisitation of the Bush years, a diverting exercise occurred to me. What if Bush were president today?
I don’t mean at the beginning of what would be a fourth term. Who knows what Bush policies would have yielded during the years since 2009? (Although I dare say the product would have been preferable to what we have lived through).
No, for the sake of this flight of political fancy, we’re going to roust Mr. Bush from the retirement he seems to be enjoying so profoundly and put him back in the Oval Office right now.
This is made more adventurous by 43’s steadfast refusal to weigh in on meaty issues since he left office. This is a show of consummate class and restraint that is foreign to the likes of Jimmy Carter, who remains embittered by the pink slip handed him by the American people 32 years ago.
So with no archive of articles featuring George W. riffing on events of the last four years, we are left with his record and the handful of quote nuggets he has offered up in interviews this week.
As Vice President Joe Biden returns from a Boston memorial service where he referred to the Tsarnaev brothers as “cowardly, knock-off jihad’s,” the first thing I know is that a Bush administration would not be trying so hard to block any narrative assigning deep terrorist roots to the bombings.
We have much to learn about the brothers’ influences and motives, but as we learned of the jihadist flavor of their lives, it was another example of the term “radical Islam” sticking in this White House’s throat.