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.
Say what you will about the methods and strategies of Bush’s war on terror. At least he waged it, and he never failed to identify the enemy by name.
Obama fans grow frustrated that despite killing bin Laden, keeping Guantanamo open and launching the (brief) Afghan surge, the 44th president does not carry the image of a brave protector of America.
That is because we cannot truly fight terror unless we recognize where it comes from. When Obama wants to protect our lives with the same energy he expends protecting Muslim feelings, we will be instantly safer.
On immigration, I suspect Bush would favor the Rubio-led “Gang of Eight” reform plan. I get that feeling because I have big problems with that plan, and they match up with some of my criticisms of immigration policy under Bush, who was never the border warrior many conservatives wanted him to be.
Nor was he the spending-cutter Republicans supposedly require. This makes me suspect he might work to erode the sequester, which I love more with each passing day.
But if W were to plug back in, even with all of his “big-government conservative” instincts, in no way would he approach the severity of the plunder we have seen under Obama. And if he were to spend more than I would like, at least it would be fueled by the engine of an economy energized by lower taxes.
If the fiscal issues would be a mixed bag, at least the social agenda would be returned to some level of human decency.
There is a reason why Barack Obama knows any remarks he makes to Planned Parenthood are an invitation to a reputational barbecue. He knows-- or should know-- that we are reminded of his Illinois State Senate votes against protecting babies who happen to survive the carnage of abortion. And we are stunned by the silence of this White House amid the ghoulish revelations of the Kermit Gosnell trial.
I don’t pretend that President Bush would be issuing daily Gosnell laments as the trial goes to the jury, but we would regain a President who believes the unborn deserve protection, and who would nominate Supreme Court justices who would see to it that states wishing to issue that protection were not thwarted by the constitutional obscenity that is Roe v. Wade.
But I do not suggest that a reinstalled Bush would seek a national abortion ban, any more than he would seek a federal definition of marriage as one man and one woman.
Much is made of Laura Bush’s quote favoring “the same sort of rights” for gay marrieds. That is not “marriage equality” in its strictest sense, and she made clear to an advocacy group that she does not wish to be joined in an ad with various figures who have boarded the equivalency train.
I believe the Bush approach would be to push for strong abortion limits and unique recognition of man-woman marriage in every state, with the knowledge that states may ultimately do what they wish on those issues.
Would that the current administration respected the states’ right to run their own affairs on matters not specifically described in the Constitution.
In short, a new Bush presidency would probably satisfy conservatives in some ways and annoy them in others, much as his eight actual years did.
But at the dawn of a second term of Europe-style neo-socialism, insufficient attention to global evil and hard-left social leanings, it would be a substantial improvement.