Barack Obama is demonstrating bottomless reservoirs of gracelessness. A full 13 months after his election, in the course of justifying the deployment of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, President Obama could not spare a word of praise for George W. Bush -- not even when recounting the nation's "unified" response to 9/11. To the contrary, throughout his pained recitation of the choices we face in Afghanistan, he adverted at least half a dozen times to the supposed blunders of his predecessor.
It's beginning to sound whiny -- and unpresidential. Enough about the terrible mess he inherited. Let's hear a little more about the tremendous honor that has been bestowed on him. Ronald Reagan inherited a worse situation in 1980 -- inflation at 13.5 percent; the prime rate at 21 percent; the Soviets in Afghanistan; American hostages in Tehran; communist coups in 10 new countries over the previous decade -- but Reagan never impugned his predecessor. As biographer Lou Cannon noted "Reagan ... was generous to Carter in his public statements even though he did not care for him."
George W. Bush showed the same chivalry toward Bill Clinton, declining to breathe a negative word about him -- even when sorely tempted by the pardon scandal that further tarnished an already clouded tenure. Even now, despite the unremitting barrage from his successor, Bush keeps silent, true to his tradition of civility toward opponents.
President Obama is so spiteful that he warps history to fit his prejudices. Everything was going brilliantly in Afghanistan, he explains, until "the decision was made to wage a second war, in Iraq." Iraq took the lion's share of resources and ruined our international reputation, he argues. But in the next sentence, without acknowledging the surge (far less the courage Bush demonstrated in pursuing it despite tremendous political and military pressure against it), Obama boasts that "we are bringing the Iraq War to a successful conclusion" and "successfully leaving Iraq to its people."