When John Adams left the White House for the final time in March of 1801 he did so on a public stagecoach at 4:00 a.m.—eight hours prior to his successor’s inauguration. Most of his political enemies and many of his friends interpreted the act as that of “a petulant old man,” leaving Washington in the dark of night, bitter after coming out on the losing end of an election which historian David McCullough describes as “a contest of personal vilification surpassing any presidential election in American history.”
The fact is, as McCullough points out, there was no precedent for a defeated president attending the inaugural of his successor, nor had Adams been invited to attend the ceremony. McCullough notes that Adams simply “felt immense relief to be homeward-bound, free finally of his burdens, his conscience ‘neat and easy.’”
There is no question that George W. Bush shares Adams’ sentiments. No president in my memory has been as vilified in the media, or by the American public, as our 43rd president. When he took his place on the inaugural dais to witness the swearing in of his successor, Mr. Bush was greeted by the childish chants of Obama supporters: “Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.” So much for partisan goodwill.
President Bush leaves Washington the way he came in. You may recall that on January 20, 2001—the day of George W. Bush’s first Inaugural—the Bush team entered their offices at the White House for the first time to discover that Clinton staffers had trashed them, going so far as to remove all of the “W’s” from their computers. Pettiness, it seems, is a virtue among those who support Democrat presidents.
President Bush has maintained his dignity through it all—and by doing so has demonstrated he is a superior man. If a Christian is identified by their emulation of Jesus Christ, Mr. Bush fits the description: “When he was reviled, he reviled not again.”
History will judge whether George W. Bush was a great president. But given how he has personally conducted himself in the midst of much personal vilification, it has already been decided that he is a great man. While polls tallied his rising unpopularity, Mr. Bush maintained his resolve to do what he knew was right and in the best interests of the nation, a virtue I fear will be conspicuously absent from the incoming administration.