President Bush is making the media rounds this week, discussing his new memoir, "Decision Points." On Monday evening, he appeared in an hour long NBC primetime special with Matt Lauer, which I finally got around to watching last night.
The former President spoke compellingly about an experience during his teenage years that shaped his pro-life views, his drinking problem, the acrimony of the 2000 election, September 11, his relationship with Vice President Cheney, Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Iraq, Katrina, TARP, and his legacy. NBC News distilled the lengthy exchange into a 5 minute summary clip:
The man I saw in this interview was the leader for whom I proudly cast my first vote in 2004. Watching the program also reinforced the sense of pride I experienced when I served as an intern in his White House. President Bush is a thoughtful, decent, emotional, patriotic man faced and executed a series of excruciatingly difficult decisions over the course of an eight year presidency. As Michelle Malkin pointedly reminds us, he was far from perfect, but this interview makes clear that his decisions were based upon what he genuinely believed to be in the country's best interests.
Today, he looks and sounds like a man at peace with himself and his performance in the Oval Office. He was self-assured enough to candidly admit mistakes ("Mission Accomplished"), stirringly defend controversial decisions (waterboarding), and convincingly shrug off questions of popularity as unimportant and fleeting. Bush also steadfastly refused to criticize his successor. "[Obama] has plenty of critics, and I'm just not gonna be one," he told Lauer.
On the ultimate question with which every ex-president must grapple, Bush said he hopes history will judge him favorably, while acknowledging that a fair, contextualized verdict won't come down any time soon. "I'm going to be dead by the time [historians] finally figure that out," he chuckled. "And I'm comfortable knowing I gave it my all."