This ought to be fun. Barack and Michelle Obama will welcome The Most Evil Man in the World (or as he's known outside the Democratic Party, George W. Bush) and his wife Laura to the White House next week, for the unveiling of their official portraits. Of course, this comes as the current president is in full campaign mode, and W. occupies the role of Obama's eternal scapegoat. It'll be no minor miracle if Obama can make it through the unveiling without blaming Bush for something.
Such ceremonies often bring together current and former presidents with rivalries, grudges or awkward relationships. But the timing of this unveiling is particularly delicate as Mr. Obama uses Mr. Bush as a foil on the campaign trail against former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, his presumptive Republican challenger. Although Mr. Obama generally does not mention Mr. Bush by name, he often says Mr. Romney wants to replicate the former president’s agenda but “on steroids.”
At a campaign fund-raiser in Redwood City, Calif., on Wednesday, for instance, Mr. Obama said Republicans wanted “bigger tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans,” “deeper cuts” in Medicare and education, “even more power” for banks to do as they please, and fewer regulations that protect consumers. “But that’s not new,” he added. “That was tried, remember? The last guy did all this.”
He presented Mr. Bush’s record in caustic terms. “We watched a record surplus that was squandered on tax cuts for folks who didn’t need them and weren’t asking for them,” he said. “We saw two wars being waged on a credit card. We saw speculation in the financial sector, reaping huge profits for a few folks who were making bets with other people’s money, but it was a flimsy kind of success. Manufacturing left our shores. A shrinking number of Americans did really, really well, but a growing number saw falling incomes and stagnant job growth.”
Mr. Bush, by contrast, has offered virtually no commentary on his successor in the three years since he left office, saying “he deserves my silence.” He has stayed out of the campaign to oust Mr. Obama, offering a four-word endorsement for Mr. Romney only when asked by a reporter as he headed into an elevator after an unrelated event in Washington last week.
Oh, the contrast. Obama's lack of personal responsibility and arrogance are especially glaring when put in the same room as Bush's class and humility. To be sure, Bush's presidency was far from perfect, but at the very least he had enough self-respect to accept his own failings, unlike Obama. You have to wonder about their rapport -- although knowing W., I'd imagine it's cordial and respectful.