Wednesday, March 7, 2018

An Open Letter to the 43rd President of the United States

Dear George W. Bush,

I hear you've been opining on the recent uptick in your approval rating since Donald Trump was sworn in as president. "Sorta makes me look pretty good, doesn't it?" you've been telling friends at Republican events. To be honest, I've seen some of my friends on Facebook share similar sentiments. It's amazing what nine years will do for a tarnished image. No doubt somewhere the decedents of Custer think he's one of the greatest military minds in the history of the Republic.

But here's the thing, Mr. Bush, not only weren't you pretty good, as Will Ferrell correctly pointed out in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch in which he played you, "I just wanna remind everyone that I was really bad. What has two thumbs and created ISIS? This guy."

The audience laughed, but over in the Middle East, they aren't laughing. Sadly, they haven't had anything to laugh at since 2003. That was the year you sent U.S. troops into Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein, the only dictator in the region who WASN'T a threat to this country. Remember the weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist? The Iraqis do. The vacuum you left in that country destabilized the entire Middle East and spawned the greatest threat Western democracy has ever seen.

That would probably be enough of a "legacy" for one president, but you weren't satisfied just destroying a foreign country; you were intent on doing the same to this one. For some strange reason you thought that the perfect antidote to a $300 billion surplus, which your predecessor handed you on a silver platter, was to pass two enormous tax cuts that benefited the rich crony friends that you once laughingly referred to as your base. So instead of a gradual reduction of the national debt, you ended up doubling it. Way to go, Sparky.

And while the current president has done everything imaginable to usurp the authority of his justice department, even bemoaning why his attorney general isn't prosecuting his political opponents like the good dictator he wants to be, let's not forget that it was you who directed your own justice department to come up with that memo which justified the use of torture on detainees. John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales might have called it enhanced interrogation but the rest of the world knew better. And, to best of my knowledge, yours is the only administration that outed a CIA operative for purely political purposes. Not even Trump has done that; though to be fair, we're only in year two of his administration. Give him time.

A disastrous foreign policy, a reckless economic agenda and a blatant disregard for international norms. Sounds to me like your presidency was a somewhat more refined version of the one we currently are stuck with. You don't get brownie points just because you're slightly less unhinged and depraved. That's like a tornado wanting credit for not being as destructive as a hurricane. Tell that to the inhabitants of the town that saw their homes leveled. Damage is damage, no matter who or what is inflicting it.

Are you a good and decent man? Perhaps. Many who know you swear you are. That's more than Trump can say. Apart from his immediate family, I doubt he has a single friend. But Barack Obama is a good and decent man too. Your problem is that you are comparing yourself to the wrong president. Jesus, if you can't beat out someone as vacuous as Trump, I feel sorry for you.

Unfortunately, presidents aren't measured by how many people like them or how decent they are; they're measured by how successful they are. As it stands now, Trump is the least successful person to ever occupy the Oval Office. You, sir, are right behind him. Far from bragging, you should thank your lucky stars that he has sucked all the oxygen out of the room. That has allowed you to regain whatever footing you thought you once had with the American people.

Now do yourself and everyone else a huge favor: put a sock in it. Go paint a portrait of Barney or something. We'll handle Trump. America's used to cleaning up after a disastrous presidency. You outta know. We're still cleaning up after yours.

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