Yesterday's opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library in Dallas was a big success, and a lot of the good feelings had to do with seeing the four living former presidents together on stage. People just can't seem to get enough of them. They are the polar opposite of everything that Washington seems to be these days. They come across as bipartisan, accomplished, friendly and a little larger than life. We need more of that in D.C.
When President George W. Bush left office his approval rating in Washington Post / ABC polling was 33 percent; now it's 47 percent. There's been a lot written about President Bush today, and much of it is kinder than I expected. The New York Post's editorial page recounted the differences between Bush 43 and Obama on the Middle East and Muslims, and came down on Bush's side:
Many thought Bush's view dangerously naive. Certainly it stands in contrast to President Obama's. And both have costs.
But when you look at, say, Iraq and Syria, ask yourself this: Which approach has brought more stability – the one that led to taking down an Iraqi dictator and replacing him with a government elected by that nation's people, or the "lead from behind" one that has left Syria's dictator free to order murderous rampages on his Muslim citizens and has left that nation vulnerable to an even more menacing future?
With Islam again in American headlines, it strikes us as noteworthy that a president derided as a cowboy for his willingness to fight also believed, as FDR and Truman did with Japan, that America's best guarantee of security is a free Middle East where ordinary Muslims can prosper and look to the future with hope.
You always knew where President Bush stood, and it was always on the side of freedom around the world. Given everything that's happened in the Arab world over the last few years, it's no wonder that people appreciate Bush's approach a little more now. One thing he didn't do was lead from behind.