So much is being discussed about the observations former President George W. Bush has made in his new memoir that it’s easy to forget what led up to it. And that’s not just the eight years of his presidency and all of implications for the economy, the federal deficit, and civil liberties. It’s the fact that the former president was remarkably, and impressively, quiet during the first part of his successor’s term in office.
Maybe President Obama’s election was substantially a repudiation of Bush’s policies. But Obama has certainly taken his share of criticism from the right and the left alike over his handling of healthcare and the economy--or at least, the “messaging” on those topics. Surely, Bush must have cringed at some of the proposals Obama was supporting on healthcare and financial regulation, among other things, if for no other reason than that their views of the role of government are so different. But if Bush didn’t like what was happening, he didn’t say a peep--an honorable display of behavior and a refreshing change from the spewing of anger and accusation on the Internet and in contemporary political campaigns.
Even in his memoir, Bush acknowledges the historic importance of Obama’s election, writing:
I started to think more about what it would mean for an African-American to win the presidency. I got an unexpected glimpse a few days before the election. An African-American member of the White House residence brought his twin sons to the Oval Office. One glanced up around the room and blurted out, "Where's Barack Obama?"
And the former president was also quite gracious in handling the earlier comments of rapper Kanye West, who declared during the Katrina debacle that Bush “doesn’t care about black people.” Bush called the comment, in his memoir, a real low point of his presidency. West apologized this week on an appearance on the Today show. Bush then returned to Today (since this is how disputes seem to be adjudicated nowadays between people who don’t know each other and whose opinions are not always worth hearing, anyway) and said he appreciated West’s newer remarks. It was a gracious response (Bush’s terrible handling of Katrina notwithstanding) from someone who was called a racist.
West, however, seems not to have adopted a mature attitude. He complained that Today host Matt Lauer tried to lead the witness when he was interviewing West, and was visibly aggravated at the video and sound in the background when West was trying to give answers. Really? Was it as distracting and upsetting, say, as having someone storm onto the stage after you’ve just won a Video Music Award, and having that person announce that the award should have gone to someone else?
Now, West, in a star snit, has canceled a scheduled November 26 performance on Today. Maybe he should take his behavioral cues from the post-presidency example of the former president.
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