Friday, April 26, 2013

"The eternal struggle of former Presidents to rewrite history.”

The opening of the Bush Library in Dallas has prompted the predictable hagiography of our 43rd President (and there is something weirdly Oedipal about a Presidential Library that prominently features a much-larger than life-size statue of the President standing with his father, also a President.  The Adams family was never as creepy as this:)

It is a hagiography even Ezra Klein has fallen prey to (sorry, Mr. Klein, but you do get to be President without being smart.  American history is rife with examples.  And just because David Brooks says W. is smarter in private than in public, doesn't make it so.), and that prompts me to add my $0.02 to the collective memory of who George Bush really was:

At Buckingham Palace there is bewilderment and some resentment at the sheer scale of American security requests for the duration of Mr Bush's stay. The Palace knows how to do state visits. But there has never been one quite like this before.

"They wanted blast- and bullet-proofed windows," one senior courtier told the Telegraph. "They wanted strengthened curtains and strengthening to the walls of the President's suite and the other rooms that he would be spending time in during his two-day stay."

The proposal, which would have meant substantial building alterations, was firmly turned down by the Queen. But anxiety levels among the Bush security team continue to grow.

Buckingham Palace security pass-holders are being ordered to go through bomb checks for the first time. Some Palace staff who have had security clearance for 30 years are undergoing positive vetting again.

"The Queen will not have to wear a security badge. I think we know what she looks like," said one Palace official. "But it is getting to that level. It is quite ridiculous."

"The President's men seem obsessed with the idea of an airborne attack on the Palace," said another courtier. "Her Majesty takes the view that no amount of strengthening of windows and walls could protect the President in such an eventuality. Other political leaders have stayed at the Palace at difficult times in their careers but have not made such demands."
And not just at the Palace:
A five-star hotel in the Indian capital is playing host to a special team that is part of US President George Bush's security entourage - some 65 dogs that are referred to as "officials".

The specially trained dogs were flown in as part of the multi-layer security for Bush and have been put up in deluxe rooms at the Le Meridien Hotel in central Delhi.

According to Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP Nilotpal Basu, who gave the information to the media, the hotel authorities initially refused to accommodate the four-legged "officials", saying they did not have provisions for accommodating animals.

"But the US officials apparently insisted that they were not dogs, but skilled security 'officials' and no one should call them dogs," Basu told reporters at Parliament House.

"These dogs cannot be called animals. They can be addressed either by their ranks such as sergeant, major, etc. And the hotel staff had to accept it," he said.
And the last time we opened a Presidential Library:
Bush appeared distracted, and glanced repeatedly at his watch. When he stopped to gaze at the river, where secret service agents were stationed in boats, the guide said: "Usually, you might see some bass fishermen out there." Bush replied: "A submarine could take this place out."

Was the president warning of an al-Qaida submarine, sneaking undetected up the Mississippi, through the locks and dams of the Arkansas river, surfacing under the bridge to the 21st century to dispatch the Clinton library? Is that where Osama bin Laden is hiding?

Or was this a wishful paranoid fantasy of ubiquitous terrorism destroying Clinton's legacy with one blow? Or a projection of menace and messianism, with only Bush grasping the true danger, standing between submerged threat and civilisation? Perhaps it was simply his way of saying he wouldn't build his library near water.
 And while Bush may wish to look larger-than-life at his own library, this is how he looked at that last library opening:

And that's the way I'm always going to remember him.

1 comment:

  1. Sherri1:25 PM

    I don't really care whether Bush was smart or dumb. If he didn't want to be thought of as dumb, perhaps he shouldn't have spent so much effort cultivating an image that made him look dumb. In the end, though, all I care about is the damage he did as President, and that was enormous.