How would you suggest we regard George W. Bush as he assumes the role of a former president?
Many of my friends, I am sure, will never be able to forgive George Bush. For them as well as me, he's played a thoroughly despicable role: the promoter of arrogance and greed, duplicity and self-righteousness, the pawn of others more cunning and evilly-intentioned than himself.
Bush shuffles off into history as a ramshackle gimcrack, the embodiment of a failed politician. He hoped to enter the annals of the presidency as an emblem of courage in the face of terror, the embodiment of democratic principles, and the architect of a new world order dominated by the United States. He wanted to be known as the savior of the Middle East, our fearless commander-in-chief, the conservator of America's greatness.
Instead, our grandchildren's grandchildren will know him as the ultimate contemptible incompetent, literally the worst president in our history.
I see him as something else, however. George Bush was a man of and for his time. He gave Americans exactly what we were asking for. When we were frightened by 9-11, he gave us a simple explanation and an apparently clear target. When we all wanted to be rich, he gave us a regulation-free economy and lower taxes and the dream of wealth for all. When we wanted to believe that toppling and killing Saddam Hussein would end the War on Terror and usher in an era of harmony and democracy, Bush obliged.
I am deeply grateful to George Bush, and I forgive him a thousand times over. We Americans needed to go down the dark passageways of Bushism; we needed to plumb avarice and selfishness, deceit, and contempt for humanity to the depths of our own historic disaster in order to face the challenge posed to us by the skinny Black kid with a funny name. How can we forgive George Bush if we're not ready to forgive ourselves?