It is a delightful coincidence for fans of George W. Bush that his memoirs and accompanying media onslaught should come just as Obama is in full funk mode following his midterm shellacking. What is even more amusing than the return of the Decider to the public limelight is the reaction of the media, which have greeted the book precisely as one would expect. The press continually “misunderestimated” him, and they do so again.
A case in point is the Los Angeles Times book review, which finds Bush’s tome to be an “unexpectedly engrossing memoir.” Unexpected by those who considered him a simpleton. Like so many on the left, the Times‘s reviewer, Tim Rutten, is bothered that Bush wasn’t more bothered about waterboarding terrorists to save American lives. For liberals, the decision was reprehensible, or at the very least agonizing. For Bush, it was straightforward: waterboard KSM or risk American lives. That the press can’t understand the moral imperative for the president to act as he did tells us as much about mainstream journalists as it does about Bush.
Likewise, because their caricature of Bush so colored their perceptions, the media elites are amazed to find out how respectful Bush was of opponents:
Given the contentious political use Karl Rove and other Bush aides made of abortion, readers also may be interested in the former president’s unfailingly respectful discussion of the abortion-rights advocates with whom he disagrees. …
Actually, one of the impressions that arises repeatedly in “Decision Points” is how much civility and bi-partisan cooperation matter to Bush. “The death spiral of decency during my time in office, exacerbated by the advent of 24-hour cable news and hyper-partisan political blogs, was deeply disappointing,” he writes.
Shocking to the left, I suppose. But let’s be blunt: the Bush=Hitler derangement syndrome never embittered Bush, nor did he ever imagine it was the role of the president to be the partisan in chief.
Yes, the contrast with Obama is great. Bush wasn’t “eloquent,” we were told, yet he managed to communicate with great clarity where he stood and what he stood for. Bush was “divisive,” we were instructed, yet he was respectful and exceptionally kind to aides, foes, and average Americans. Bush was “isolated” and “stubborn,” but he turned around a losing war strategy, kept his composure after the 2006 midterms, and never blamed the voters for his political misfortunes. You would think the media would now consider whether their evaluation of Bush was wrong. But no, they prefer to be “surprised” or even confounded by a book that reveals their take on Bush to be badly out of sync with the real man.
And even worse for the liberal intelligentsia, they have to concede that Obama looks remarkably bad in comparison. Howard Kurtz writes that “it felt like we were watching The Decider vs. The Agonizer.” There is the halfhearted attempt to make agonizing a virtue, but really, is Hamlet the model we want for commander in chief?
The irony is delicious. The press objects that Bush was simple-minded and not reflective. Umm, I think it’s called “projection” when one’s critique of others amounts to a spot-on self-diagnosis. The media would do well to reflect a bit more on whether their own coverage of Bush was accurate or remotely fair. But that’s not their style. They are, as Rutten would put it, “singularly unapologetic.”