How to Pull off a Total Dubya Makeover

fence-sitting signs

Just because George W. Bush said something doesn’t mean it was dumb.  Or at least that’s what Jeffrey Scott Shapiro seems to claim.  He’s the founder of Honor Freedom, a non-profit created to “Unite Bush Supporters”;  “Correct the Historical Record” and  “Teach America”.  “You don’t need to be a genius to be president,” says Shapiro.  The Honor Freedom website defends the most contentious Bush-era issues like:

1) The Iraq war (and all its disastrous related issues: hyped/non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction; oil greed motivation; the mere suggestion that this was all daddy’s idea, etc.)

2) Why Saddam and his policies were bad and how that justified “the liberation”.

3) The dollars of US aid pumped back into Iraq to clear up Dubya’s mess.

4) “Information on how you can help correct the historical record or start a chapter of Honor Freedom in your area.”

In “The Bush Restoration Project“, Slate’s Jordan Michael Smith says, “Shapiro talks about George W. Bush the way Buddhists talk about the Dalai Lama. ‘He stands for truth, compassion and freedom,’ he says. ‘Bush instinctively sees the global picture that every living person has the right to be free.’ ”  Smith exposes the “nationwide public education program consisting of op-eds, media appearances, and free public seminars, the nonprofit group intends to teach Americans that George W. Bush was actually a great president and an even better man.”

Smith quotes Shapiro as saying Bush critics ” ‘are selfish people who don’t see the value of national liberation … isolationists who don’t care that the U.S. freed a people enslaved by fear.’ ”

Inherent in Shapiro’s approach is a realization that Bush’s reputation is in tatters and is in need of immediate mouth-to-mouth.  With the enthusiasm of a fanboy at an early nerd special premier, Shapiro wants to manipulate the public faster than time and presidential libraries can: “Those wishing to restore the president’s reputation must take a pro-active, aggressive approach that exports knowledge to the people. Merely relying on a passive institute such as a presidential library and waiting for people to learn the truth on their own will not be sufficient in this unique case.” (Shapiro in a commentary piece for The Washington Times)

“On much of the world stage, President Bush has been widely reviled as one of the worst U.S. leaders of modern times, and it is hard to think of an American president who has received a worse press since Richard Nixon,” states the UK’s conservative Telegraph.  The paper concedes that early moves in the Iraq war flopped; that Bush’s public diplomacy was disastrous; that his management of global anti-American sentiment failed and his response to Russia over Georgia was cowardly.  However, the same article argues that most of the critiques launched at Bush have been couched in “a venomous hatred of Bush’s personality and leadership style, rather than an objective assessment of his achievements.”  Praising Dubya, the paper raves, “Ten or twenty years from now, historians will view Bush’s actions on the world stage in a more favourable light. America’s 43rd president did after all directly liberate more people (over 60 million) from tyranny than any leader since Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Time has absolved past presidents (Jimmy Carter and Harry Truman come to mind) of their sins and perhaps Shapiro and his flock will be successful in their spin.  For now though, what does Bush himself think about all this chatter?  It’s not easy to know.  Unlike Dick Cheney, the former president has laid low since leaving office and it looks like we’ll have to wait for his memoir (slated to be published this year) to gauge his current thoughts on his presidency.  And Bush has no formal ties to Honor Freedom. However, Shapiro did recently stay at the ranch of Bush’s nephew, Pierce, who introduced president and salivating one.  “You’re doing good work,” said the president.  Or at least so says Shapiro.

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Bjorn Karlman

9 thoughts on “How to Pull off a Total Dubya Makeover”

  1. I wouldn’t say time has absolved Carter at all. He is consistently considered one of the worst presidents (although I think it should). I do think time will absolve Bush as it has Truman, Nixon, Reagan, Clinton etc. I think Bush knows that and probably doesn’t really care what people think for now. That was part of his problem. Bush was too much about the big picture. He doesn’t understand/care that people are petty and he needed to be just as petty to be more popular.

    I really don’t like Bush, I just don’t think he is nearly as bad as everyone makes him out to be. Especially for the stuff they were mad at him about. Unjustified wars? Irresponsible spending? Lies? Caving to corporate interests? Are you kidding me? Did you all wake up in Stupidville. That is politics. Not even just American politics. That is the world. Maybe it shouldn’t be that way, but unless you were born yesterday you shouldn’t be surprised or selectively outraged.

  2. A majority of voters think that Carter is the president who has done the best job since leaving office:
    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/general_politics/august_2009/voters_say_carter_is_best_of_living_ex_presidents

    And no, Bush did not sweat the details. We’ve gone back and forth a lot on the question of just how bad a president he was. So here’s a slightly different question: If what he did was just politics as usual, why the global outcry and cartoonish disdain for him and not Reagan, Clinton or Obama?

  3. FDR put Japanese American’s in concentration camps. Truman used the nuke and started the Korean War (you can’t be intellectually honest and support the Korean war but oppose the Iraq War in my opinion…and Korea was much much worse). LBJ started Vietnam. Nixon isn’t even arguable. Bill Clinton had more associates go to prison than any president in US history and was disbarred for obstruction of justice and perjury while in office…not to mention the whole impeachment thing. Bush had his problems, and so will Obama when it is all said and done.

    As for Carter, getting first out of a three horse race isn’t much to talk about…especially when you have a lot more time to work on it than your competitors…and even more especially when you break tradition and continue to meddle in politics after you leave office.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_Presidents_of_the_United_States#General_findings

    Besides, I was talking about presidents and how history treats them. He consistently scores poorly, even with all these years gone by.

  4. I see your point RE the controversial policies various presidents have developed. And you are right, “Bush had his problems”. I think you’ll agree that his approval ratings domestically and internationally were far lower leaving office than those of Reagan and Clinton. My point is that there is a reason for this kind of failure on the part of Bush and the relative success of Clinton and Reagan who left on far better terms with the American public and the world in general.

  5. Of course there are reasons, but most of the people who buy into the reasons to hate Bush don’t realize that they could be applied to every president.

    How was the Truman economy? The Eisenhower economy? The FDR economy? The LBJ economy? Most people have no idea about that. No one remembers that crap, and I think in retrospect people realize those guys really had little to do with any of that (except FDR, he really was at fault for the depression). However, for some reason, we give too much credit and blame to the presidents of today for their economies. It is probably the most bogus aspect of American politics in my opinion.

    For most American’s, I think the main issue with the war is that we didn’t get a peace treaty with a big press conference declaring the war over. It is a nonlinear war. We aren’t used to that and we aren’t good at it either.

    Also, I think if they had international polling of past presidents, many would have done worse because many were worse. Then there are the issues of when and who is being polled. If you asked the Chinese about Nixon while he was president, they might not have liked him very much because of the war in Vietnam. You ask them today, I am not sure what their answer would be, but he is the reason many of them are getting wealthy. I can only imagine it being significantly better in terms of his approval. If you ask the Europeans about Nixon, they might give a totally different answer. I just think international polling is too complex to be reliable or a good measurement of how good a president is.

    There are legitimate reasons not to like Bush, but I just don’t get how some people could like all these other presidents who had wars that were just as fake/bloody and/or reside over economies that were just as bad (often worse) and at the same time single out Bush as one of the worst presidents. It has to be out of a lack of knowledge or intellectual fairness in my view.

  6. David, I think I agree with most of what you said. My original point was that Bush’s approval ratings domestically and internationally were far worse than those of Clinton and Reagan when he left office. But you make a fair case for international polling being limited in its usefulness. Also, I think you are right that it is hard to compare the popularity of recent presidents with those of the more distant past.

  7. Fortunately for Bush, textbooks will not be published for much longer as educational trends are currently moving away from them. Now it will be up to the teacher to provide reading material. So if you feel Bush is a saint… it will be very easy to chose from the limited number of books written which back that view. I feel sorry for history teachers that will want to paint him in a negative light… they will have way too many books to choose from.

  8. I love the righteous indignation of the educator:) I was at a golf tournament and I was talking to a friend’s 8th grader son… we walked up to the prizes for the various tournament winners and he thought the Kindles were pathetic because “I hate reading”… this is a really smart kid and a trendsetter at school…literacy is going to look more like Dubya and less like the missus.

  9. It is not uncommon for boys his age to hate to read. I certainly did when I was his age. The problem with textbooks is that they are automatically leveled. Should this child be slightly behind reading level for his grade, it can be a frustrating experience, which will cause him to hate it. Or, the subjects of the books given to him just aren’t interesting. I know it sounds like dummying the system down, but for jr. high boys, giving them books with pictures is a really helpful way for them to stay interested in reading. Boys need that…. for pretty much the same reasons why males use porn and girls read erotica, they are more visual. However current educational trends rely heavily on left brain learning, girls have an easier time compensating, whereas boys struggle to have more balance. NCLB is just all around stupid and counterproductive. It is ironic how most of the countries we associate with testing and pulling away from that method becuase they recognize how dangerous it has been while we here in the US are just starting to get into it. Like fashion, we always seem to be a few decades behind.

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