Eight Great Years

[Image Description: A billboard put on display in Wyoming, Minn. last February, with a picture of former president George W. Bush asking, "Miss me yet?" which was later vandalized to add "No" beneath the question (as well as to give Bush a mustache).]

This is probably not so the worst thing you'll read all day, but it's gonna be up there: The Bush Rehab Begins, by Bryan Curtis.

You know how I feel about that.

What's interesting to me about this piece is that "Bush himself has long disdained grand, Nixonian plans to rescue his reputation." Which is true, I suppose, and that much stranger given Bush's widely-acknowledged obsession with his "legacy" while in office. He openly (and frequently) talked about what he wanted his legacy to be, and his cabinet and advisers and staff would talk about the Bush Legacy, too, from very early in his presidency.

More than five years ago now, I wrote this piece, ruminating on what Bush's legacy might be—and wondering who would really define it.
President Bush is widely (and probably correctly) regarded as having been fixated with shaping his legacy from the moment he stepped into the Oval Office. He would like nothing more than to be The Man Who Democratized the Middle East, but it's a dubious hope at best, at the moment. His adulators put his name on their cars and his initial on baseball caps, and when he has served out his time as our leader, they will put his face on silver coins and petition to rename schools and highways in his honor—his legacy is already well-defined among them. I can't imagine hearing such hogwash for the rest of days; I fear as I am constantly reminded of how he managed to hoodwink so many people, it will overshadow what I want to take with me from this time.

I want to remember this time as one where the few who were never enchanted by his determined, bow-legged march toward historical prominence eventually won the day. I want to recall the optimism I still feel that this is a time which won't forever change us all for the worse. I want to look back from someplace further ahead and think of the friendships that were forged in this troubled time, between people who found solace in each other's worries and complaints and passion and madness and humor, between people whose names and faces might never have been known to one another. I want these to be more vivid in my memory than the visceral revulsion I had from his sneer, or my exasperation and embarrassment at his representation of us abroad, or my dread that the Middle East will be ever so much worse for our folly. Because I have such hope for remembering this time fondly, I feel like I am in competition with the president—will he be the one to define his legacy, or will I?

It's a silly question, of course (for many reasons), but it's how I feel sometimes nonetheless. In the end, neither of us will matter, nor the people who fervently admire him, nor the people who feel the same as I do. What will matter is what his legacy becomes in our national memory, determined by what falls in between now and then, whenever then may be.
Those would frame the Bush administration as Eight Great Years have begun their campaign in earnest.

I'm holding firm on NO.

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