Checking Out The Bush Years

The 43rd president starts work on a library to build his legacy

Forget "My Pet Goat."

George W. Bush is apparently going to fight to make sure that his legacy won't be left to left-wing historians who only want to trash his decision to invade Iraq. In the process, he may also force a reassessment of his own intellectual abilities. Not only is the self-described C-student already well-immersed in his own memoirs, he's also raised a pretty impressive $100 million for the building of his presidential library -- in barely 100 days:

Much of the money was collected in the 100 days or so since Bush left the White House, a pace much faster than that of his recent predecessors. At least so far, none of it has come from overseas, the sources said.

The Bush fundraising effort, compared with that of his predecessor, is off to a brisk start. Bill Clinton's library planners had hoped to receive pledges of $100 million within a year of the end of his presidency, but a pardons scandal delayed that achievement for another year, said Skip Rutherford, who chaired the Clinton library committee.

For a guy who left office as one of the least popular presidents -- by the polls anyway -- and was constantly derided as someone of low intellect and little hard work, these developments show that he may want to go to sleep early but he's not willing to sleep on his place in history. While his former vice president Dick Cheney believes that staying in the battles right now is one way of insuring a legacy, Bush decided to step back (partly out of respect for the office of the presidency) and write for history, write for his legacy. 

Different presidents have different ways of dealing with the legacy issue. Jimmy Carter hooked himself to Habitat For Humanity and rehabilitated his failed presidency in the eyes of many by trying to be a peacemaker. That worked initially, but as time has gone by, Carter seems more inclined to hanging out with dictators -- thus sullying his reputation once again. Richard Nixon became a prolific author and de facto historian and political analyst. While the stain of Watergate was never erased, he forced a much more complex assessment of who he was as a person and an intellectual.  

How ironic it would turn out to be if George W. Bush -- who liberal critics derided as Nixonesque -- might take a page out of Nixon's post-White House book and use the power of the written word to write the end chapter to his story. 

Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.

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