President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, July 17, 2003, at the White House.  Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney on the Colonnade outside the Oval Office, July 17, 2003, at the White House.
Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

But there is another building, far from Dallas on land leased from Cuba, that symbolizes Mr. Bush’s legacy in a darker, truer way: the military penal complex at Guantánamo Bay where Mr. Bush imprisoned hundreds of men after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, a vast majority guilty of no crime. [New York Times]

A LIBRARY cannot erase the legacy of George W. Bush, which begins with torture and remains with Guantanamo Bay prison. It’s left President Obama to deal with this scourge on America’s reputation, with George W. Bush’s two terms changing what this country represents to the world.

Jonathan Chait:

So the claim here is that, between the two recessions that began under Bush, we were not in a recession. But the period between the two recessions was a giant housing bubble. And even if we ignore that fact, absolve Bush for the first recession because it came at the beginning of his term, absolve him for the second recession because it came at the end, and absolve him for the bubble that he did nothing to deflate, the fact remains that the job and income growth during that middle period was extraordinarily and historically weak.

If you want to look kindly on Bush’s presidency, you can fairly say that, while he deserves significant blame for ignoring warnings of an Al Qaeda strike and the housing bubble, the disasters of his tenure were not entirely his fault. But what did he do? His economic policies exacerbated income inequality without producing prosperity. His massive increase of the structural budget deficit, which ballooned to over a trillion dollars before President Obama took office, left the United States less fiscally equipped to respond to the economic crisis he also left his predecessor. He initiated a costly war on the basis of both mistaken and deliberately cooked intelligence, and failed to plan for the postwar period. His policies not only ignored the crises of climate change and a costly and cruel health insurance system, but made both much harder to solve.

All of this is window dressing, of course, for George W. Bush and Richard Cheney’s real damage and the horrors for which they should have been made accountable to Congress as well as international courts: torture.

If America stood for anything, what we used to represent, what the world once saw as truly vile, the human rights crime of torture, George W. Bush and Richard Cheney would have been made to answer questions on the Administrations policies of torture and enhanced interrogation that should have brought them both to the Hague.

Our political parties don’t have the stomach anymore to hold our politicians accountable for possible crimes. What constitutes crimes and misdemeanors today is a consensual affair with an intern, not torture. Republicans more than willing to draw and quarter a man for sex, but when it comes to maiming and destroying a person through torture or enhanced interrogation, or imprisoning them for eternity without charging them for a crime, that’s unworthy of adjudication.

If you’re looking for why our country is in trouble it starts here, with the inability to distinguish what really matters publicly, versus what is a purely private moral failing. What takes the country off course, which is proven through our government’s drone policy today, versus a personal failure that the American public didn’t see as a crime or misdemeanor.

George W. Bush remains the worst president in U.S. history, which no library can change.

The industry that’s sprung up around him to rehabilitate his presidency is a despicable attempt to wipe his crimes against humanity off the slate. It cannot be done. George W. Bush sanctioned torture, made it U.S. policy and it happened on the winds of a war predicated on a lie.

And all this felt like an antidote to Obama”“to the imperious I, to the inability to execute, to the endless interviews and the imperturbable drone, to the sense that he is trying to teach us, like an Ivy League instructor taken aback by the backwardness of his students. And there’s the unconscious superiority. One thing Mr. Bush didn’t think he was was superior. He thought he was luckily born, quick but not deep, and he famously trusted his gut but also his heart. He always seemed moved and grateful to be in the White House. Someone who met with Mr. Obama during his first year in office, an old hand who’d worked with many presidents, came away worried and confounded. Mr. Obama, he said, was the only one who didn’t seem awed by his surroundings, or by the presidency itself. – Peggy Noonan

We must never forget or allow history to be rewritten.

George W. Bush was a man who came ill equipped for the presidency, which made it easy for handlers, political scalawags, and men with impure motives of empire, to mold him in the image of their new ideology, neoconservatism, which ruined our economy through two wars conducted off the books, tax cuts, and a policy of secrecy that outed a NOC CIA operative, Valerie Plame, while ruining the human rights record of our country at Abu Ghraib prison and secret prisons across the world.

George W. Bush and his policy bag man Richard Cheney scuttled two centuries of the American tradition. It’s been continued by President Obama, who hasn’t had the moral courage to reject much of the executive overreach established during the Bush era, then added on top of it a drone war against the world that is making more enemies, which isn’t going to make America any safer.

The shadow of George W. Bush’s presidency is dark and can’t be made lighter by a library in Texas. It should only remind us of just how badly he failed, but also that American politics is constructed to rewrite history to cover up our leaders’ crimes.