The integrity of George Bush: ‘Decision Points’ at the Miami Book Fair.
Whatever you feel about George Bush, the man has a certain unshakable integrity. He’s always the same, regardless of trial, triumph or the passage of time. That’s why the George Bush Rehab Tour, which touched down at Miami Book Fair International yesterday, will fail.
The hour Bush spent on stage chatting about his presidential memoir, Decision Points, with Michael Barone, senior political analyst for the Washington Examiner, served less to cast his eight years as president in a new light than to remind his audience why it was a golden age, or a prolonged nightmare.
Bush was affable, quick with a joke, resolute about policies pursued, decisions made, in his tenure as the nation’s “Decider.” He told funny stories about Vladimir Putin and the differences between presidential dogs in Moscow and Washington. He praised Tony Blair. He poked gentle fun at the Queen of England.
His audience was charmed, delivering thunderous applause when, for example, Bush insisted waterboarding is not torture but a legal and necessary way to obtain information to protect Americans. Cordoned off in a back corner, reporters took notes furiously.
For some of us, though, Bush’s renewed public profile in support of the book is a reminder of what things were really like during his presidency. I find that, like a trauma survivor, I had suppressed memories of some details.
For example, the crowd at the book fair yesterday was packed with supporters, many of whom got their tickets through the Republican Party. That reminded me of speeches Bush gave while president, likewise carefully stage-managed to fill the room with partisans.
And that, in turn, reminded me of the way the Bush White House bullied the press in the pettiest possible ways. Remember the bogus “reporters” placed in presidential press conferences to ask patty-cake questions? Bush sought to control access to information to a degree unprecedented in American history.
I had forgotten about all this, but it came rushing back to me yesterday. George Bush on stage, declaring that being called a racist by Kanye West was his worst moment as president (worse than 9/11? worse than Abu Graib? worse than the housing market crash?). He’s the same regular guy who was the leader of the free world for eight years.
If you liked him then, you’ll like him now. If you loathed him then, nothing in the book or his public appearances will change your mind. Integrity? Or an uncanny ability to remain untouched by experience? You decide.
By the way, Bush’s Miami appearance came two days after Ryan Grim, writing at the Huffington Post, documented extensive examples of plagiarism in Decision Points.
Grim cites numerous examples of Bush copying from the books of advisors, articles in newspapers and magazines, and, most surprising, from Bob Woodward’s book Bush At War, which the White House attacked as “inaccurate” when it came out in 2002.
If you want to read essentially the same story with a British accent, see The Guardian.
The book fair continues tonight with “An Evening with Nora Ephron,” which should serve as a palate cleanser. The essayist, screenwriter and novelist will take the stage at 8 p.m. to talk about her new book, I Remember Nothing and Other Reflections. Tickets are $10. See http://www.miamibookfair.com/.