We should be ashamed of how poorly we have treated President Bush.
That, believe it or not, is the thesis of a bizarre opinion published the day after the election in the Wall Street Journal by one Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, described as an investigative reporter, a lawyer and a former intern for, of all people, John Kerry. It’s one of two rather eye-opening Journal pieces, actually; the second, following just days later, was by a former presidential aide named Jim Towey. Under the headline, “Why I’ll Miss President Bush,” he sang hosannas to the decency and compassion of W., even going so far as to invoke Mother Theresa.
Which is, shall we say, a rather novel take. But it is Shapiro’s piece that will give you whiplash. In his view, Bush has struggled manfully in the service of an ungrateful nation, reached out in a spirit of true bipartisanship and received for his efforts nothing but “crushing resistance” and constant scorn.
Shapiro writes: “The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.”
And reading that, you wonder ... well, you wonder a few things.
First, you wonder how old Shapiro is. Because he sounds very young. I’m talking smudge-of-acne-cream-on-the-cheek, fake-ID-at-the-club young. Which, presumably, he is not, given his pedigree.
Then you wonder — fear, might be the better word — if this is but the vanguard of a new wave of revisionism, a pre-emptive strike against history, if you will, to impose a sunnier, more forgiving view on the last eight years than the facts will support. If so, we should gird for a very long rest of our lives.
Finally, you wonder, wearily, if it is really necessary to tally yet again the sins of this president. If George W. Bush’s approval ratings sink any lower, they will emerge in China. That’s not accidental. And when his reign of error ends on Jan. 20, it will come eight years too late and not a millisecond too soon.
For my money, of all the things he has done that have damaged this nation — we’re talking lies and alibis, torture, the loss of American prestige, watching passively as New Orleans drowned, censoring science, politicizing the Justice Department, a ruinous war of choice in Iraq, spending with all the discipline of an 8-year-old in a candy store — arguably the most damaging legacy this president leaves is that he has undermined truth itself. After eight years of Bush/Rove politics, we live now in a nation where fact doesn’t mean a whole lot, where it is OK to believe the “truth” that serves your political ends and jettison any that does not.
Because these days, truth comes in two flavors. We have red truth and blue truth, but we are fresh out of the truth, the facts, unimpeachable and inarguable. Instead, President Bush has overseen a government of legendary intellectual incoherence, where ideology is valued above competence, accountability is valued not at all and one is daily dared to believe the evidence of one’s lying eyes. Bush seems to agree with Stephen Colbert: reality has a liberal bias.
Now, we are offered one last single-digit salute to our collective intelligence in the form of this grotesque suggestion that we should be ashamed of how we have treated President Bush. If anyone should feel shame, it is Bush and the cadre of sycophants that has enabled him for eight long years.
Of course, as young Mr. Shapiro so vividly reminds us, they don’t know the meaning of the word.
— Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. He chats with readers from noon to 1 p.m. CST each Wednesday on www.MiamiHerald.com.