COLUMN: Bush should rethink his 'worst moment' as president

Thursday, November 11, 2010 | 11:34 a.m. CST

I am a Democrat. Some may even call me a liberal. Granted, I have never considered myself a political buff, tending to avoid these types of conversations because they become way too heated, way too fast and never seem to end.

Last week’s historic midterm elections absolutely have created more questions than answers for many of us — Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Tea Partiers alike. Questions like, what will get done in the next two years? Have "we" finally "taken our country back" (whatever that really means)? Is President Obama sure to be a one-term president? In addition to an inundation of other questions political pundits throw at us during our morning coffee and commutes.

Yet none of these occurrences have thrown me for such a loop like the publication of former president George W. Bush’s memoir "Decision Points". Hitting bookshelves this week, there have been a few leaks in the preceding days. For example, Bush did consider replacing Vice President Dick Cheney in 2003. Yes, he did green-light waterboarding Khalid Sheik Mohammed. And yes, Barbara Bush showed him her miscarried fetus when he was a teenager.

Unapologetically candid about these revelations in the new book, it is Bush’s remarks about Kanye West’s infamous 2005 comment during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that is straight comical. He considers West’s notorious "George Bush doesn’t care about black people" remark as the worst moment in his presidency.

If this is the worst moment in Bush’s eight years in the presidency, then yes, he might just be racist, or at least from another planet.

Is Sept. 11 the worst? No.

The thousands of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan? Not at all.

The actual people dying on rooftops and in flood waters along the Gulf Coast? Well, of course not.

Bush is simply absurd. Beyond Hurricane Katrina, he has had a number of questionable incidents regarding race during and after his presidency. Remember his problematic appointment of ultra-conservative Gerald A. Reynolds as chairman of the United States Commission on Civil Rights, who also serves as the Assistant General Counsel at Kansas City Power & Light Company? Or, his long-standing tension with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which only slightly wavered at the end of his time in office? Or, his relocation in 2008 to the historically “whites only” Preston Hallow neighborhood?

Please don’t misconstrue this as my saying Bush didn’t do anything for blacks, or any minorities for that matter; just look at Colin Powell and Condi Rice. Though it should be noted appointing two high-ranking African-Americans to his cabinet did little to compensate for some other, glaring shortcomings.

Regardless of these glaring examples of racial insensitivity on Bush’s part, I’m still questioning what the hell is wrong with him that he is taking the impromptu criticism of a rapper to heart, even years later? Let’s remember this is Kanye "The College Dropout" West; he has always been ridiculous and controversial. Yes, the comment was accurate, dead on point and more than necessary at the moment, but this is the ghost lurking in Bush’s shadows?

No, the memories of Spc. Kevin Dickson, Pfc. Jason Fingar, Sgt. Brandon Maggart, Pfc. Dylan Reid, Sgt. 1st Class Charles M. Sadell and the thousands of other service members who have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, are the ghosts lurking in his shadows. The growing number of veterans who are homeless and those who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are just some of the people representative of the results of the tragically worse moments in his presidency. A humble word of advice to the former President George W. Bush: The legacies of these men and women should be the talking points receiving more attention during your current public relations tour — not Kanye West.

Jennifer M. Wilmot is a graduate student at MU and a Columbia resident.

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Ellis Smith November 12, 2010 | 4:48 a.m.

Perhaps this will clarify matters: in every profession or "calling" there are only a few persons who truly rate being placed at the top of that profession, while there are many fully fit to be placed at or near the bottom.

As I've said previously in local newspapers, I strongly believe that this country has yet to witness its worst President. If I am wrong, we still have plenty of former Presidents to choose from. :)

Homework exercise: Google "Millard Filmore," "James Buchanan" and "Warren Harding." Then there was James K. Polk, who is considered a better than average President but who had a penchant for grabbing up real estate that belonged to another country. Polk would have pleased Hitler!

La surte de los tontos, and Gringos, go home (por favor).

(Report Comment)
Nathan Stephens November 14, 2010 | 8:24 p.m.

I am not sure I understand the relevance of your points Ellis. The article was not about George W. Bush being the worst president ever, which is debateable, but this article honed in on the fact that he considered the Kanye West name calling incident his "darkest moment in office." Really? Ms. Wilmont is challenging that notion by bringing up the lives lost while our country was at war, the lives lost on Sept. 11th and other moments, and quite frankly, I agree. There are definitely other things that he could focus on rather than some attention starved rapper many years later. But hey, whatever sells books and keeps you from irrelevancy right? I mean its not as if you are booked solid with speaking engagements.

(Report Comment)
fred smith November 19, 2010 | 2:05 p.m.

Nathan Stephens said "But hey, whatever sells books and keeps you from irrelevancy right?"
Nathan, if you want to talk irrelevancy just look at our current leader's standing on the world stage and you will see true irrelevancy.
As for President Bush's comments they are somewhat selectively portrayed in the article above. We see below that in his interview with Matt Lauer for example President Bush was talking specifically about his record with respect to race. This point is not made in the article above.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: "Yes. My record was strong I felt when it came to race relations and giving people a chance. And– it was a disgusting moment."..."No - that– and I also make it clear that the misery in Louisiana affected me deeply as well. There are a lot of tough moments in the book. And it was a disgusting moment, pure and simple."
As to our fallen men and women on the battlefield, overseas or at home, President Bush always speaks of them with great respect not disgust as he did of K.W. and therein lies the difference.
Also, I feel confident that had President Bush named any other event as his worst moment he would have been called racist for forgetting Katrina.
You may believe President Bush was not the country’s best President, to which I would agree; however this article is nothing more than picking a fight without an adversary. So sad.

(Report Comment)
Nathan Stephens December 17, 2010 | 9:56 a.m.


The point made about the war is the fact that President Bush had to declare war and put men and women in uniform in harm's way to "defend our freedom" should have been his darkest moment was the point. And I totally disagree with your comment "Also, I feel confident that had President Bush named any other event as his worst moment he would have been called racist for forgetting Katrina." No one would disagree that Sept 11th would definitely qualify as the darkest moment. Also the plunging of the market causing the loss of jobs and homes unheard of since the great depression would have qualified as well.

(Report Comment)
Robert Kimsey December 17, 2010 | 11:22 a.m.

What's even more unfortunate is that two years after Bush left office, with everything that is going on in the country, columnists don't have any better to do than bash Bush yet again.

If you want to criticize Bush for seizing on that one moment, with everything else that happened during his Presidency, then I wonder what we can say about a columnist who seizes on this statement in a book, with everything else that is happening in the country and indeed the world.

Axe to grind?

(Report Comment)

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