Sunday, April 28, 2013

Five Presidents Line Up for Dallas Library Ceremony !

A few days ago, after 2 years of construction, last Thursday, there was a gathering of the five living U.S. presidents to commemorate George W. Bush's Presidential Library. The last time five presidents were together in one place was a Richard Nixon's funeral in 1994. On this unique reunion I and Joseph Curl watched and listened and saw one outclass the others.

Mr Curl is a writer and political columnist for the Washington Times and reflects on an insightful conversation he had with a female reporter back 2008, shortly after Barack Obama was elected. She had covered President George W. Bush all eight years and admitted she'd had enough of travel and the stress and strain of the White House beat, that she was moving on. Curl asked her if she'd miss covering President Obama. ''Not at all. He's an inch deep. Bush is a bottomless chasm, a deep, mysterious, emotional and profound man. Obama is all surface, shallow, obvious, robotic, and frankly, not nearly as smart as he thinks. Bush was the one with gravitas.''  By the way, she's a hardcore Democrat!

But she was right. And that contrast was apparent to all who watched Thursday's ceremonial event to open George W's imposing new presidential library. Jimmy Carter was first to speak. But he was, as always, befuddled. He opened with, ''In 2000, as some of you may remember, there was a disputed election for several weeks.'' Nice way to start. Then he took credit for giving W the idea to intercede in Sudan. He never mentioned 9-11 and the war on terror, or the commander-in-chief's leadership during America's most trying hour. Which is why his comments lasted just 3 and a half minutes.

Bill Clinton followed. He, of course, spoke twice as long, filling his speech with jokes and faux humility. He was his usual affable self.....but Mr Clinton, for all his prodigious gifts, will always be the class clown. George H.W. Bush, turning 90 in June, was a welcome respite. Somewhat frail now, he spoke only briefly from his wheelchair, but garnered two standing ovations and the biggest laugh of the day from his oldest son. After his remarks, just 24 seconds, he shook his boys hand and said. deadpan, ''Too long?''

President Obama took the podium next. Every bit as cunning as Slick Willie, his speech too was filled with fake self-effacing insights, including one on ''the world's most exclusive club,'' which he said ''is more like a support group.'' Then....on a day that was intended top be without politics, he hawked his push for amnesty. Mr Obama skipped the praise he had laid on W, at the dinner, the night before. ''Whatever out political differences, President Bush loves this country and loves its people and shares that same concern and was concerned about all people in America, not just those who voted Republican. I think that's true about him and I think that's true about most of us.''  Except it's not! Especially not this president. He has made his presidency about dividing America along the lines of class, sex, race, sexuality, you name it....
Then, finally, W took the podium. He gave a profound lesson to his successor and his predecessor; ''In democracy, the purpose of public office is not to fulfill personal ambition. Elected officials must serve a cause greater than themselves. As president, I tried to act on these principles every day. It wasn't always popular. And when our freedom came under attack, we made the tough decisions required to keep the American people safe,'' he said to loud applause. But it was the end that gave us the truest glimpse of the man.  With tears in his eyes, his voice breaking, he said: ''It's the honor of a lifetime to lead a country as brave and as noble as the United States.'' By the end he was in tears, barely able to creak out: ''God bless Amer.....''

But there was one last classy move not many saw. The program nearly over, Sgt 1st Class Alvy R. Powell Jr. came to the side of the stage to perform the ''Star Spangled Banner.'' A big, powerful black man, Sgt 1st Class Powell belted out the anthem. With the crowd applauding, the sergeant moved along the line of people, shaking hands with all. After greeting W, he turned to go, but the 43rd president put his hand on the sergeant's arm and said, ''Stay,'' just as a chaplain stepped forward to give a benediction. This is why his popularity numbers are dramatically up, because he's the farthest thing from Barack Obama. ''Obama fatigue'' has opened the way to Bush affection.

The Way I See It....George W is genuine at being modest, humorous, proud but unassuming, and essentially philosophical about his turn as president. History will decide. No finger pointing or scoring points. If he feels rancor or resentment he didn't show it. He didn't attempt to manipulate. His sheer normality seemed like a relief, an echo of an older age.

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....  I have a strong feeling that this opening day of the George Bush library was the day ''Obama Fatigue'' became apparent as a fact of America's political life. The scales are starting to fall from his supporters eyes....Hallelujah!

When Bush left office, his approval rating was in the lo 30s. Now it's at 47%, which is what Obama's is. That is amazing and not sufficiently appreciated. The spirit of the Bush Library remarks is that everyone is older and nicer.....but President Obama was more formal than the other speakers and less confident than usual, as if he knew he was surrounded by people who have something he doesn't. He veered into current policy disputes, using Mr Bush's failed comprehensive immigration reform to buttress his own effort. That was manipulative, graceless and typical.

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