Dear President Bush


Scott Horton responds to my conciliatory cover-essay in the current Atlantic:

We are still far from fully understanding the internal processes that led to the introduction of the torture regime. At this point, however, it is clear both that Dick Cheney originated the torture policies and that, since the 2008 election, he has taken ownership of them. Bush’s own role is ambiguous, but it seems clear than around the time of the Abu Ghraib disclosures he took a decision to halt many of the worst abuses of the program. It also seems clear that this program was a point of friction between Bush and Cheney that became progressively more acute as his term wore down.

Is there any serious prospect that Bush will do as Sullivan asks?

One of Bush’s most revealing traits throughout his presidency was his tenacious refusal to acknowledge any mistakes. Of course, that may have been motivated by tactical political concerns, which fade at the end of a presidency. If Bush really is concerned about his legacy, there is little he could do now that would restore it more than to offer the public the candid and critical introspection that Sullivan recommends.

I wrote the essay after some heart-searching about what the most constructive step might now be. I have only the power of the pen and the pixel. I am not a politician. But I wanted to put down in one clear place my own conclusions about what happened to this country's moral compass, and how to rebalance it. We have already done a great deal - by nominating McCain, electing Obama, and ending the Cheney torture-and-abuse program. But the one person who needs to take full responsibility is the one person who has refused to do so.

I have no expectations. Just a wavering grip on hope.