The question of Bush's legacy, generally ignored over his nine months of post-Presidency silence, is now being answered in earnest thanks to former Bush speechwriter Matt Latimer's tell-all book. Excerpts of Latimer's book, published on GQ's website, report that Bush slammed Sarah Palin as "the Governor of Guam," called John McCain's campaign a "five-spiral crash," and claimed, "I redefined the Republican party."
Oddly, this has put the left in the position of reevaluating their hatred of Bush, and prompted a mass rebuke of him on the right. As conservatives struggle through a crusade for ideological purity, this provides the occasion to split decisively with Bush. But is it just a bait-and-switch?
Bush Opponents Cool Off Andrew Sullivan praised Bush's criticism of Palin and McCain. "When the history of the Bush administration is written, Bush may emerge as the sanest of them all," he wrote. "It doesn't spare him responsibility, but at least he was smart enough to realize the Palin train-wreck in advance." In video above, Keith Olbermann joked of Bush's "unsuspected depth" that "perhaps we misunderestimated him." But he praised Bush's behind-the-scenes musings: "I think what's fascinating with this is so much of what else seems now in retrospect to be fairly solid political judgment." On Palin, he quipped, "Does she not now have to do something about him on Facebook, call him evil or something?" Robert Farley wrote, "I agree wholeheartedly with Bush." He added, "I suspect this revelation will only accelerate efforts to write George W. Bush out of the history of American conservatism. The wingnuts love them some Sarah."
Conservatives Disown Bush Byron York insisted on "expressions of the deep reservations some conservatives felt about Bush's governing philosophy." York cited "a fundamental conservative principle like fiscal discipline" as absent from Bush's White House and his legacy. "You can argue whether Bush was a fiscal conservative at any time in his political career, but he certainly wasn't in the White House." Ed Morrissey recalled, "Starting in 2002, we began to figure out that Bush was no conservative on domestic policy, but instead at best a centrist, and probably more of a Rockefeller Republican." He added, "Bush had never been considered a movement conservative before running for President." National Review's Steve Hayward called Bush a "little man." Rick Moran encouraged a full GOP break. "Until conservatives can let go of Bush and his checkered legacy, we will not learn the lessons from supporting him and probably end up voting for someone similar," he wrote. "That is the mistake Democrats made when they were in the political badlands and we would do well not to repeat it."
Doubting Conservative "Bait and Switch" Scott Lemieux called conservatives disowning Bush a "bait and switch." He wrote, "Bush's policies weren't antithetical to American conservatives; they embodied American conservatism." John Cole argued that it was purely for political gain. "Do you remember all the mass protests organized by Freedom Works and the fiscal conservative teabaggers when Bush and DeLay were jamming through the Prescription Drug bill?" he asked. "Me either. This isn’t about principle. This is about cynical partisan politics," he wrote. "Only a complete fool could look at the last few decades and think the solution to our nation's woes is giving the Republicans another shot in 2010 and 2012. Only this time, they really will take us towards that elusive conservative Utopia that eluded them while they ran the house, the Senate, and the White House! I promise! The check is in the mail! I will respect you in the morning!"
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.