Here's the curious thing about the defenses of George W. Bush during his legacy tour this week: rather than saying he did a good job as president, his allies are emphasizing that he had a really hard job. Bush's presidential library, getting the full celebration in Dallas this morning, "reflects the president's viewpoint on some of the difficult choices he faced," former chief of staff Andy Card told NBC News. After 9/11, the administration decided to go on offense, former aide Dan Bartlett said, and "With that came a lot of difficult decisions... And it's difficult, only four years after a president leaves office, to pull out a scorecard." In a video at Bush's library, Condoleezza Rice explains there were some controversies over Iraq and waterboarding, but, "If you were in a position of authority on September 11, every day after was September 12." George W. Bush is "smarter than you," former Bush aide Keith Hennessey tells his MBA students at Stanford. Bush could go toe-to-toe with him in meetings, and Hennessy only had to think about economic issues, while Bush had to think about foreign policy, too. Bush suffered under a stereotype of "a good ol' boy from Texas who is principled and tough, but just not that bright." Former aide Josh Bolten urged allies to get some perspective: "I think it would behoove certainly the Republican Party not to continue... with criticism of a record that really wasn't so bad."
Being president is really hard. "I made some very controversial decisions," Bush said on the Today show Thursday. "Have you rethought any of them?" Matt Lauer asked. "No," Bush said, saying the homeland had remained secure. "Look, you do what you do," Bush explained, sounding like the aging pop-philosophizing Boomer he is. "I gave it my best…. I gave my best shot for America. And that's all you can do in life." That is all most of us can do in life, but most of us will never be president of the United States.