Say what you will about George W. Bush and his presidential policies, but he earned back an ounce of my respect after saying he won’t put politics above country by criticizing President Obama.
“I’m not going to spend my time criticizing him. There are plenty of critics in the arena. He deserves my silence,” said Bush, speaking Tuesday in Calgary, Canada.
“I love my country a lot more than I love politics,” Bush said. “I think it is essential that he be helped in office.”
Spoken respectfully like a former president who understands the enormous responsibilities of his successor. Too bad Bush’s vice president, Dick Cheney, hasn’t adopted the same approach to life after the White House.
Cheney took to the airwaves Sunday to criticize Obama and blame the recession on Democrats and the rest of the world. To his credit, CNN’s John King asked Cheney why people should listen to him:
KING: There are people I assume watching this interview right now, and people in this town who would say, why should we listen to you? And they would say that because of the context of the Bush administration numbers.
They would say, you know, what did you do when you were in charge? And they have some numbers to back up their case. And I want to show some to our viewers.
When you came to office, the unemployment rate in the country was 4.2 percent, when you left it was 7.6 percent. The number of Americans in poverty when you arrived, just under 33 million, over 37 million when you left. The number without health insurance, a little over 41 million when you came, over 45 million approaching 46 million when you left.
And you came with a budget surplus of $128 billion and in the final year, the budget deficit was a record $1.3 trillion. So what would you say to someone out there watching this who is saying, why should they listen to you?
CHENEY: Well, there are all kinds of arguments to be made on that point. But there’s something that is more important than the specific numbers you’re talking about, and that had to be priority for our administration.
Eight months after we arrived, we had 9/11. We had 3,000 Americans killed one morning by al Qaeda terrorists here in the United States. We immediately had to go into the wartime mode. We ended up with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of that is still very active. We had major problems with respect to things like Katrina, for example. All of these things required us to spend money that we had not originally planned to spend, or weren’t originally part of the budget.
Stuff happens. And the administration has to be able to respond to that, and we did.
I think it’s also — you talked the unemployment…
KING: But you’re a conservative administration, spending more than $1 trillion.
CHENEY: We always said — I always said that wartime scenario is cause for an exception in terms of spending. It was appropriate in World War II, certainly, and I think it’s appropriate now.
Not surprisingly, Cheney uses the 9/11 terrorist attacks as an excuse for everything that went wrong during the Bush administration. And I’m sure the Obama administration will use the recession as its scapegoat. But the difference between the two cases is this: The recession is a legitimate, inherited excuse for government spending, whereas 9/11 didn’t force our country into the Iraq war — unless you believe the false spin that Saddam Hussein was somehow linked to the terrorist attacks. And 9/11 certainly didn’t cause the recession — wartime spending is supposed to help employment figures, not do the opposite. And wartime spending is a poor excuse for the Bush’s administration’s lackluster response to Hurricane Katrina.
Cheney, you’re doing a heck of a job. Now shut up and go away already, Dr. Strangelove.