Caracotsios: George W. Bush, the ‘misunderestimated’ man

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Julian Caracotsios, Columnist

It’s been a while since we’ve heard much from former President George W. Bush. To many of us, it’s a relief to finally be done with the man who entered the White House at the head of the world’s unchallenged superpower with a booming economy and left it with two foreign wars, a mountain of debt and an economy in shambles. It goes without saying that he was not the most popular president in recent times. I’m not exactly Dubya’s biggest fan, so you can count me among those glad to see a Democrat in the Oval Office, but it occurred to me recently that something very unfair had happened to the self-proclaimed “misunderestimated” man.

Politicians have always been at the butt end of many jokes, but Bush stands out among those in recent times for receiving particularly vicious criticism. When we think about him, many of us think of a naive cowboy with less-than-respectable oratorical skills that got his way into the White House on daddy’s money and friends in high places. This is the guy with the inquisitive mind that asked the president of Brazil if “they had black (people) too,” the tech wizard who uses “the Google,” and the quick wit that thanked Pope Benedict for an “awesome speech, your Holiness!”

It comes as no surprise, then, that when I first saw the article titled “George W. Bush is smarter than you,” I assumed that it must have been straight out of The Onion. But it wasn’t, and it was well worth the read. Keith Hennessey, a former Bush advisor, writes in his blog about his experience with the former president, and how intelligent, quick-witted and diligent he really was. I’ll leave it for you to read, because it merely prompted my realization, and I am in no position to comment of the nuances of the Bush presidency.

Regardless, the media created a highly-exaggerated aura of idiocy and incompetence around Bush that most of us gobbled right up. And how could we not? This is the strategic genius who got us into Iraq, after all. He deserves to be a political punching bag — literally — just use “the Google” and you can buy your very own!

However, what it comes down to is that many of us use Bush’s silly idiosyncrasies to not only blame him for policy decisions for which he was not entirely responsible, but denigrate his character and make him look even worse. To give you an idea of how much has been pinned on him, I recently saw this article detailing reasons to hate Bush’s presidency floating around the web. But the Iraq War? Twenty-nine out of 50 Democratic senators and 82 of 126 Democratic congressmen voted to support it, including John Kerry, Harry Reid, Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden. The PATRIOT Act of 2001? Ninety-eight of 100 senators voted for it, including all four mentioned above, and 145 of 211 House Democrats. Guantanamo Bay? Still up and running. The “Bush” tax cuts? The Dems didn’t support this one, but it’s hardly a new idea. I need not state the Republican record.

If Bush, the C-average cowboy with a rich daddy, is an incompetent moron, then so are most of his esteemed Ivy League intellectual colleagues. The responsibility for the biggest mistakes of recent history — the Iraq War, banking crisis, ballooning debt, etc. — is shared by a lot of people, many of whom are purportedly “smarter” than Dubya.

It’s easy to turn him into a scapegoat, and I’m as guilty of that as anybody. America has really screwed up in the past few years, and looking for someone to blame is a natural response, but that doesn’t mean the poor man deserves it. We should cut him some slack. We have a bad habit of thinking that an “elite” bearing and Harvard degree is a guarantor of good judgment, but none of that makes us immune to greed, procrastination, shortsightedness, or any of our other human flaws. We’d do well to remember this next time we start pointing fingers.

After all, simple people are simple idiots. Sophisticated people are sophisticated idiots.

Julian Caracotsios is a Weinberg junior. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].