Bush's Messiah Complex

By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, January 7, 2008; 1:17 PM

With time running short on his presidency -- and on the eve of a trip to the Middle East -- President Bush seems to have overcome his aversion to talking about his legacy and is now speaking fervently about how he expects to be remembered.

As it turns out, the president sees himself as quite the heroic figure.

"I can predict that the historians will say that George W. Bush recognized the threats of the 21st century, clearly defined them, and had great faith in the capacity of liberty to transform hopelessness to hope, and laid the foundation for peace by making some awfully difficult decisions," Bush told Yonit Levi of Israel's Channel 2 News. Bush held several interviews with Middle Eastern journalists last week in anticipation of his trip to the region, which starts tomorrow.

"When he needed to be tough, he acted strong, and when he needed to have vision he understood the power of freedom to be transformative," Bush said of himself to Nahum Barnea and Shimon Shiffer of the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

As for the people of the Middle East, Bush told Hisham Bourar of al-Hurra Television: "I would hope that they would say President Bush respects my religion and has great love for the human -- human being, and believes in human dignity."

The Bush record, the president told Nadia Bilbassy-Charters of al-Arabiya Television, is one of liberation -- "liberation, by the way, not only from dictatorship, but from disease around the world, like HIV/AIDS or malaria."

On a personal basis, Bush told Bilbassy-Charters that he hopes that people would know "that he hurts when he sees poverty and hopelessness" and "that he's a realistic guy."

Bush's self-image contrasts sharply with his image among his fellow Americans. More than 60 percent of Americans disapprove of the job is doing, and a CNN poll in November found that 58 percent of Americans rated Bush either a poor president, a very poor president, or the worst president ever.

Bush's view of himself is particularly delusional as he heads to a region that remains traumatized, angry and distrustful on account of Bush's disastrous war in Iraq, his antagonism of Iran and his perceived crusade against Islam.

Bush on Bush

Here's Bush talking to Nadia Bilbassy-Charters of al-Arabiya TV:

Q. "People know that you are close friend of Israel. What do you want to do to win hearts and minds of the Palestinians, to assure them that the United States is a fair broker in the peace process?"

Bush: "You know, I've heard that. I've heard that, well, George Bush is so pro-Israeli he doesn't -- he can't possibly care about the plight of the Palestinian person. I would hope that my record, one of liberation and -- liberation, by the way, not only from dictatorship, but from disease around the world, like HIV/AIDS or malaria -- is one that will say to people, he cares about the human condition; that he cares about each individual; that my religion teaches me to love your neighbor.


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