On any given week we could recognize Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) or Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) for their efforts on immigration reform, economic growth and conservative outreach. Last week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) earned a nod for standing up to the libertarian loonies to confirm that there is a proper role for drones and for bucking exclusionists by saying he wants to improve, and not scuttle, the “Gang of Eight” plan. Big kudos go to the House and Senate GOP leadership who last week stared down the president once again on the “sequester.”
But this week the distinguished pol who rose above all the rest was former president and now painter George W. Bush. He reminded us of his directness and sweetness and his faith in freedom. The Bush tax cuts (99 percent of them) endure. And immigration reform was his idea at a time when Illinois’s junior senator, Barack Obama, was busy coming up with poison-pill amendments to kill it. Bush understood the essence of our enemy — Islamic jihadism — and that the war was a battle in defense of Western civilization. He called out evil and was a loyal friend to Britain, Israel and other democracies. He would not have dreamt of pursuing a “special relationship” with the communist dictatorship of China or standing by mutely while Iran’s mullahs crushed the Green Revolution.
Bush’s approval numbers have soared in recent years (in large part due to favorable comparison, both personally and politically, to President Obama). However, even more telling are the loyal advisers and staffers (along with some in the media) who recall his rock-solid character.
In relating a story about the president’s empathy when she was mourning a friend who had died in a car crash, my colleague Kathleen Parker is not unlike many who saw his decency up close. As she put it, “I tell this story because it should be part of the public record of this president, not least because such gestures were not rare. Bush often met privately and without fanfare with the families of fallen soldiers. He often visited the wounded without anyone’s knowing. He really did feel others’ pain.” There are dozens and dozens of such stories that those who worked with him can relate.
Even those who routinely vilified him had to concede his kindness. Maureen Dowd wrote in 2003:
President Bush declined to endorse the constitutional amendment [banning gay marriage] yesterday . . . .
President Bush seems pretty unfazed by different orientations. At his recent Yale reunion, among the classmates he greeted at the White House was one Yalie who had changed from a man to a woman.
According to news reports, the president did not blink and warmly greeted the alum, saying: ”Now you’ve come back as yourself.”
For all that and for always leading from the front, we say, well done, President Bush.