George W. Bush sat out the 2008 presidential race, and the 2010 midterms.
But now that the voting is done, we’ve got a sense of what the former president thinks about the man who replaced him.
In his 497-page memoir, Decision Points, Bush heaps praise on Barack Obama.
Don’t get the forty-third president wrong. He’s still got the Republican faith.
In fact, he even believes that Arizona Senator John McCain could have won the 2008 race.
Unfortunately, Bush argues, McCain made a lot of mistakes.
The worst of these, in the former president’s view, was McCain’s failure to embrace the Bush magic.
"I understood he had to establish his independence," writes Bush. "I thought it looked defensive for John to distance himself from me. I was confident I could have helped him make his case."
Fascinating point there, Mr. President.
What presidential campaign doesn’t want to associate itself with a soon-to-be-former president who has just crashed the economy?
Bush’s approval rating on the eve of the 2008 election was 20 percent.
As the Los Angeles Times noted on November 4, 2008: "As Americans are turning out to the polls in record numbers, Bush’s approval rating, according to the latest CBS News tracking poll, has dipped to 20%, the lowest ever recorded for a president. His disapproval rating of 72% matches his all-time high, reached last month."
Bush reworking of conventional wisdom gets even bolder when he starts ruminating about how the economic meltdown of 2008 should have helped McCain.
"Our party controlled the White House, so we were the natural target for the finger-pointing," the former president argues. "Yet, I thought the financial crisis gave John his best chance to mount a comeback. In periods of crisis, voters value experience and judgment over youth and charisma. By handling the challenge in a statesmanlike way, John could make the case that he was the better candidate for the times."
McCain failed to do that, argues Bush, who says the Republican nominee’s grandstanding allowed Democrats to suggest that McCain was "erratic in crisis."
McCain demanded a White House meeting on the meltdown.
Bush convened it, asked McCain for his plan and was shocked when the Republican nominee said he had nothing to add to the discussion.
"I was puzzled," writes Bush. "He had called for this meeting. I assumed he would come prepared to outline a way to get the bill passed."
Recalling the meeting, Bush concludes that: "What had started as a drama quickly descended into a farce." It would, the former president argues, "have been comical except that the stakes were so high."