On April 1, the widely read History News Network (HNN) Web site announced the results of a survey it conducted among historians.
In what was, alas, not an April Fool’s joke, they asked the historians whether they considered the presidency of George W. Bush a success or a failure.
Out of 109 historians surveyed, 107 said they viewed the Bush presidency as a failure, although only 67 of them classified him as “the worst president in the nation’s history” — a result that left even me wondering whether those respondents might have been a tad overcritical of the 42nd President of the United States.
One historian, according to HNN, said of Bush, “He is not a conservative, nor a Christian, just an immoral man . . . “
Another wrote, in uncharacteristically non-historiographical language, “Bush does only two things well. He knows how to make the very rich very much richer, and he has an amazing talent for f***ing up everything else he even approaches.”
Well, I started to feel sorry for the president, who will soon be on his lonesome way back to Texas, and I decided to conduct a survey of my own. I asked myself: Who knows a world leader like Bush better than other world leaders? So I contacted three of them to find out how this U.S. Commander- in-Chief will really be judged by history.
The first person I spoke with on the phone was the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez.
“Hello. Is that President Chavez?”
“Si. What would you like to know?”
“Well, sir, I want to know whether you think President George W. Bush has been a success or a failure?”
“Eh? Are you kidding, amigo? He is the greatest president the United States has ever had. He is also the greatest president Venezuela has ever had. We call him ‘The Good Gringo of Crawford, Texas.’ “
“Why do you regard him so highly?”
“Por que? It’s simple. The price of oil in 2001 was $23 a barrel. Now it is about five times that. No one has done more for Venezuela than the Good Gringo. Even Fidel loves him.”
“Fidel Castro? He does?”
“Si, amigo. Fidel said, “If I die, I definitely want ex-President Bush and ex-President Obama at my funeral. They’re my favorite presidents after that actor hombre, what was his name?”
“Yeah, something like that. Notice, too, that Fidel said ‘if I die,’ not ‘when I die.’ “
After President Chavez hung up, I immediately put in a call to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“Hello, is that President Ahmadinejad?”
“The one and only.”
“Can you tell me if you think President George W. Bush has been a successful president?”
“Is this the CIA calling or something? Of course we in Iran consider Bush to be the greatest president ever. He neutralized the Afghanis and destroyed the Iraqis. No Persian leader has been able to do this since at least 612 B.C. We Iranians worship President Bush and are planning to name a nuclear power plant in his honor.”
After President Ahmadinejad hung up, I figured I needed an opinion from another outgoing leader, so I called Vladimir Putin in Russia.
“Hello, is that President Putin?”
“Ex-President Putin, da.”
“Oh, ex-President Putin, can you tell me if you think the presidency of George W. Bush has been a success or a failure?”
“Is this Mossad calling or something? Of course I consider him the greatest president in the history of any nation, not only his own. Had I known in 2001 what I know now, I would have invited him to come to Russia to teach the oligarchs how to run an oil company. Then I wouldn’t have had to crush them myself.”
“He’s made a lot of money for the oil companies since he became president, you know.”
“So what, so have I. Listen. From the moment I met President Bush, I looked into his soul and, in an instant, saw everything that was there. I wouldn’t buy a used car from him, but I would gladly sit down with him for a sushi.”
I must admit, I was a bit surprised that three such leaders, who are supposed to be anti-American, were holding the Bush presidency in such high esteem.
So, I turned to one more person to get a balanced view. This person has, perhaps, been closer to President Bush than any other. If anyone knows whether the Bush presidency has been a success or a failure, it would have to be Vice President Dick Cheney.
“Hello, is that Vice President Cheney?”
“Yup. What it is? I’m a busy Vice.”
“Well, sir, you have watched President Bush at close range — oops, considering your shotgun incident, maybe ‘close range’ isn’t quite the right expression.”
“No, fine. Fire away. Ha ha!”
“Do you think President Bush has been a failure?”
“Look, I subscribe to what Bill Clinton said about his time in the White House: ‘I never take anything lying down.’ “
“I think he was referring to something else.”
“Well, maybe. Anyway, I saw that bogus HNN survey about this thing. What would historians know about the present, eh? They’re always looking backwards. We are looking forward.”
“Forward to what, sir?”
“Forward to 2009, when the Democrats are in and we can shift the blame for the mess we’re in onto them. Isn’t that what success in American politics is all about? War in Iraq, sub-prime mortgages, a dollar that’s worth no more than the paper on a Chinese lantern — we have succeeded in defining the agenda of politics in this country for the next 25 years. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.”
After the Vice hung up, I realized that I was more confused than ever. I didn’t know who to believe — the HNN historians, the three presidents or Cheney.
One thing did strike me as certain, though.
Someday, long into the future, when even the young readers of The Japan Times are old and gray, countries like Iran and Venezuela and Russia and China and India will be thriving. In fact, the whole world might be thriving — if not the United States of America.
When that time comes, there is no doubt that George W. Bush will be seen as the greatest American president the world has ever had.
Ave atque vale, George W. Bush.
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