Deep in the bowels of the White House an obscure and until today secret department has been activated. It hasn’t had any work since 1992 but undoubtedly President Bush, like his father before him, has opened up the Department of Legacy to look after his reputation long after he leaves office on January 20th.
Legend holds that President Truman created the department as an ongoing service to future presidents back in 1952. It took the ‘legaciers’ about a decade to turn Truman’s botched intrusion in Korea into ‘give ’em hell Harry.’ Among their greatest hits is the transformation of ‘I am not a crook’ Nixon to international statesman and peacemaker. Their classic is the morphing from confused appeaser to global humanitarian: Jimmy Carter.
Their first real task of the 21st century will turn out to be harder than they could have ever imagined. They have 8 years of compassionate conservatism that they must meld into a legacy. Surely they are dwarfed by the fact that they have no precedents to work from in 1988 and 2000. Their work in 1992 wasn’t all that hard as Bush-1 was well liked just not well respected.
They will probably turn to the earliest days of Bush-2’s administration when he reached across the aisle to embrace Senator Edward Kennedy. Working with compassionate conservatives like John McCain they created the No Child Left Behind Act. It gave more power to the Federal Education bureaucracy than it had ever had before. A department that Ronald Reagan was fond of saying was his greatest failure because he never got to shut it down.
The legaciers could turn to the valiant days after the awful tragedy of September 11. The President waving the American flag standing shoulder to shoulder with rescue workers at the sight of the murder of 2,900 innocent people. Then again that might lead to questions as to how many intelligence agencies were asleep at so many switches that allowed this ungodly massacre to happen. Why hasn’t the executioner been captured with all of the might of the United States pursuing him for 7 years? Why did this tragedy lead to the creation of the Department of Eating Donuts in rail stations and airports? The huge bureaucracy known as the Department of Homeland Security are those wonderful folks who responded so well to the Katrina disaster, handing out $2,000 credit cards at random.
Freedom Building then comes to the top of the legacy list. That’s the part where America invaded a sovereign country with no evidence of provocation. More than 4,000 of our courageous warriors perished on a mission that was accomplished quickly yet, nearly 6 years later, they still remain in harm’s way as an occupying force. Just last week a journalist from that country threw both of his shoes at the President of the United States and the response of the people of Iraq seems to be if the shoes fit he might as well wear them.
Compassionate Conservatism in its final days proved to be all embracing. Three quarters of a trillion dollars thrown at an unresponsive Wall Street coupled with a stingy $17 million loan to Detroit’s auto makers. The ones left behind in these deals were the children of America’s small business owners. For at least two more generations they’ll be paying back the government’s largesse to the bloated and uncompetitive.
Truman’s secret order made the Department of Legacy an ongoing service to ex-presidents. The failures of Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and ‘read my lips no new taxes’ Bush ’41 were erased by their magic. With memoirs, a library, TV interviews with hand picked sycophants someday the legacy of Bush ’43 will be crafted. It’s up to those of us who lived through it to make sure this legacy is accurate.
Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at The Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit educational foundation based in Harrisburg. Somedays is syndicated to leading newspapers and radio stations in Pennsylvania. [email protected]
Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. | Olde Liberty Square | 4807 Jonestown Road, Suite # 242 | Harrisburg | PA | 17109