Monday, November 29, 2010

A Classy Exit

By T. Lee Humphrey

Former President George W. Bush spent the last few weeks hitting the talk show circuit and giving interviews to all the major networks and cable stations promoting his book Executive Decisions. He’d given a few speeches since leaving office as well, including one in Calgary, Canada my hometown that I was fortunate to attend at his invitation as a reward for my work at the US Embassy in Kabul from 2005 to 2006. The speech happened in March 2009 and was billed as his first formal speech after leaving the White House in January. He didn’t speak at all about his thoughts on the President Obama or his policies and it would appear that regardless of the recent attempts of the likes of Oprah or O’Reilly or anybody else he’s still not willing to talk about the current policies of the Obama administration or even about the current administrations never ending attempts to blame him for all the countries ills after almost 2 yrs under Obama and 5 yrs of a Democratic Congress running the show. President Bush’s appearances got me to thinking about other past Presidents and what they’ve done after leaving office and more specifically how they’ve treated their successors.

I became aware of US politics at a fairly young age mainly because my mother was an avowed left winger on most social issues but a very strong conservative on justice and foreign affairs as well as being somewhat of a compassionate fiscal hawk so while she was never fully happy with either Canadian or US parties she did tend to be what has come to be known as a Blue Dog Democrat and she also understood the link between our countries and taught me that the policies and government of the US had a profound impact on Canada’s economy so I should pay attention which I’ve tried to do. Based on my introduction to politics I’ll start with Richard Nixon who was overwhelmingly re-elected in 1972 only to be impeached a couple of years later.

Richard Nixon to the best of my knowledge and research never spoke about Gerald Ford’s administration and only went on the record a few times after leaving office most famously in the Frost-Nixon Interviews when he attempted to resurrect his imagine and defend his actions as it related to the Watergate Affair after which he really was never heard of publically again.

Gerald Ford like Nixon went quietly into the night after the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976 as did Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush with only President’s Carter and Clinton going after sitting Presidents. It would appear that a trend is happening. We have two Democrats that remain in the yappy column and 5 former Republican Presidents remaining silent.

I wonder why that would be, it’s not like Republicans are any less shy about attacking the opposition but it would appear at first blush that Republican Presidents are more likely in the last 36 yrs or so to better respect the office holders that succeed them. I mean you can understand why Reagan didn’t have anything negative to say about his former Vice President but he sure could have made headlines in 1993-4 by slamming President Clinton and his attempts to bring in Hillarycare yet he didn’t, nor did Bush the elder.

Yet President Carter just couldn’t resist getting involved and speaking out against President GW Bush at every opportunity and to be completely fair he was even willing to take a few swipes at President Clinton for fun too. He continues to interject himself and is more than willing to give President Obama a headache or too by continuing to mess around in North Korea even though his incompetence set us on the current course after the North struck a deal with him in 1994 and he convinced President Clinton that the North would honor the agreement but as we now know they didn’t and his ignorance allowed them to construct a plutonium enrichment facility while President Clinton was trying to figure out the definition of the word “if” and wondering if the “blue dress” was really going to lead to the first President to be impeached over an affair with an intern. As recently as this past week, President Carter couldn’t help but point out that only he along with his Chinese friends could resolve the North Korean problem.

President Clinton actually fared well and really tempered his comments regarding President GW Bush until Senator Clinton decided that she wanted to become POTUS too and then he was all about slamming the Bush administration as frequently as he could get a hold of a microphone.

While I’m not willing to give President Clinton a complete pass I can see that he attempted to honor tradition and not comment on the administration that succeeded him until he needed to help his wife and any husband worth his salt will go to the matt for the woman who stuck with him after he got caught cheating publically for the umpteenth time so I can understand why he broke the code but President Carter is another story. I’ve written about him a few times and every time my conclusion is the same, not only was he the worst President in every category (foreign and domestic policy) in the last half of the 20th century he was most likely the second worst President in US history and to make matters worse he’s gone on after his Presidency to screw up the two major assignments he took on in Haiti and North Korea and therefore I think his never ending efforts to stick his nose into other administrations is an ongoing attempt to gain a respect he’ll never achieve with the American public.

Had President Carter stuck with Habitat for Humanity as his post Presidential effort I’m guessing that his time in office and all the terrible decisions we’re still suffering with like OPEC and Iran would have been forgotten and he would be remembered as the President with a good heart who helped people get a fresh start which is a very noble and wonderful thing but instead he continues to seek the limelight and point out the failings of every President that has come after him.

Is it a trend that Democratic Presidents don’t follow the code that says there’s only one President at a time and after your turn is up you need to hush up...well two is hardly a trend and President Clinton only seems to make comments in support of his wife so no I don’t think there’s a trend but I do think President Jimmy Carter should heed my advice when I wrote “Dear Jimmy” at the end of September and if not my advice that of General MacArthur when he suggested that old soldiers simply fade away. President Carter needs to fade away for the sake of President Obama and for America and I hope President Obama when his time comes in 2 or 6 yrs will follow President GW Bush’s classy exit and not President Carters.

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