By Isaac Butler
Kevin Drum is curious about the disappearance of George W. Bush from our daily life and our popular consciousness. He makes a lot of good points, namely that we shouldn't be surprised because by the time he left everyone on both sides of the aisle hated him and his legislative record is very, very thin beyond the Patriot Act.
I think there's two other layers to this that Kevin doesn't discuss that are worth contemplating. The first is how Bush's disappearance from the public eye works as a metaphor for what he really achieved, which is to say that his two terms fundamnetally determined everything that's come after them. There's the economy he broke, the executive branch he stuffed with bible school graduates and incompetents and the two disastrous wars he got us into. All of these have meant that his sucessor, both Barack Obama and whomever will come after him, are stuck with the aftermath. We're still, four years later, cleaning up George W. Bush's messes (if anything, one of my chief Obama criticisms is that he hasn't gone far enough in doing so). And of course there's Roberts and Alito and all the other hyper-conservative judicial appointments.
But beyond that, don't we also want Bush to disappear? Don't we all need, psychologically, to blame it all on him and having him vanish? After all, Democrats voted to approve much of his agenda. Tom Daschle okayed the War in Iraq and then snapped to the reporters that "we would like to move on," as if the decision about going to war was a simple annoyance to him. Virtually no one voted against the PATRIOT Act. Obama continues many of Bush's most troubling policies where it comes to civil liberties and habeus issues. We still extrajudicially murder people. Killing Bin Laden hasn't ended the failing war in Afghanistan. Bush has disappeared in the same way our own reckoning with what we did during his eight years disappeared. Were he to come back, we'd have to confront those secret shameful parts of ourselves.