The recent dedication of George W. Bush’s presidential library has brought the historical revisionists out in force. They hope to replicate the success of the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, which recast an amiable airhead — a guy who depended on an astrologer to make decisions, who offered to ally with the USSR against invaders from Mars, and who said trees create pollution — as a mythic president.
Karl Rove set the tone: “I’d put (Bush) up there” with “George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, FDR,” he said at the dedication.
Bush’s chief of staff, Andy Card, joined the charade, too, claiming that Bush “probably has the best track record of any modern president in terms of fiscal discipline.” Except of course that he didn’t pay for his wars and tax cuts, turning a projected $5 trillion surplus into a $5 trillion deficit.
The columnist Charles Krauthammer proclaimed that Bush “kept us safe.” No mention of 9/11, the anthrax attacks, or the 90,000 American casualties in Iraq that Bush put in harm’s way.
Republican strategist Ed Gillespie tried sleight-of-hand in the National Review: “Over Mr. Bush’s tenure, our national debt averaged 38 percent of GDP, a result of holding average annual deficits to 2 percent of GDP, and federal spending remained below 20 percent of GDP in six of his eight years in office.”
The reality is that the U.S. government was running the largest surplus in its history when Bush took office. Eight years later, it was running the biggest deficit since World War II. It you take the average of those eight years, you get the misleading numbers Gillespie quoted.
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin claimed that “(Bush) is responsible for one of the most popular and fiscally sober entitlement plans, Medicare Part D,” failing to mention that this fiscally sober plan was never paid for either; it’s another reason for our budget deficit.