- The Washington Times - Friday, December 26, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

With only 26 days left to harangue, mock and bash President Bush, some of our colleagues in the media aren’t wasting a day. Bashing ex-presidents, except for the ex-presidents with shrill prominent wives, isn’t nearly as much fun as bashing while he’s still the real thing.

There’s method in the gladness at the New York Times, which relieved itself at the beginning of Christmas week with an umpity-thousand word accusation - beginning on Page One and continuing across several acres of newsprint inside - that George W. Bush invented the meltdown of the subprime housing market, which in turn has led to the collapse of Detroit and all kinds of bad things for Atchison, Topeka and maybe even Santa Fe.

The point of the epic was clearly to portray George W. as the new Herbert Hoover, so that when recession becomes Depression (with the capital-D) not a single rabbit will be safe anywhere and everyone will remember who did it and - voila! - the Republicans will be shut out of the White House and control of the Congress for a generation, and maybe more.

It’s not quite fair picking on the New York Times, which has had a rough week, having to apologize for printing a fake letter from the mayor of Paris belittling the Senate qualifications of Caroline Kennedy, and then, worse, for printing a recipe for a fennel and citrus salad that omitted instructions for using “the finely grated zest of one lemon.” Life is tough on the Upper East Side, for man and fennel alike. The rush to get in a last few licks at a sitting Republican president is a game a lot of bashers play. Some of the bloggers were bitterly disappointed - complaining is the main point of blogging - that George W. didn’t call off the election, as pointy-headed bashers freely predicted through the summer months that he would, or call out the National Guard to prevent the inauguration. There’s still time for that, but not only has George W. so far failed to declare himself president-for-life, he’s going out of his way to make things easy for the president-elect. He even bailed out Detroit, giving Barack Obama the opportunity to decry later his delaying the inevitable, when Detroit finally craters, or he can bail out the bailout later, as he hears opportunity knocking.

But bashing George W. is the only news that’s fit to print in certain places: “There are plenty of culprits [to blame for bad economic news],” reported the New York Times, “like lenders who peddled easy credit, consumers who took on mortgages they could not afford and Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk. But the story of how we got here,” (and here comes the curve ball), “is partly one of Mr. Bush’s own making … ”

But we never get to the other “partly” bits, the parts about how “Wall Street chieftains who loaded up on mortgage-backed securities without regard to the risk,” and how Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat of New York, and Rep. Barney Frank, a Democrat of Massachusetts, did more than any other 10 men to insulate Fannie Mae from nosy regulators and effective federal supervision. Fannie and her senior executives - one of whom was (and maybe still is) Barney’s special friend - grew rich on taxpayer largesse while blowing on the kindling of the fire that melted the subprime housing market.

The worthies at the New York Times are worried, like George W. himself, about his legacy. They all should know better; legacies are not plucked from the pantry shelf, but develop over the years without help or hindrance from either critic or legacee. George W.’s critics are spooked by what happened to Harry S. Truman, who straggled back to Missouri with the contempt of nearly everyone ringing in his ears (“to err is Truman”) and within two decades became one of our most popular ex-presidents. Now is the time to blame the president for everything bad, and give him credit for nothing good. It’s mere coincidence that America has been safe from Islamist terror every day since 9/11.

Gratitude always comes easier for the least among us. George W.’s compassionate conservatism has saved millions of lives in Africa, those who but for the billions of dollars this president spent there would have died of AIDS or malaria. His approval rating, in the low 20s at home (and no doubt near zero on the Upper East Side), reaches 80 percent in Africa, where women with a clearer understanding of reality name their sons after him. The bashers have to get their licks in now, while the bashing is good.

Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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