Dubyapalooza: Catholics Share the Presidential W. Love

After the Dubyapalooza at the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, a badly needed reassessment of former President Bush is underway. I offer my 2 cents at the National Catholic Register, based in part on what we covered at the time.

For space, I had to cut one quote which I often cite as my favorite quote ever in the Register. Our reporter at the Republican National Convention asked Bob Dole what he thought of George W. Bush’s faith.

Said Dole: “I think Bush’s faith is authentic, and that will be useful to us.”  That says so much about the Republican establishment — but also about Bush.

In his interview with the Register, the future president’s was very much to-the-point: “I’m a pro-life candidate,” he said. “I’ve been a pro-life governor. I’m going to set the goal that all children born and unborn ought to be protected in law and welcomed to life. I will sign a ban on partial birth abortions. I will encourage adoptions.”

Thus began a stormy love affair with Catholics.

The rest of the article reminisces about some flashpoints from that first honeymoon year of Bush-Catholic story that I hadn’t thought about for a while:

  • The Lepanto 2000 Rosary Crusade
  • Marian Feast Days on the Recount Timeline
  • The Day 6 Cardinal McCarrick Visit
  • The February Catholic Do-Gooder Summit
  • The JPII Center Ribbon Cutting

Then in 2001 the storms came in late August, as they so often do, and the cyclone hit in September. Anyway, it was good to reminisce about the old days. And it was good to share some of the love at the presidential pow-wow.

I counted at least four hatchet-burying moments in Dallas.

presidentsFirst: the “Bush as divider” hatchet.

Bush was often mocked for saying “I am a uniter, not a divider.” That never made much sense.

But the kind words of the former presidents suggest they knew he was a uniter all along — Bill Clinton discussed Bush’s calls “just to talk politics,” Obama described the letter from Bush he found on day one in the presidential desk, Carter described how Bush helped him out. And of course, Obama praised him for his reach-across-the-aisle effort to promote immigration reform.

Second: the “war-monger” hatchet.

The National Catholic Register, when I edited it, certainly took Bush to task for his Iraq war decision — but even Cardinal Ratzinger gave an implicit green light to the Afghanistan war. And isn’t it odd that behavior (Google Libya, Guantanamo and “Kill Teams” for starters) that would have been be called “war mongering” 10 years ago is given a pass when Obama does it?

But the presidents graciously praised Bush’s efforts in Africa. President Carter went a step further when he gave Bush credit for more peace in Sudan: “In January of 2005, there was a peace treaty between north and south Sudan that ended a war that had been going on for 20 years,” Carter said. “George W. Bush is responsible for that.”

Third: The “Big Oil polluter” hatchet was buried. Or it should have been.

Though he was caricatured as pro-oil and anti-tree, Bush’s personal commitment to environmentalism is real and significant. He lives in a radical conservationist dream house in Crawford, Texas, that even Snopes agrees compares favorably to Al Gore’s house.

The AP reports that the George W. Bush library is like a green home away from home for the Bushes. It is LEED-certified platinum: as green as you can get. Many materials in the building came from within 500 miles of the site; a cistern will gather rainwater to water the plants, etc.

Fourth: Maybe even the Katrina hatchet was just a little bit buried.

Bill Clinton spoke joked about getting cozy with the Bush family – and revealed that he worked with them on Katrina. “You know, starting with my work with President George H.W. Bush on the tsunami and the aftermath of Katrina, people began to joke that I was getting so close to the Bush family, I had become the black sheep son. My mother told me not to talk too long today and Barbara, I will not let you down.”

Each of these was a small thing, but it was nice. I always liked Bush. I like anyone who is willing to stand for life against sneering opponents and gain ground.

As Obama put it: “To know the man is to like the man.”

  • Mary

    Bush unwisely engaged us in two wars and ran the American economy into the ground. I don’t have much love for him, and I certainly don’t miss him. His verbal gaffes were painful and he has not stopped making them. The other night in his interview with Diane Sawyer he called himself “precocious”. God only knows what he was actually trying to say – I don’t think “precocious” could describe a former president under any circumstances. He should have hired a vocabulary coach rather than a painting instructor.

    • Joe M

      Mary. Are you saying that you opposed even the Afghanistan war?

      Also, what specific act is Bush responsible for that led to the housing bubble?

  • Pat Fraser

    It’s an odd perception of pro-life that you have:

    “During Bush’s five-year tenure as governor, 152 people were executed in Texas – more than 30 per year.”


    • Joe M

      Pat Fraser.

      Most people understand that “pro-life” refers to a stance on abortion. Not on a stance on the death penalty, the merits of which can be debated separately.

  • Crispina G David

    I like G.W. Bush and the former first Lady. I am sure history will prove him one of the best president. His family is one of the best if not the best that lived in the House House .

  • Eugene & Clara Manecke

    We always appreciated President Bush. He was so sincere about his decisions and his actions and truly believed that he was making the right decision at the time. It was much like being a parent, we make the decisions with the knowledge that we have at that time. May not be correct, but it is the best we can do. We believe that politics have become so critical of those in office instead of just accepting his decisions because the people elected him to serve this country. We should be able to disagree without being so critical. Bush has done a great job of not criticizing Obama even though we are sure that he must not agree with him all the time either. Thank you President Bush for your commitment to this country and serving us well.

  • beverly christy

    I and a lot of American’s love George w Bush and miss him……..

    • jgbech

      Saint “W”. Not so fast! He relied on the lowest of low, Cheney to drive the Iraq war effort. Interviewed recently Cheney still maintains that Sadam threatened the US with or without weapons of mass destruction. It turned out to be the latter. How about Tommy Franks’ “shock and awe”. Didn’t happen. “W”‘s banner and speech aboard The USS Lincoln on May 1, 2003 “mission accomplished”. when it was just beginning.

      • Joe M

        Saddam did clearly threaten US interests.

        Even if he didn’t, from a Christian perspective, the massive crimes his regime was systematically committing against the people of Iraq is justification enough to try and stop it.

  • Rosemary Salaz

    Thank you for the beautiful story; it is is refreshing to hear morality spoken about in public.



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