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Bush Legacy Watch

By Dan Froomkin
12:16 PM ET, 02/ 2/2009

Todd J. Gillman writes in the Dallas Morning News: "The Bush legacy-protection machinery isn't in full gear yet. But it's getting there, with former aides gathering online to share talking points and swap spin.

"'We were there. And as members of the team, we know the difference between rumor, reality, fact, and fiction. This is our chance to stand up, speak up, and set the record straight,' says the Web site dedicated to the task.

"The Bush-Cheney Alumni Association Web site, 43alumni.com, appeared last week as a link from the Web site of the George W. Bush Foundation, which is raising funds to build the Bush presidential library and policy institute at Southern Methodist University.

"Bush critics warned from the outset that the SMU project could stray from biography and academics into hagiography and polemics. The reams of laudatory press clippings loaded on the alumni site, with nary a naysayer to be found, might prompt an 'I told you so.'...

"The site's offerings include reprints of Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey's critique of the Obama economic stimulus plan ('As crafted, it is unlikely to produce the desired results') and a tart assessment from Bush political guru Karl Rove suggesting a 'perpetual campaign' mentality at the new White House."

In a likeminded Wall Street Journal opinion column, Dorothy Rabninowitz warns darkly that Obama's "trumpeting declarations to the world that new leadership had now come to the United States, that we were now a nation worthy of the world's trust -- those speeches suggesting that after years of darkness America had now been rescued, just barely, from the abyss -- will be in the end this president's Achilles' heel. Those are not, Mr. Obama may discover, tones that wear well in the course of a presidency."

But taking a somewhat more critical view of Bush's legacy, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers writes for Huffingtonpost.com about his insistence on a full reckoning of the Bush administration's excesses: "If we move on now without fully documenting what occurred, without acknowledging the betrayal of our values, and without determining whether or not any laws have been broken, we cannot help but validate all that has gone on before. If we look at the Bush record and conclude that the book should simply be closed, we will be tacitly approving both the documented abuses and the additional misdeeds we will have chosen to leave uncovered."

The New York Times editorial board writes: "On the campaign trail, Barack Obama was skeptical of sweeping claims of executive privilege. We hope that he will show the same skepticism now that he is in the White House. The scandals of the Bush Justice Department will not be put to rest until all of Mr. Bush's aides who have been subpoenaed provide Congress with the information it needs, in public and under oath.

Ryan J. Donmoyer writes for Bloomberg with another bit of the Bush legacy: "The average tax rate paid by the richest 400 Americans fell by a third to 17.2 percent through the first six years of the Bush administration and their average income doubled to $263.3 million, new IRS data show."

Meanwhile, Jennifer Loven writes for the Associated Press that "there are plenty of signs that Team Obama is more than a little preoccupied with Bush — with avoiding his mistakes, reversing his policies in a daily drumbeat of events, and with getting as much political mileage as possible from coded but clear shots at the unpopular ex-president...

"'Yes, Bush is unpopular. But he's unpopular because the policies weren't right,' said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. 'What people want a change from is not theoretical.'"

And Joanna Molloy and Meredith Kolodner write in the New York Daily News: "Will Ferrell's spoof of former President George Bush may be the hottest ticket in town, but it's a lap-dancing Condoleezza Rice - and her red panties - that steal the show."

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