Last night, former President George W. Bush gave his first television interview since leaving office, with NBC's Matt Lauer. Hardly anyone tuned in -- I didn't even know it was happening. And I'm not a W fan -- but I recognize that he is one of the most important figures in the history of this country, and particularly in my lifetime. His eight years in office comprise more than one-third of my life. I'd say that's worth recognizing.
I'm intrigued as to what he has to say these days, because he has been seemingly in hiding for the last two years. I have been WAITING for him to come up out of Texas and talk about what's going on in this country. After 9/11, the President was quick to clarify that this would not be a war on Islam, and that Islam was not to blame for this tragedy -- al-Qaeda, a group of terrorists who happen to be extremist Muslims, were to blame for this tragedy. The Islamophobia that many Americans are professing right now is dangerous. But the only voices speaking out against it are those of us on the left side of the aisle, and Republicans (particularly Tea Partiers) don't seem keen to listen. I firmly believe that his voice would be helpful, here. I don't think I've ever said that before, I don't plan to say it after this instance. I know that his party (if what is masquerading as the Republican party is even the same as it was when he was in office) respects him. I know that people who, for the last two years, have been building up their aggression would simmer down to hear their beloved George tell them about how Islam is not to be feared.
But he's been silent. And, weirdly, that has made me sad. I think that it is no coincidence that he waited until after the midterm elections to open his mouth. As much as I had this odd longing to hear his voice on this subject, I now recall why I don't like the guy all that much.
Throughout the interview, Matt Lauer does a good job (as Matt Lauer always does) of asking the questions he wants answered. He gets W to talk about his election, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina (and Kanye), Cheney...all the big deals. Bush stand by everything he ever did, says he'd do it all the same again, but recognizes that some people disagree. I wonder how much his handlers prepped him for those sentences.
In all my nostalgia I forgot how much his little chuckle makes me squirm. And that he mispronounces things. And that he thinks waterboarding is a-ok. And that he thinks Dick Cheney is a stand up guy. And that he thinks we won in Iraq. Hearing him talk about "Mission Accomplished" made my skin crawl.
Enough of that, though. The interview is good. It's long -- 42 minutes in all. The weird thing, though, was that it took me like 15 minutes to find the video online. It wasn't readily available on the NBC website, it's not on YouTube (some excerpts about waterboarding are, and a piece filmed off television -- but not the full, quality interview) and it's not even available on my go-to commentary blogs. I awkwardly found it on The Right Scoop, a right-wing blog that I hope to never visit again.