Sep 30, 2014 0
Bret Stephens writes in The Wall Street Journal, Obama Needs to Call Bush
Maybe President Obama also calls Mr. Bush every now and then, just to talk, and one day we’ll find out about it. But I suspect not. No president has so completely built his administration with a view toward doing—and being—the opposite of his predecessor. Long private talks wouldn’t just be out of character for this president. They’d be awkward.
But having a long conversation with Mr. Bush is what Mr. Obama needs to do if he means to start salvaging his failing presidency. It would be an act of contrition: for six years of vulgar ridicule and sophomoric condescension. Also, humility: for finally understanding that the intel is often wrong (and that doesn’t make you a “liar”), that the choices in war are never clear or simple, that the allies aren’t always with you, and that evil succumbs only to force.
And it would be an act of bipartisanship: not the fake kind to which the president pays occasional lip service, but the kind that knows there is no party monopoly on wisdom, and that there is no democracy without compromise, and that there can be no compromise when your opponents sense you hold them in contempt.
Maybe then the two presidents can start talking about a few things they have in common. Like going from big re-elections to dismal ratings in a matter of months. Like realizing that you will soon lose the Congress, and that your own party is turning on you. Like figuring out that your top cabinet officers and White House confidantes are failing you. Like having your past boasts about military success rendered ridiculous by events. Like needing to come up with a new strategy, quickly, before a foreign-policy setback becomes a full-blown calamity.
Don’t make promises in private that you’ll renege on in public. Don’t give speeches denouncing Republicans as mean and greedy. Listen as if you might actually learn something. Give something if you want to get something.