11.13.10

Dubya's Rehab Tour

One Texas legend pays tribute to another. Kinky Friedman on W.'s rehab tour, his poll advantage over Barack Obama, the release of Decision Points, and how history may smile on the Decider.

Full disclosure: I am the only man who has slept under two presidents in the White House—Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. The last time I hung out with Bill was in Sydney, just after he'd gotten out of office. I was right in the middle of something when he called and said, "Let's go see [the late great horn player] Maynard Ferguson at the Basement," which we did. I have not seen George and Laura since they left the White House. Like millions of other Americans, I'm starting to miss them, too.

W., I understand, is sleeping better these days. He is setting up his new library, working with Clinton to help Haiti, greeting returning soldiers from Iraq at the airport, and dreaming, perhaps, of pursuing his only hobby, clearing brush. As the author Frederick Exley once observed, "What good are dreams if they come true?" This notwithstanding, in W.'s case, they seem to be. History is clearing the brush from his legacy.

Strung like a cheap puka-shell necklace across the highways of the country are large billboards featuring W.'s mischievously grinning countenance, accompanied with the existential slogan "Miss me yet?" The earthbound passengers of life who, like the line of the Paul Simon song, have "all come to look for America," increasingly seem to be responding in the affirmative.

Indeed, in surprisingly diverse areas around the country, Bush is now polling better than President Obama. The Bush-era tax cuts remain very popular with the American people. Bush will always be remembered as a fighter against AIDS in Africa, a friend to Israel, a supporter of NASA, and a feared but respected enemy of dictatorships the world over. Obama, who often seems to be none of these things, may be the helping the hand of history put lipstick on the pig of Iraq by championing a war even more foolish.

Legacies, at best, are studies in contrasts. History does not always get it right, but sometimes it does. Sam Houston, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill were cursed and reviled, called "traitor," "ape," "cowboy"; they are seen today as visionaries and portraits of greatness. There is no question that George W. Bush is a man with a spirit of generosity which extends even to his enemies, who snipe at him constantly and blame him for everything under the sun. He is also a man with the God-given ability to laugh at himself. So what if, praise Allah, Iraq keeps turning toward the good and becomes the second true democracy in the entire Middle East? Was it all worth it? Men and women of future generations may well say yes.

There are two kinds of people who wear cowboy hats—cowboys and assholes. George W. Bush is definitely not the latter.

There are two kinds of people who wear cowboy hats—cowboys and assholes. George W. Bush is definitely not the latter; he is, in truth, a gentle, humble man who loves his country and cherishes the quixotic notion of all the people from the world someday existing in peace and freedom. Whether he's a real cowboy is not for us to say; it is a judgment that should be made by God and small children.

Bush's memoir, Decision Points, was published this week. It has been well-received in most quarters. In fact, it is fair for me to say that Bush's legacy is looking better every day. Meanwhile, Obama, once considered to be the smartest guy in the room, just keeps on painting Tom Sawyer's fence.

Kinky Friedman is a country music singer, politician, Texas Monthly columnist, the author of a successful mystery series, and was a candidate for Texas governor in 2006. His most recent book is Kinky's Celebrity Pet Files . You can visit his website here.