US President Barack Obama spent years trying to bury the White House legacy of former US president George W. Bush. Now, he is traveling to Texas to praise him.
Obama is to head a rare showing of all living former US presidents today as Bush inaugurates his presidential library and museum, four years after the end of an administration scorched by terror, foreign wars and economic crisis.
Among Bush alumni, who chafe at his past criticism of their boss, Obama will likely put politics aside as his controversial predecessor asks history for a fresh look.
Obama has battled for years against Bush’s legacy, ending the pre-emptive war in Iraq, but failing to close Guantanamo Bay — though he did halt harsh interrogations of terror suspects that critics equate to torture.
His entire presidency has been darkened by the generational economic crisis Bush bequeathed, which was culling 700,000 jobs a month in early 2009.
Obama’s election campaign the year before had largely been a crusade for change to purge the failings he saw epitomized by Bush, who was president from 2001 to 2009.
However, today Obama is to focus on insights he shares with one of the five men alive who know the personal burdens of the US presidency.
“He believes that there is a special bond between those who have served their country from the Oval Office,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “There’s no job like it and there are very few in our history who have held it.”
The Bush lauded today will be the heroic figure vowing vengeance from a pile of rubble at Ground Zero in New York after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, not the wobbly leader peering helplessly at the devastation of Hurricane Katrina from an Air Force One window.
Obama flung stinging criticism Bush’s way in 2008, when his Republican predecessor’s popularity was crippled and he was grasping for power himself.
At the Democratic National Convention, Obama slammed the “broken politics” of Washington and the “failed policies of George W. Bush.”
Two weeks before winning the White House, Obama warned that the “economic crisis is the final verdict on their failed leadership,” and in his first term he rarely missed a chance to describe the tough hand he was dealt.
However, he was gracious when Bush returned to see his portrait unveiled at the White House last year, praising the Republican’s leadership after Sept. 11, 2001.
He said that his first call was to Bush after the successful Navy SEAL raid deep into Pakistan to kill former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“We may have our differences politically, but the presidency transcends those differences. We all love this country. We all want America to succeed,” Obama said.