Bush seeks to put himself in a pantheon of heroic figures, despite all signs to the contrary. The Post send-up is mocking, which I'm sure will raise the ire of the right wing, but I've got my own problems with the Post, beginning with their pandering story about New Orleans' charter school smoke and mirrors show (but I don't have time right now to talk about that...). Anyway, the Post's Dan Eggen describes Bush's grasping at historical straws this way:
He's in Poland in 1939 as Nazi tanks advance on Warsaw, then flying with his Navy-pilot father to battle imperial Japan. He's alongside Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, William McKinley on his deathbed and Franklin D. Roosevelt on D-Day. He lingers with Harry S. Truman, another U.S. president deeply unpopular in his time.
Indeed. Bush is looking for ways to excuse his poor performance in office, so he's running here and there, taking a little of this and a little of that, trying to show he's not a sham (oh, man, the parallels to the New Orleans charter school story are scary...). The main problem, though, is that his anecdotes are so pathetic. Check this one out, in which he tries to draw some parallel to fighting the Japanese in World War II and being allies with them today:
He talked about the World War II service of his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and how the elder Bush fought against a nation, Japan, that is now a key U.S. ally. Referring to the 1940s, President Bush said: "If you'd have thought an American president would stand up and say, 'My close buddy in dealing with the threats to our countries would be the prime minister of Japan,' they'd say, 'Man, you're nuts, hopelessly idealistic.' . . . I have found that to be one of the ironic twists of history."
And what point does that prove, other than the fact that George Bush doesn't know much about history? In its short history, the United States has fought wars against England, Spain, Mexico, Germany, Italy, and Japan (plus some others). You'd be hard pressed to find any of these countries missing from a "US Allies" list. Only a moron who assumes static relations of power and interests would be amazed. The fact that Bush majored in history at Yale should call into question the scholarly credentials of Yale, by the way.
Of course, beyond being simply an example of Bush not understanding history or politics, the above example also shows that his specific mission of recuperating his failures through appeal to historical record are, well, Forrest Gumpian at best. Who is this historical figure who claimed that in the future the US and Japan would be close allies? Oh...it's speculative...I get it.
Except it isn't. There was a concerted effort at top government levels to re-create Germany and Japan as allies because we were already turning our eyes toward containing the Soviet Union. So it's hardly "nuts, hopelessly idealistic" as Bush would have it, for a figure in the 1940's to suggest that enemies could be turned to allies, especially since that was the ostensible goal of the postwar rebuilding plans the US spearheaded. The response of historians to Bush's attempted hijackings has been relatively critical:
Some historians are particularly critical of Bush's frequent references to Truman, who had an even lower approval rating than Bush amid opposition to the Korean War. They say Truman's place in history is elevated by his roles in leading the victory in World War II, creating institutions such as the United Nations and implementing the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild Europe.
Bush on the other hand seems more interested in failing in Iraq and Afghanistan, crippling the United Nations, and destroying rather than rebuilding nations.
Bush's legacy, I'm afraid, will be closer to that of Buchanan or Harding than to any other whose name resonates with history's approval. If Bush is lucky, he could hope for the partial recuperation that finally awaited the disgraced Richard Nixon, but I see nothing even remotely akin to Nixon's overtures to China in Bush's repertoire.