A building dedication is a bit like a funeral for the person it's named after. Everybody comes out to offer glowing, extremely circumspect words about the not-at-all-bastard-of-a-man whose name is written in big bold letters on a slab behind them, and that's it. The legacy? You're looking at it. This was the best we could do, the building says, is it good enough? Like me now? Sometimes the big bold letters are etched as commitment from their powerful namesake to help children, or heal the sick, or do something else of societal value in the big new building they've been carved into, and sometimes it's just a tombstone, a homage the powerful man for being powerful and doing powerful things that everybody should remember.
The choices, then, are this. We can sit here and praise him, because "respect for the office" apparently means that. We can also make fun of him, or berate him, or shake our heads at him—all fine choices. Or, sweet Jesus, we can take this opportunity to once again remind ourselves that he is well and truly gone. He's gone off to paint, and give speeches, and maybe do some good deeds if it doesn't cut into his daytime schedule too much, every once in a while. He doesn't show up at the Crawford ranch, anymore, and the brush has all gone uncleared. He doesn't show up in Washington, either. Everyone associated with his tenure has had the good instinct to lie low, for the most part, knowing that they ain't redeemed yet. And that, in turn, has led directly to the final stage of his legacy, a dismantlement of all serious thought and policy from his old party, plunging us one last time into one last swamp of pompous, blustering decidering by people who really don't give a flying damn what their policies are, because every last policy they had a scant five years ago got tried, and the results sent them and us and everything else into the toilet.
Bush was at his best during those first few months of his presidency, when he had no particular motivation or agenda other than "Look at me, I'm president." He was at his worst when Something Happened, requiring an administration response that invariably turned out to be devoutly ideological and, when put into practice, a spectacular clusterf--k. This was the ideology that invaded Iraq because of terrorists in Afghanistan. This was the ideology that travelled the country demanding we privatize our national retirement funds and invest them in the stock market, just before that same stock market collapsed and buried the whole world in its dust. This was the ideology the helped collapse it, an ideology that insisted for 30 years that government didn't need to keep an eye on things, the nice men in the expensive offices would never do anything to cause us harm even if doing us harm would make them filthy stinking rich. Every ideological theory of preemption or prevention or stagnation or eviction that was put into practice managed to neatly wreck whatever it was attached to, to the point where all the advocates for those ideologies were sent scurrying.
So now we're left with a post-Bush ideology that is not even an ideology anymore, just a series of vague chants and insistent swears. Bush didn't disembowel enough of the government, that was the problem—so let's start carving it up like a serial killer apportioning his latest victim. Bush didn't invade the wrong country, he just invaded too few of the wrong countries—Iran, here we come! The Bush catastrophe led directly to the ascendence of even more ridiculous figures and movements, a new faux-libertarianism that looked suspiciously like the very same things as before, but ratcheted up, or doubled down, or put in the hands of Rand Freaking Paul. This is a party on the run from itself, but too wed to its own stubborn fiscal cultism to even be able to imagine changing it. Bush and his multitude of advisers and think tankers and strategists, all the people sitting in the important seats, today, to put the final polish to the presidential turd, did the worst thing possible for conservatism—they believed it, and in believing it, wrecked it.
The best thing George W. Bush did for the presidency was to leave it. That's one thing that nearly all concerned, including all the people in the rows of little white seats, today, can agree on. God bless him, now he gets a liberry of his own, and I wouldn't want to be the poor sucker 20 years from now who has to clear brush from the lonely thing.