December 23, 2014

HAIL W, FULL OF GRACE:

George W. Bush's Graceful Silence (Cass R. Sunstein, 12/22/14, Bloomberg View)

In the domain of foreign affairs, 2014 has brought heated national debates on an impressive range of subjects: Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Syria, Ebola, immigration policy and, most recently, torture, North Korea and Cuba. One of the more remarkable features of all these discussions has been the consistent grace of President George W. Bush.

This month, Bush offered a rare comment on a public debate. Responding to the Senate's release of the CIA torture report, he said, "We're fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf. These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base." Note that Bush paid tribute to the employees of the CIA -- and pointedly declined to take a shot at the Barack Obama administration.

No one doubts that, on some important questions, Bush is in profound disagreement with his successor. Nonetheless, he has maintained silence. In March, he explained, "I don't think it's good for the country to have a former president undermine a current president; I think it's bad for the presidency for that matter." [...]

Public figures are ordinarily rewarded for what they say, not for what they don't. Grace is an underrated virtue; gracelessness is an insufficiently acknowledged vice. For his understated remarks about the CIA and his continued silence about his successor, a salute to George W. Bush -- along with hope that, when he leaves office, Obama will follow the example.

Posted by at December 23, 2014 5:02 PM
  

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