The Matt Lauer interview of George W. Bush was a total Rorschach Test. You saw what you wanted to see in it.
Think Bush was an unfairly maligned, decisive leader faced with unprecedented challenges who did the best he could while staying true to his core beliefs in Jesus Christ, ‘merica and family? It was the interview for you. Think he was an incompetent, accidental president controlled by his team of greedy, racist war criminals who led thousands to their deaths needlessly, tanked the economy and oversaw the worst bureaucratic debacle in American history? Have I got the interview for you.
Highlights of the interview, intended to sell Bush’s forthcoming Decision Points:
* Bush tells Lauer that he was the dissenter on the Iraq War and he opposed using force. Pity he couldn’t find the guy in charge to convey that. Someone like the commander in chief of the United States armed forces. Or the President of the United States. Maybe tugging on Dick Cheney’s pant leg to make your point isn’t the best approach when you’re the leader of the free world.
* Bush calls Kanye West’s “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”/Mike Myers’ punch-to-the-stones reaction shot the most “disgusting” moment of his presidency. Not the horror of Hurricane Katrina and his botched, race-based federal response. What a rapper said about him on the playground.
* When Bush asserts waterboarding is legal, Lauer asks if that means an American soldier is fair game for waterboarding in another country. His response? “I’m not going to debate the issue, man,” becoming, for one glimmering moment, The Dude. He adds in his refusal to answer, “I want people to read my book,” and then he breaks out his “heh heh” face. I guess this means a copy of Decision Points will be as useful as a copy of the Geneva Conventions for soldiers deployed to war zones.
* Bush defends the TARP bank bailout, saying it was essential to take taxpayers’ money (his words) and prop up the banks to stave off the next Great Depression. He is immediately decried as a socialist by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. I’m just kidding about that last part of course. They called him Hitler.
* Lauer points out that half of the American public incorrectly thinks Barack Obama authorized TARP. Bush responds with another “heh heh” face that indicates he too saw the sign on the right at the Fear/Sanity rally and thought it was hilarious:
* He closes the interview telling Lauer that his 30 percent approval rating when he left office meant nothing to him. Didn’t care. Throws in an “eff you” shoulder shrug for good measure. See, Kanye, there’s no need to take umbrage on behalf of black people. George Bush doesn’t care about any people.
Oh and ten bucks says Bush had crayoned in Decidering Points as the title of that thing, requiring some poor junior editor dispatched by Random House to start a conversation, “Um, sir…”
I certainly hope that the American public delivers him 30 percent approval ratings in their book purchasing this fall.