Last Call

Back on the Mound

By From the December 2010 - January 2011 issue

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Day four, the World Series. Giants up, two games to one over the Texas Rangers. We await the opening pitch. Here comes...here comes...a golf cart out of left field. Down step a couple of ex-presidents, both named Bush. Wearing a Rangers jacket, the 43rd president takes the mound, eyes the distance, hurls toward the plate -- a high one. Nolan Ryan's right there, sticks his glove up. He's got it!

Crowd goes, well, not exactly wild. More like enthusiastic, and a bit nostalgic. But you kind of intuit that George W. Bush, if not back on the international pitching mound he vacated nearly two years ago, plans to occupy a seat overlooking the action.

Oh, yeah, that was his dad, George H. W. Bush, out there with him in the golf cart: less spry than we used to know him, encumbered with a cane but looking sharp as a tack. And nearby in front-row seats-that was Barbara Bush, along with Laura of the same surname.

Bush the Younger's emergence from semiretirement in Texas has had the predicted effects: some heckling on the blogs; a lot of press and TV time-Today, Matt Lauer, the usual suspects-built up around publication of his new book, Decision Points; the decision by a whole lot of folks (to use Barack Obama's favorite word for "citizens") to say to friends, you know, this isn't the bad guy we used to hear about day after day, maligned for his policies, his rhetoric, his smirk.

The downfall of the Democrats, on Election Day 2010 -- a day after the Rangers, whom Bush partly owned until 1998, lost the Series to the exultant constituents of Nancy Pelosi -- was a setup for which George W. Bush could not have prayed hard enough.

The hot-shot successor who campaigned throughout September and October on the platform of  "At Least I'm Not That Economy-Wrecking George Bush" is widely perceived to have gotten his comeuppance. It may be that the United States is ready for George W. Bush to edge back into the spotlight -- carefully back; not in a preemptory way, with beating of chest. He may have things to say worth hearing -- a proposition many conservatives are unready to acknowledge. Still, you never know.

A CNN poll in early October said Americans, by a mere two percentage points -- 47 to 45 -- viewed Obama as a better president than Bush. By now the results may have flipped the other way.

Last winter, anonymous Minnesota businessmen put up a big billboard featuring Bush, smiling mischievously and waving, with a question that invited immediate response: "Miss me yet?" A lot of "folks" seemingly did and do, because the same billboard popped up all over the country. Yes, hmmm, was he ever as bad as Frank Rich made out? Was he worse than The One who stepped from among the Grecian columns to take his place? Hmmm...

MANY WOULD SAY it's not much of a choice. However that might be, Bush, as of November, was back to make his case: in Decision Points, as in the interviews connected with it; in the speeches for which he gets paid as much as $100,000 per; and, more subtly, in the multiple events leading to the opening, two years hence, of the 225,000-square-foot George W. Bush Presidential Center at Dallas's Southern Methodist University, complete with presidential library and policy foundation.

With hardly less grit than Richard Nixon displayed in performing his own task of redemption-I admit the awkwardness of that comparison-George W. Bush prepares to reenter public life; and not just reenter but maybe, possibly, somehow influence it. Unlike another president we could mention, he invites no one to bow down and worship him. He wants to get back in the game. He'll never warrant confusion with Cliff Lee, but he's a player, and he loves the mound. 

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About the Author

William Murchison is a Dallas-based columnist for Creators Syndicate. His latest book is The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson.