President-elect Barack Obama and President George W. Bush have conducted a fairly seamless transition of power over the last couple of months. Each man is being very gracious to the other, and for the most part, trying to keep from stepping on the other man’s toes. Obama has repeatedly told reporters that there is only one president at a time. Bush, for his part, said in his last press conference that he would he would get off the scene and go back to Texas.
Yesterday’s two major political events highlighted this carefully designed dance between the current Chief Executive and his successor; Obama’s response to Bush’s farewell address to the nation and Obama’s answer to the inevitable question: “Are you going to bring Bush up on charges?”
On the former issue, I think it was wise for Obama to not watch the address so he will not be in a position to have to remark on what Bush said. Why stir up controversy if you don’t have to? Obama is going to have enough to deal with on Tuesday afternoon. There is no upside to any comment he might make so let Bush ride off into the sunset on his own terms.
This point connects to the placing Bush on trial question. I know the left is going to cry for Bush to be tried as a war criminal as sure as Republicans were calling for Harry Truman (dropping the atomic bomb) and Lyndon Johnson’s (Vietnam) head in 1953 and 1969 respectively. However, Obama understands the big picture and will not go there because he has real issues to fix including a sluggish economy. Obama is not going to waste his political capital, and the good will he has worked to get on both sides of the aisle, on a ex-presidential witch hunt that will drain all of the life out his administration for at least two years.
Forgive or Forget? As far as Obama is concerned, forgiveness of Bush is not necessary for him to move his agenda forward. However, it may be politically wise for Obama to help the country to forget the last eight years as expeditiously as possible… by letting him retire in peace back in Texas.