Bush library opening a rare showing of bipartisanship


Adam Schasel, Staff Reporter

I do not like George W. Bush.

But I think it is safe to assume that neither do former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, nor does current president Barack Obama, who essentially campaigned in 2008 as the anti-Bush. In fact, these three men probably have a lot more reason to dislike Bush than I do.

Yet all three were at SMU Thursday to attend the dedication of the George W. Bush Library and Museum, in addition to former president (not to mention fellow Republican and father of Bush 43) George H.W. Bush.

It is true that a fancy ribbon-cutting ceremony is a far cry from a substantial policy matter. But considering that Republicans and Democrats can barely manage sitting next to each other, let alone make actual decisions without the threat of a looming government shutdown, a few former presidents standing next to each other without one trying to wring the other’s neck can lay the foundation for a Washington that actually works.

That foundation is desperately needed. Although it is common knowledge that Congress has record-breaking low approval ratings, it is more divided than at any other point in history.  The sequester, a package of spending cuts designed to be so ridiculously stupid that both parties would be forced to replace them with sensible, bipartisan cuts, actually went into effect in March, with no foreseeable sign that it will be replaced. Gun control measures that an overwhelming majority of Americans support did not even pass the Senate, even though some of the parents of the twenty children massacred last December lobbied tirelessly for Congress to pass them.  Dramatic government shutdowns have now become the norm, in addition to crazy ideas such as minting trillion-dollar coins.

Congress has shown signs of changing, however. Fresh from an electoral beating, many top Republicans, including Tea Party favorite Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have come across the aisle to work on immigration reform. This could be seen as a ploy to court Latino voters, of whom only 27 percent voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but it doesn’t matter what convinces one party to work with their ideological opponents, as long as they actually do it.

President Obama, too, has shown signs of coming around and negotiating with Republicans.  In addition to his recent budget proposal which includes cuts to liberal sacred cows like health care programs Medicare and Medicaid, he has invited many congressional Republicans to lunches and dinners where he reportedly listened to his guests much more than he talked, and even personally footed the bill afterwards.  Ordinary citizens may disdain this kind of political schmoozing, but it could be what’s necessary to bring our leaders together and actually lead.

The library dedication is another step in the right direction. If Democratic presidents can stand side-by-side with a figure as polarizing as George W. Bush, then there may just be hope for government yet.