By REG HENRY
It is time to start thinking about the legacy of President George W. Bush — you know, other than making half the world hate us and putting ourselves in debt to the other half.
But his real legacy may be much worse. I think he has prepared this great land for Hillary Rodham Clinton to be president, which, when it happens, will be a pathetic enough occasion that “In God We Trust” can be taken off our money and replaced with “It Has Come to This.”
At a certain level, many of us — no matter what our politics — understand that the recklessness and stupidity the Bush administration has brought to government has tended to dim the memory of the Clinton years.
Our minds struggle to remember — wasn’t there a young lady the president was mentoring? — but we are swamped by the news from Iraq, where it seems the only ones winning are those military contractors who have escaped all accounting. (Hurrah for free enterprise!)
Here at home, where lies pass as truth and truth passes as lies, where the nation’s finances have turned into an ocean of red ink and the Constitution has become confetti, the Clinton years seem to have a golden glow.
But sensible people realize that used-car lots when seen in the rearview mirror also have a golden glow — usually, from a lurid, neon light shining over the lot. Distance lends enchantment.
Back in the day, Bill Clinton sat in his used-car lot, leaned against his various policies and ate a cheeseburger. He was quite the charming rascal when folks came along to kick the tires while his wife Hillary kept the books. He had the common touch, and if he hadn’t used it so commonly to touch certain young women, he might have done better.
Now George W. Bush operates his own lot. His wife is a librarian and adds a wholesome touch to the establishment. The real difference is that Bush’s inventory is meant for rich customers who are given all sorts of deals. Many of his customers come straight from church and believe every word he says — poor benighted people — because he seems such a nice, well-mannered man and his business partner, Dick Cheney, is so trustworthy.
As this pair is working a bigger con than Bill Clinton ever pulled, it was inevitable that sooner or later the American people would wake up with a sour taste in their mouths and realize that every car on the Bush-Cheney lot was a lemon.
No surprise there, because, to paraphrase another famous Republican, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time unless Karl Rove is in top form. What is news is that some surprising people now think well of Hillary Clinton.
Forget about distance lending enchantment — distance now encourages derangement. Why, even Richard Mellon Scaife, the famous conservative publisher of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is said to be of this view. Dick Scaife? The patron saint of troglodytes? He is having cozy thoughts about Hillary? Quick, let’s run outside and watch elephants fly over in the manner of airborne pigs.
This revelation comes from The New York Times in a Monday story. While it did concede that the old Clinton-haters were still luxuriating in their old Clinton-hating nostalgia, the bloom is off the Clinton-hatred rose, and Scaife is said to have had second thoughts.
While the great man was unavailable for comment there in his money bin, the Times did reach Christopher Ruddy, who in the Clinton years covered the political-soiled-underwear beat for his boss and now co-owns a conservative online publication with him. (I think the Web address is wearewingnuts.com, but I could be wrong.)
“Clinton wasn’t such a bad president,” Ruddy said, causing liberals to faint over their breakfast. “In fact, he was a pretty good president in a lot of ways, and Dick feels that way today.”
Well, fancy that. What a correction/clarification/whoopsies! At the time, I got the impression that the Trib thought that Bill and Hillary were killing people when they weren’t supping with the devil.
And if you believe that change of heart, I have a secondhand car I want you to buy. You can almost hear the calculation, hear the spider tell the fly to come into its lair. You can almost see the hungry shark pretending to be a mackerel and the tiger smiling.
Run, Hillary, run. We love you! Can the Democrats be that dumb? Why, sure.
Worse yet, what if she wins and confounds the right-wing plotters? Then it’s official: George Bush becomes the worst president in history for bringing us to such a sorry day.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com.)