This must be what it's like to listen to pundits in a country with state-run media.
Former president George W. Bush offers what barely passes as criticism of his successor and Obama's media apologists rush to his defense, as if to stanch a wound.
Here's Rachel Maddow and Dallas Morning News political reporter Wayne Slater on Maddow's MSNBC show June 18. In the first portion transcribed below, Maddow teases her discussion with Slater coming later in the show --
MADDOW: Back in March, George W. Bush graciously said that President Obama "deserved his silence," that he wouldn't criticize President Obama because he didn't like it when former presidents criticized him while he was in office. It was very classy. Also, it's over. It was very over very quickly. Gabby McYapperton last night slammed Obama about Guantanamo, about health care, he kind of implied he thought he was a commie (sigh). That's all coming up.
Yes -- Gabby McYapperton. Your guess is as good as mine. Onto the segment with Maddow and Slater --
MADDOW: Back in March, former president George W. Bush said of President Obama, "he deserves my silence." It was sort of that nanosecond or series of nanoseconds of feeling, you know what, good for him. He was the worst president ever but at least he's a mensch now. Remember that feeling? You can forget it. Mr. Bush gave a speech last night to the Manufacturers (sic) & Business Association in Erie, Pa. Try as he clearly has been, he could not resist going after the current president. The Washington Times reports that during the period of prepared questions, Bush was asked if he finds Obama's policies to be socialist. Mr. Bush reportedly started to answer and then stopped. He's quoted as saying, "I hear a lot of those words but it depends on ... we'll see."
That sort of makes the other line that he is reported to have uttered last night, "I told you I'm not going to criticize my successor," feel slightly less gracious than it felt out of context. On closing Guantanamo, the former president said, "I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind."
This is probably an awkward time to bring up the fact that it was Mr. Bush who actually did send Guantanamo prisoners to a Saudi jihadi therapy program called the Prince Mohammed bin Naif Center for Care and Counseling. Not kidding.
Joining us now is Wayne Slater, he's the senior political reporter at the Dallas Morning News. Mr. Slater, thanks as always for joining us.
SLATER: Great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: What happened to gracious-in-exile George W. Bush?
SLATER: Hey, five months, five months here or there, you know. Look, this is about the legacy. This is about redeeming the message and who his candidacy was, what his presidency was all about. This is what this is all about. And he's finding it, I think, difficult now that he has several hours alone or with the former first lady in North Dallas to think about this.
Immediately after Reagan left office, you had a thousand people who were burnishing the Reagan legacy before the first brick was laid on the Reagan Library. And I think George Bush looks around and he's got three horses of the apocalypse -- Rove, Cheney and Rush Limbaugh -- and Limbaugh really isn't, it doesn't really look like his heart is in burnishing the Bush legacy. So I think he's decided it's time to get out there and begin talking about his administration.
MADDOW: Well, in all the time that you have reported on him, based on what you know of his career, of his personality, what you know about how he's spending his time now, if he didn't feel that necessity to burnish his legacy, do you think that he would otherwise want to wade back into these political fights? It seems like when president, when Vice President Cheney is doing it, you get the sense that he has a real relish to be back into it. He doesn't quite know how to be out of public life.
SLATER: I think you're right. My instinct, and I've known George Bush for 15 years, my instinct is that he really would not like to do this. I think he would not like to criticize Barack Obama. I think he sees some value in the same thing that you said in the uptake on this, that he was a mensch there for briefly by not wanting to attack his predecessor. But at the same time, I think there is a sense in his heart, in his mind, right now, I need to do something and begin actively working. Because my legacy doesn't look very good right now and we only have a few people talking about it, I need to talk about it. And because the Barack Obama administration is so diametrically opposed on these key issues, so starkly different that anything Bush says to defend his own legacy is implicitly and directly a criticism of the president.
MADDOW: We all know, and I think that George W. Bush seems to be self-aware about the fact that he's not great off the cuff when he's making stuff up on his feet. It sometimes comes out wrong. Even just reading the quotes from this speech last night, it's hard for me to read them without sounding like I'm making fun of them because he's obviously speaking extemperaneously and sometimes, stuff comes out wrong when it's George W. Bush.
Hey, give the man credit. At least Bush knows the difference between "successor" and "predecessor," a distinction lost on Slater.
Notice how Maddow led into the discussion, teasing it earlier by claiming Bush "slammed" Obama on Guantanamo, health care and "kind of implied he thought he was a commie." As in, sorta maybe, to borrow from Maddow parlance.
Then just before her discussion with Slater (aka, "preceding" it), Maddow regurgitated what Bush said, as reported by the Washington Times --
Bush was asked if he finds Obama's policies to be socialist. Mr. Bush reportedly started to answer, then stopped. He's quoted as saying, "I hear a lot of those words but it depends on ... we'll see."
... On closing Guantanamo, the former president said, "I'll just tell you that there are people at Gitmo that will kill American people at a drop of a hat and I don't believe that persuasion isn't going to work. Therapy isn't going to cause terrorists to change their mind.
This constitutes Obama being "slammed"? Imagine how nasty it would have been had Bush "lambasted" Obama. You've worked with liberals this thin-skinned too, haven't you? At least their widdle cars don't take up as much space in the parking lot.
Most entertaining part of the segment? This assertion from Slater --
Immediately after Reagan left office, you had a thousand people who were burnishing the Reagan legacy before the first brick was laid on the Reagan Library.
Yes, and the burnishing began with a thousand people dancing on the Berlin Wall. As legacies go, one could do worse.