President Bush is taking the long view. He has been reading biographies of George Washington. He recently bemoaned “short-term historians.” He keeps mentioning Harry Truman, a President reviled when he left office but rescued by posterity. Bush says he doesn’t think about his legacy, but more and more, it’s what he seems to think about most.
I wish he wouldn’t. In theory, thinking about your legacy should be humbling. But in Bush’s case, it’s making him increasingly reckless. Bush knows that historians will see him through the prism of Iraq: if the war is a failure, so is he. So he’s paying any price to win. Were he focused on the present, he might see that the war is already lost. Instead, he’s gazing over the horizon, trying to dig himself out of his Iraq hole and making it ever deeper as a result.