The George W. Bush Presidential Center opens Thursday at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. The former president is on a media tour to promote the opening this week granting a series of rare TV interviews.
Associated Press National Politics Editor Liz Sidoti marks the occasion with a column titled "Bush started as uniter, ended up divider."
[I]s the image of a divisive Bush rooted in reality, or is it simply a caricature, a myth built more on personality than policy and peddled by detractors? Was it inevitable, given high levels of polarization and partisanship in our country and a system dominated by the most liberal and conservative among us? And will Bush's fate be the same for any other president if this nation's politics stay this way?
Probably so. Yet Bush himself certainly didn't help matters.
Here's what he said in spring 2006 as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal flared and calls for embattled Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to be fired intensified: "I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision. ... I'm the decider, and I decide what is best."
Reasonable, perhaps - maybe even the purview of any president. Not too far, in fact, from Harry S. Truman's "The Buck Stops Here." But the way Bush put it conflicted sharply with the broad, inclusive pitch of his first campaign years earlier - and helped build the image of a polarizing, partisan president that still lingers today.