After departing Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, President George W. Bush confers with Vice President Dick Cheney from Air Force One on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001, during the flight to Andrews Air Force Base. Photo by official White House photographer Eric Draper, Courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library(Eric Draper / The George W. Bush Presidential)
WASHINGTON — Never much for public introspection, George W. Bush — a history major at Yale — was always content to let history judge his presidency.
In real time, that judgment was harsh. He left office with unpopular conflicts still raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economy in free fall, and just 17% of Americans expecting him to go down in history as an above average president.
Was invading Iraq really a good idea, for instance, given that U.S. forces never found those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein supposedly had squirreled away?
“I’m not a regretter,” Bush said at the time, as Stephen Hadley, his second-term national security adviser, recalls in a new PBS documentary that debuts Monday night.
The latest installment in the American Experience Presidents Collection gives quarantine-weary Americans a chance to reminisce about an era bracketed by other momentous crises: the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the financial meltdown of late 2008. The two-part, four-hour film airs in Dallas on KERA — part 1 on Monday at 8 p.m., part 2 on Tuesday at 8 p.m.
The judgment of history remains harsh.