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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 03:47 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 03:47 | SYDNEY

George Bush's cloak of invisibility

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COMMENTS

7 August 2008 10:20

In today’s Financial Times I have an op-ed on the foreign policy choice Americans face in 2008. I think the differences between Senators Obama and McCain are substantial, and I’ll expand on my argument in a research paper the Lowy Institute is publishing in October.

George W. Bush gets a bit of a run in my piece because of its historical component. There have been photos of the president in Asia in the past few days and more will no doubt follow as the Olympics begin. But in general, I am struck by the smallness of Bush’s presence on the national and international stage these days. In June 1993, TIME magazine ran a cover story that described Bill Clinton as the ‘incredible shrinking president’, but surely that title applies more accurately to President Bush now. (In fact, The Economist used a similar phrase to describe Mr Bush a couple of years ago.)

Part of the explanation for this is institutional: the clock is ticking on Mr Bush’s presidency and the media, along with everyone else, is looking for the next story. But part of it is personal. The president has very few defenders left in Washington: the left always disliked him; the centre has largely rejected him since 2004 as the country’s problems have mounted; and now the right has also turned away, either for political reasons (in the case of Republican pollies who would like to be re-elected) or ideological reasons (in the case of ultracons such as John Bolton who are dismayed by the centrist foreign policy Bush has run in recent years).

With few advocates left who are not in his employ, and two compelling figures running to replace him, President Bush has slipped off the front page; he will not return unless he surprises us with something. It’s as if he has borrowed Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility.