Alex Massie

Where’s Barack?

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Mike Allen brings us this endearing snippet from George W Bush's new book:

“As an Obama win looked increasingly likely, I started to think more about what it would mean for an African American to win the presidency. I got an unexpected glimpse a few days before the election. An African American member of the White House residence staff brought his twin sons, age six, to the Oval Office for a farewell photo. One glanced up around the room and blurted out, ‘Where’s Barack Obama?’ ‘He’s not here yet,’ I deadpanned. On election night, I was moved by images of black men and women crying on TV. More than once said, ‘I never thought I would live to see this day.’”

Emphasis added. Of course, Dubya helped make that day possible since the peculiar combination of circumstances that led to Obama's victory owed much to George W Bush. With Bush term-limited and Cheney not running, the 2008 election was unusually open from the beginning. Then the extent of Democratic despair helped persuade voters in the primary season that it was worth plumping for the young, charismatic but inexperienced guy who happened to be black. Doubtless Obama's background hurt him in some areas but it probably helped in others, being taken as proof that "change" really was possible. Even so, his campaign was, as he often said, an  improbable journey that asked voters to take a measure of the times and take a chance on him.

If Bush had been a more successful President - or, if you prefer, been perceived as a more successful President - it's quite possible that Obama might not have run at all. Even more than is often the case, then, Obama's Presidency was made in and made possible by the Bush years.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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