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NAX: Presidential reputations often are difficult to maintain - Odessa American: Ken Brodnax

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NAX: Presidential reputations often are difficult to maintain

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Posted: Sunday, January 18, 2009 12:00 am

It’s the ultimate American dream. You grow up with the rather ridiculous notion that “anyone” can become the president of the United States.

The reality, of course, is that job is reserved for special people — folks who know how to climb the success ladder and, more importantly, amass the kind of resources (mostly access to big money) required to hold the highest office in the land.

And we like to pretend that average people have occupied the White House. You know, an actor or a peanut farmer. Stuff like that.

Now we’ve got the mistaken impression that a poor black kid has grown up to be president. Well, Barack Obama wasn’t poor (and really wasn’t rich either) and, really, wasn’t raised black since his white grandparents did much of the raising and provided him with the best educational opportunities. He spent years aligning himself for the role he will assume on Tuesday.

Ironically, the closest thing to an “accidental president” we’ve seen anytime lately is the man vacating the White House. And that’s a contrast in terms because he’s sort of a legacy choice — the son of a president who ascended to the throne himself.

There’s always been a school of thought that George W. Bush never was that keen on being the president. Lots of those in the so-called “know” speculated that he really would have been happier being the baseball commissioner.

But he’s done his eight years as commander in chief. And it hasn’t been a smooth ride. A few months into his first term, Bush had to deal with a mind-numbing attack on American soil that left more than 3,000 innocent people dead. Eventually those events led to what became an unpopular war in the Middle East. Plus, the mastermind of 9/11 still is on the loose, taunting with words from afar.

Then an unprecedented economic crash occurred on Bush’s watch.

The bottom line is that Dubya, as he became known, is leaving Washington, D.C., with incredibly low public approval ratings.

And that’s all sort of confusing because the George W. Bush who used to hang around West Texas, who became a bigwig with the Texas Rangers baseball team and who was Texas governor is a darn likeable guy. That George W. came across as about as down to earth as you could expect from somebody who was part of a famous family. People are still telling stories about his astounding ability to remember names and circumstances years after an encounter with people.

During his successful run for governor, Bush dropped by the Odessa American for a session with editors. Most politicians blow in and out of the office on a tight schedule. We had a hard time getting George W. to tear himself away from introducing himself (as if he really needed an introduction as the son of a president) to just about everybody working in the newspaper offices.

We saw flashes of that casual approach throughout the Bush presidency. And maybe at times it didn’t come across like it was supposed to.

But at least now, the pressure is off. George W. can relax and not have to act so presidential.

And you get the feeling that the new Bush, which likely will be closer to the pre-president Bush, will be viewed a lot more kindly by the public.

Like so many of our other supreme leaders of late, George W. is going to be accepted better as a former president.

Odessa, TX

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