I envy few people -- maybe Nelson Mandela for his indomitable courage, maybe Philip Roth for his abundant talent, maybe even George Clooney for how much he seems to enjoy being George Clooney. I add, tentatively and for different reasons, George W. Bush. The man has the serene self-confidence of a divine-right monarch. Day or night, he seems to sleep well.
This is Bush's week. His presidential library on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas will be dedicated Thursday, with the current and all former presidents coming. Earlier this month, Bush's daughter Jenna presented him with a grandchild -- a very nice moment beyond politics. Congratulations, Mr. President. This is one of the few compensations of old age.
It was in the course of a story about the library and the birth of little Mila that Bush told The Dallas Morning News that, like Edith Piaf in one of her signature songs, he had no regrets. He did not belt it out in French -- "Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien" -- but he did amplify matters: "I'm comfortable with what I did. I'm comfortable with who I am." He added, "Much of my presidency was defined by things you didn't necessarily want to have happened."
Yes, like your presidency.
Bush, however, lacks irony ... or something. Another man in his position might stare at the ceiling at night, seeing the number 4,486 -- the number of American dead in Iraq -- blinking on and off. The war enabled Iran to increase its regional influence, and the sheer senselessness of it so demoralized the American people. This is a ceiling plastered with rebukes.
But there is more. The war in Afghanistan was botched. Troops and attention were diverted to Iraq so that Afghanistan has become the longest war in American history, its purpose as impossible to remember or find as the Taliban itself. …