George Bush got little right, certainly not in the military sense. Barack Obama has proven himself to be an even bigger bust, with a staff that needs a complete cleansing. It is hard to imagine productive common ground for discussion. Here, Bret Stephens writes that the two should talk.
Bill Clinton made news earlier this month when he revealed, at a joint appearance with George W. Bush, that the 43rd president used to call him twice a year during his troubled second term “just to talk.”
“We talked about everything in the right world,” Mr. Clinton said of the conversations, which lasted anywhere between 30 and 45 minutes. “He asked my opinion, half the time he disagreed with it. But I felt good about that, I thought that was a really healthy thing.”
Maybe President Obama also calls Mr. Bush every now and then, just to talk, and one day we’ll find out about it. But I suspect not. No president has so completely built his administration with a view toward doing—and being—the opposite of his predecessor. Long private talks wouldn’t just be out of character for this president. They’d be awkward.
But having a long conversation with Mr. Bush is what Mr. Obama needs to do if he means to start salvaging his failing presidency. It would be an act of contrition: for six years of vulgar ridicule and sophomoric condescension. Also, humility: for finally understanding that the intel is often wrong (and that doesn’t make you a “liar”), that the choices in war are never clear or simple, that the allies aren’t always with you, and that evil succumbs only to force.
And it would be an act of bipartisanship: not the fake kind to which the president pays occasional lip service, but the kind that knows there is no party monopoly on wisdom, and that there is no democracy without compromise, and that there can be no compromise when your opponents sense you hold them in contempt.