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DOWD: A legacy that even a mother can loathe

Barbara Bush is a word that rhymes with fright.

She's right.

Asked on the "Today" show whether she thought her son Jeb should run for president in 2016, as W. has urged, the famously candid and caustic Silver Fox offered the most honest assessment of her oldest son's legacy.

Aside from the cascading disasters that the country is still struggling to recover from, a key W. legacy is derailing the path of the son Poppy and Barbara Bush dearly wanted to be president: Jeb.

For the first time, the 87-year-old former first lady acknowledged, in essence, that W. had worn out the family's welcome in the White House. "He's by far the best qualified man, but no, I really don't," she said when asked if her second son should aim to be the third Bush in chief. "I think it's a great country. There are a lot of great families, and it's not just four families or whatever. There are other people out there that are very qualified and we've had enough Bushes."

Jenna Bush Hager, a "Today" show correspondent who was a participant in the Thursday interview with her grandmother, mother and sister, blurted "Surpri-i-ise!" and threw up her arms. CNN emailed Jeb to find out what he thought of his mother's "priceless" comment and Jeb emailed back: "Priceless indeed!"

But Bar, who was also giving the back of the hand to the Clintons, spit out the truth. It is wearying that America, a country that broke away from aristocratic England in a burst of rugged individualism, has spawned so many of its own royal political families, dynasties that feel entitled to inhabit the White House, generation after generation, letting their family competitions and tensions shape policy and history to an alarming degree.

Why does a George P., Chelsea, Beau Biden, Joe Kennedy III presidential sweepstakes feel so inevitable? There were plenty of other, less perspicacious assessments of the Bush legacy on the occasion of W.'s presidential library opening in Dallas. Josh Bolten, Bush's chief of staff in the second term, defended 43's economic record — two off-the-books, badly managed wars and more of the deregulation that led to toxic derivatives, government bailouts and a near collapse of the whole economy — saying it "really wasn't so bad."

Former Bush staffers and some on the right defended 43 in the usual debates: Was he the Decider or the Dupe? Was he smart or simplistic? The latter question is really beside the point in Washington, the capital of smart people doing dumb things.

W.'s presidency will go down in infamy because he ignored Katrina and the Constitution and cherry-picked intelligence with Tony Blair to build up a faux case for invading Iraq. That is why the three Democratic presidents who talked at his library's dedication had to cherry-pick their topics, focusing mostly on W.'s good work on AIDS in Africa.


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