WE LIKE our failed presidents to be Shakespearean, or at least large enough to inspire Oscar-worthy performances from magnificent tragedians like Frank Langella. So here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He's the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.
The last poll on Bush's presidency found that 79 per cent of Americans will not miss him after he leaves the White House. He is being forgotten already, even if he's not yet gone. You start to pity him until you remember how vast the wreckage is. It stretches from the Middle East to Wall Street to Main Street and even into the heavens, which have been a haven for toxins under his passive stewardship.
The discrepancy between the grandeur of the failure and the stature of the man is a puzzlement.