The fine line between magnanimous and pusillanimous

George W. BushI’m not sure which side of the line this very generous biography of George W. Bush from President Obama’s version of the official White House site is on, but I do know it’s close to the line.

To be fair, a collection of brief biographical essays on our 44 presidents, published on the official White House website, is not the place for political attacks. But at times this essay goes beyond generous, and in fact beyond belief. Forget the audacity of hope; I want an explanation for the audacity of the claim that Bush worked to “conserve our environment.” And, sorry, but I have to read between the lines of sentences like this one: “Because President Bush believed the strength of America lies in the hearts and souls of our citizens, he supported programs that encourage individuals to help their neighbors in need.” Translation: Bush mercilessly cut funding to government programs that help those who need it most.

But the Bush years are over. It’s time to look forward. I’m willing to keep looking forward, as long as someone else remembers to look backward, specifically into such things as who was responsible for the United States engaging in torture, and whether or not war crimes were committed.

Like I said, I’ll leave that to someone else (say, a special prosecutor appointed by the Obama Administration). Meanwhile, I’ll focus on more important things, like Martin Van Buren’s bitchin’ muttonchops. Why the hell haven’t those made a comeback?

Muttonchops Van Buren

Unless you’re a web geek, you probably don’t know what this means……but it’s a good thing.

From The country’s new robots.txt file.

Well, it’s probably easy to read too much into this. But the short story of it is that President Obama’s new website is blocking a lot less content from search engine “spiders” than that of Ex-President Bush (oh, that has a sweet ring to it).

Now there are plenty of reasons for putting things into your robots.txt file, and most of them have nothing to do with trying to withhold information from the public.

It’s rather odd, though, the set of directories Bush’s site was blocking from the spiders. I find expectmore and help especially amusing. The others aren’t quite so funny. What exactly about omb (Office of Management and Budget) did they need to hide? And… uh… well… 911 kind of goes without saying.

Why block these pages from being indexed by search engines? Good question. And here, I think, is the answer: to make it harder for the average citizen to keep track of changes that have been made to those pages by accessing Google’s cached versions (or, perhaps even more damning, the indefinitely-archived snapshots on the Wayback Machine).

But, it’s a new day. President Obama has promised a much more open and transparent White House, and if the visible underbelly of its website is any indication, he intends to keep his promise.

Also of interest: Here’s a comparison of the old and new sites.

Reading presidential body language

Ex-, current and soon-to-be Presidents

As just about everyone who pays attention probably knows by now, the Bush White House today convened a Presidents Club luncheon, consisting of the 3 surviving ex-presidents, the White House’s current occupant, and Barack Obama, who in less than three weeks will be setting up shop in the Oval Office.

I find the photo above to be fascinating as a study in body language. George W. Bush stands front and center, but seems nervously out-of-place, with his awkward smirk and cocked left foot. Barack Obama is both leaning and looking away from the current president, speaking with his father. There is a strange stiffness in his comportment, as if simply standing in close proximity to “Dubya” is creating negative energy. GHWB stands at the end, hand outstretched in mid-sentence, in a position that suggests either patting a child on the head or pushing them away.

Bill Clinton stands grinning wistfully, hands behind his back, contemplating, perhaps, his own personal history (and I mean personal) in the very room in which the five men now stand.

And Jimmy Carter knows exactly what’s on Bill’s mind.

I’ll leave you to ponder the merits, or lack thereof, of my decision to omit an apostrophe in the phrase “Presidents Club.”