Altered States

Is Obama Making Nice With Bush?

Curious changes to 43’s bio on the White House Web site.



As our rough economy slouches toward bankruptcy, everyone’s passing the buck. AIG. Citigroup. Jeremy Siegel. And now, weirdly, so is George W. Bush’s biography at


Notably, in the original:

President Bush worked with the Congress to create an ownership society and build a future of security, prosperity, and opportunity for all Americans.

In the new version:

President Bush has worked to extend freedom, opportunity, and security at home and abroad.

This international concern is obviously new (duh), but what happened to the whole prosperity and ownership society stuff? And, later, Bush’s work to “increase homeownership, especially among minorities” is also removed. There’s inclusion of some subtle framing in the new bio, as it notes that Bush was “faced with a recession” when he came into office. (Ah, so that explains the mess we’re in!)


All of which raises the question: Who wrote the new Bush bio?

I don’t want to get too Strunk & White here, but the use of the present-perfect tense—”has worked”—hints that it was written during the Bush presidency. (Wait, unless Bush is going rogue on us to do some post-office Carter diplomacy!?) But if it was written months ago, why are we seeing it only now? And why is the bio on Bush’s presidential-center Web site pretty much the same as the old one? (That one has been updated to reflect the loss of the family cat.)


The Obama White House has previously made nice on some of its more shrill comments about the former president. So maybe it’s all the new administration’s doing? Such appeasement would also fit in with Obama’s center-center approach.


Elsewhere on Obama’s, when it comes to Iraq policy, change is always afoot. Refugees eager for the $2 billion promised in the earlier version? I wouldn’t count on it. That whole “preventing humanitarian crisis” thing is no more, replaced in part by a curious section on defusing Iranian nukes and securing peace for Israel.

Indeed, it’s grim for Iraq. The hopeful talk of creating a sort of shining beacon on a Mesopotamian hill—supporting reconciliation, reconstruction, development, compromises, lasting stability, and (of course) federalism—is all gone. Now, instead, is a rather stark warning: “Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility.”

Strange that we’re saying that to Iraq rather than the aforementioned AIG and Citigroup, no?

Thanks to ProPublica for highlighting and alerting me to some of these changes. It has developed a neat tool based on Versionista to create RSS feeds of changes to (or any other site).