Bush understood that diplomacy works and is to be respected, while even unlimited military power has its limits, a lesson that he did not fully pass on to his son. Likewise, that cutting taxes does not increase revenue. He saw decency, honesty and trustworthiness as more than moral values that we should teach our children, and should not be seen as signs of weakness. Such traits are instead useful, effective tools that make life easier for those with characters strong enough to employ them.
Their utility aside, however, he also thought that decency, honesty and trustworthiness are important in their own right. Also, that bullies don’t prosper, nor should we allow them to do so, and that it’s not about you. Also, bone spurs are no excuse.
He saw us as a nation built on individual freedom, which should not be confused with a nation built on individual selfishness. We do have obligations to each other, and those obligations extend to those we’ve never met and to those who are yet to come. Wealth and power do not make you immune to those obligations; they compound those obligations.
The other person might have a point, and if you don’t at least listen to him, you can’t expect him to listen to you.
Government of the people, by the people and for the people is not an enemy of the people. A president is president for all Americans, not merely for those who put that president into office. Reality can’t be ignored; we have to confront the world on its own terms, as it is, rather than how we would prefer to imagine it. Ideology must respect and adjust to the facts; facts cannot be adjusted to conform to ideology, not for long and not without consequences.
Bush understood better than most that the world is complicated and that we are all imperfect people feeling our way through those complications. And while the code that he used to steer through those complications may have been dismissed by some as unfashionable, we are living through a time that instead confirms its usefulness.