Hey, George W. Bush still has a footprint?

If you want to make a story go viral, you might have NPR do a dramatic reading of some pop song or discuss more epic autotune potential that could come out of PBS.

You don’t write a story about George W. Bush. Let’s just say the W. is not trending on the Internet right now.

Nevertheless, the former President lives on in many ways, whether on YouTube, in books or in lasting policy. He may not be buzzworthy like former President Bill Clinton who goes vegan and says things about Mitt Romney, but as far as we know, Bush is alive and well in Texas. Aside from his media blitz for book publicity purposes, we don’t see or talk about him very much.

There is one brave reporter who bucked the Internet trends and wrote about Bush’s continued impact in Africa for the Dallas Morning News. I was fascinated on three fronts: 1) the dateline is in Zambia. Newspapers can still afford to send reporters to Africa? Cool. 2) The DMN paywall doesn’t block me, so I’m thankful we can all read it. 3) The story really dives into some interesting details.

On a beautiful Saturday morning, Delfi Nyankombe stood among her bracelets and necklaces at a churchyard bazaar and pondered a question: What do you think of George W. Bush?
“George Bush is a great man,” she answered. “He tried to help poor countries like Zambia when we were really hurting from AIDS. He empowered us, especially women, when the number of people dying was frightening. Now we are able to live.”
Nyankombe, 38, is a mother of three girls. She also admires the former president because of his current campaign to corral cervical cancer. Few are screened for the disease, and it now kills more Zambian women than any other cancer.
“By the time a woman knows, she may need radiation or chemotherapy that can have awful side effects, like fistula,” she said. “This is a big problem in Zambia, and he’s still helping us.”
The debate over a president’s legacy lasts many years longer than his term of office. At home, there’s still no consensus about the 2001-09 record of George W. Bush, with its wars and economic turmoil.
In Africa, he’s a hero.

The story explains how Bush is still active in African health, launching a new initiative for women on breast and cervical cancer.

“When I first got going, Condi Rice and I had a discussion at the Governor’s Mansion about the importance of Africa,” Bush said in an interview with this newspaper in December.
“What got me interested was the AIDS pandemic. I didn’t want to look back at a presidency that did nothing about a pandemic that was destroying a generation. When I got into office, the devastation was becoming so real that to have done nothing about it as president of the wealthiest nation would have been immoral.”

Hey, that immoral language is pretty interesting. Might there be some sort of higher power motivating the former President here? I’m slightly torn about this piece. It goes into depth on what these medicines and what other achievements are doing for empowerment. But I can’t help but wonder whether the reporter could have asked Bush or his former colleagues whether his faith still plays into his continued charitable work. Was he all about his faith during the campaign to get votes? Who knows. But someone could take a second to ask him about it now.

The story is not one that will make the Internet go “OMG, yes” where you have to post to Facebook immediately. I, for one, am thankful to see a newspaper still investing in follow-up stories.

Image via White House archives.

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  • Jerry

    I wonder how often the same kind of reporting occurs for other former Presidents, such as President Carter.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    That’s a good question. Part of it is availability to media. For instance, I did an interview with Carter but have never had any interest from Bush’s people.

  • MJBubba

    A true compassionate conservative, even if he was a disappointment as a conservative.