My Final Words About Dubya

USAGeorge Dubya Bush has 14 days left in office. A recent poll found that 79 percent of Americans will not miss him after he leaves the White House. This will be my very last entry about Dubya, a man I won't even miss as blog fodder.

Throughout the past eight years, I wrote about him often.

With only a couple of weeks left, I'm looking forward to never writing about him again. Besides, this op-ed column in the New York Times by Frank Rich called "A President Forgotten but Not Gone" says it all so perfectly.

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. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. 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 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll on Bush’s presidency found that 79 percent 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 safe haven for toxins under his passive stewardship. The discrepancy between the grandeur of the failure and the stature of the man is a puzzlement. We are still trying to compute it.

The one indisputable talent of his White House was its ability to create and sell propaganda both to the public and the press. Now that bag of tricks is empty as well. Bush’s first and last photo-ops in Iraq could serve as bookends to his entire tenure. On Thanksgiving weekend 2003, even as the Iraqi insurgency was spiraling, his secret trip to the war zone was a P.R. slam-dunk. The photo of the beaming commander in chief bearing a supersized decorative turkey for the troops was designed to make every front page and newscast in the country, and it did. Five years later, in what was intended as a farewell victory lap to show off Iraq’s improved post-surge security, Bush was reduced to ducking shoes.

He tried to spin the ruckus as another victory for his administration’s program of democracy promotion. “That’s what people do in a free society,” he said. He had made the same claim three years ago after the Palestinian elections, championed by his “freedom agenda” (and almost $500 million of American aid), led to a landslide victory for Hamas. “There is something healthy about a system that does that,” Bush observed at the time, as he congratulated Palestinian voters for rejecting “the old guard.”

The ruins of his administration’s top policy priority can be found not only in Gaza but in the new “democratic” Iraq, where the local journalist who tossed the shoes was jailed without formal charges and may have been tortured. Almost simultaneously, opponents of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki accused him of making politically motivated arrests of rival-party government officials in anticipation of this month’s much-postponed provincial elections.

Condi Rice blamed the press for the image that sullied Bush’s Iraq swan song: “That someone chose to throw a shoe at the president is what gets reported over and over.” We are back where we came in. This was the same line Donald Rumsfeld used to deny the significance of the looting in Baghdad during his famous “Stuff happens!” press conference of April 2003. “Images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over,” he said then, referring to the much-recycled video of a man stealing a vase from the Baghdad museum. “Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?” he asked, playing for laughs.

The joke was on us. Iraq burned, New Orleans flooded, and Bush remained oblivious to each and every pratfall on his watch. Americans essentially stopped listening to him after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, but he still doesn’t grasp the finality of their defection. Lately he’s promised not to steal the spotlight from Barack Obama once he’s in retirement — as if he could do so by any act short of running naked through downtown Dallas. The latest CNN poll finds that only one-third of his fellow citizens want him to play a post-presidency role in public life.

Bush is equally blind to the collapse of his propaganda machinery. Almost poignantly, he keeps trying to hawk his goods in these final days, like a salesman who hasn’t been told by the home office that his product has been discontinued. Though no one is listening, he has given more exit interviews than either Clinton or Reagan did. Along with old cronies like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, he has also embarked on a Bush “legacy project,” as Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard described it on CNN.

To this end, Rove has repeated a stunt he first fed to the press two years ago: he is once again claiming that he and Bush have an annual book-reading contest, with Bush chalking up as many as 95 books a year, by authors as hifalutin as Camus. This hagiographic portrait of Bush the Egghead might be easier to buy were the former national security official Richard Clarke not quoted in the new Vanity Fair saying that both Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, had instructed him early on to keep his memos short because the president is “not a big reader.”

Another, far more elaborate example of legacy spin can be downloaded from the White House Web site: a booklet recounting “highlights” of the administration’s “accomplishments and results.” With big type, much white space, children’s-book-like trivia boxes titled “Did You Know?” and lots of color photos of the Bushes posing with blacks and troops, its 52 pages require a reading level closer to “My Pet Goat” than “The Stranger.”

This document is the literary correlative to “Mission Accomplished.” Bush kept America safe (provided his presidency began Sept. 12, 2001). He gave America record economic growth (provided his presidency ended December 2007). He vanquished all the leading Qaeda terrorists (if you don’t count the leaders bin Laden and al-Zawahri). He gave Afghanistan a thriving “market economy” (if you count its skyrocketing opium trade) and a “democratically elected president” (presiding over one of the world’s most corrupt governments). He supported elections in Pakistan (after propping up Pervez Musharraf past the point of no return). He “led the world in providing food aid and natural disaster relief” (if you leave out Brownie and Katrina).

If this is the best case that even Bush and his handlers can make for his achievements, you wonder why they bothered. Desperate for padding, they devote four risible pages to portraying our dear leader as a zealous environmentalist.

But the brazenness of Bush’s alternative-reality history is itself revelatory. The audacity of its hype helps clear up the mystery of how someone so slight could inflict so much damage. So do his many print and television exit interviews.

The man who emerges is a narcissist with no self-awareness whatsoever. It’s that arrogance that allowed him to tune out even the most calamitous of realities, freeing him to compound them without missing a step. The president who famously couldn’t name a single mistake of his presidency at a press conference in 2004 still can’t.

He can, however, blame everyone else. Asked (by Charles Gibson) if he feels any responsibility for the economic meltdown, Bush says, “People will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived.” Asked if the 2008 election was a repudiation of his administration, he says “it was a repudiation of Republicans.”

“The attacks of September the 11th came out of nowhere,” he said in another interview, as if he hadn’t ignored frantic intelligence warnings that summer of a Qaeda attack. But it was an “intelligence failure,” not his relentless invocation of patently fictitious “mushroom clouds,” that sped us into Iraq. Did he take too long to change course in Iraq? “What seems like an eternity today,” he says, “may seem like a moment tomorrow.” Try telling that to the families of the thousands killed and maimed during that multiyear “moment” as Bush stubbornly stayed his disastrous course.

The crowning personality tic revealed by Bush’s final propaganda push is his bottomless capacity for self-pity. “I was a wartime president, and war is very exhausting,” he told C-Span. “The president ends up carrying a lot of people’s grief in his soul,” he told Gibson. And so when he visits military hospitals, “it’s always been a healing experience,” he told The Wall Street Journal. But, incredibly enough, it’s his own healing he is concerned about, not that of the grievously wounded men and women he sent to war on false pretenses. It’s “the comforter in chief” who “gets comforted,” he explained, by “the character of the American people.” The American people are surely relieved to hear it.

With this level of self-regard, it’s no wonder that Bush could remain undeterred as he drove the country off a cliff. The smugness is reinforced not just by his history as the entitled scion of one of America’s aristocratic dynasties but also by his conviction that his every action is blessed from on high. Asked last month by an interviewer what he has learned from his time in office, he replied: “I’ve learned that God is good. All the time.”

Once again he is shifting the blame. This presidency was not about Him. Bush failed because in the end it was all about him.

I wish I had written that. Well said...

Worst. President. Ever. Farewell, Dubya.


Share this entry

Comments (26 - click here to join in!)

elvis

Imagine how pissed off Amber would be if he was a Scientologist!

January 5, 2009 @ 10:31 PM

LEW

And once again, sneaking out the back door, the man who really did the damage in the past two administrations is the “Angler”. I’ve suggested before, and will for the last time, since it is your last post, please read the Washington Post, Pulitzer Prize winning series on Dick Cheney. This presidency really wasn’t that “clumsy”
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/cheney/

January 5, 2009 @ 11:26 PM

Mike from Lowville

Good one elvis! Judging by his (Bush's) stupidity, he just might be!

January 6, 2009 @ 9:34 AM

Argie

Mike, Mike where do I start at ripping apart your post?

First of all you quote a lefty anti American writer with an axe to grind for Bush and his admin.

Lets take a look at the good Bush has done:

He outlawed late term abortions (even pro life activists can agree with that one)

He has given billions to starving deceased Africans

He has prevented Russia from further advancing into Eastern Europe.

He has prevented further attacks on North American soil by Islamic terrorists.

He has replaced a dictator in Iraq and given that country freedom.

He has strong armed Iran and N Korea out of further advancing their nuclear programs.

In the end he doesn’t seem like such a bad president.

Mike you need to get your info from other sources besides activists who have a socialist, pro gay or anti American slant.

God bless Bush and God bless the United States. Believe me, the US will needs God’s blessing with Obama soon in charge.


January 6, 2009 @ 11:11 AM

LEW

Sorry Argie - I'm at work, so it's tough to respond to your post - but this line pretty much sums up the Bush years.

"He has given billions to starving deceased Africans"
Thanks Argie - that made my day

January 6, 2009 @ 11:16 AM

Argie

Lew: Obviously it was a typo – the word I meant to use was ‘diseased’.

Ok, since you’re a bit slow, I’ll clarify it for you:

His administration gave billions in aid to African countries that suffered from a rampant spread of malaria and AIDS.

January 6, 2009 @ 11:25 AM

Andrew

Argie,

Bush has done a few things in his presidency that have been good (late term abortions and Aid to Africa) but you cannot deny the horrible things either. Balance the two out and you still have a pretty terrible president.

And on the Iraq issue..I wouldn't call what all the people have as freedom quite yet.

North Korea has not been strong armed by Bush.

January 6, 2009 @ 12:52 PM

Argie

Andrew,

Democracy has been restored in Iraq – you can’t debate that. Afghanistan is a much more dangerous place today.

Bush negotiated with North Korea to halt their nuclear production – that is a well known fact.

Bush also went to China and told them what he thought of their human rights record. I know many here will chuckle at the thought of Bush talking about human rights but at least he went there with a purpose. He could have stayed home and make up an excuse for not going like Harper but he showed courage in promoting democracy and human rights.

Its funny how this uneducated y-tube/facebook generation knows so little about anything yet always willing to condemn the conservative point of view.

I’m not putting you, Andrew in this woeful group as you seem to have at least some common sense.

Unfortunately for some people in their 30s who share the intelligence of a 20 year old, they have no hope (“hey dudes, these are the songs that are on my MP3 that begin with the letter ‘A’…”).

January 6, 2009 @ 1:09 PM

elvis

One thing pro-Bush people tend not to mention - he's also the only President in to allow a terrorist attack on US soil.

January 6, 2009 @ 2:26 PM

Argie

Good one Elvis!

To bad its inaccurate. The World Trade buildings were bombed in ’93 (under slick Willie’s reign). There were also 3 US embassy bombings during his presidency (technically that’s on US soil).

God it feels good to be always right!

January 6, 2009 @ 2:58 PM

elvis

Nope sorry. No evidence that Big Bill knew they were coming. There is plenty of evidence to suggest Bush knew of the acts before hand but chose to ignore the briefings (if he knew how to read them). They really have to get those things on a podcast...

January 6, 2009 @ 3:30 PM

Freddie P.

Interesting that polls revealing Stephen Harper would win a majority are full of crap Mike, but a poll that shows 78 percent of Americans don't like their President is OK.

January 6, 2009 @ 4:10 PM

Toronto Mike

Freddie, this poll is from NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll - there's some integrity there.

That Harper poll was from notorious shit disturbers looking for phony headlines.

January 6, 2009 @ 4:44 PM

Freddie P.

According to who?

January 6, 2009 @ 6:06 PM

Toronto Mike

Fred, I dug up that old entry of yours.

http://www.canadianthinker.com/2008/12/heres_democracy_for_ya.html

Here's what I wrote:


May I just be the first to call bullshit on this story.

For goodness sake, Compas couldn't even spell lightning right in their so-called news release.

"Sweep Seat-Rich Ontario" - please. If you believe Harper's party would sweep the many Toronto seats if an election were held today, or even win one, I've got some swamp land in FLA to sell ya.

Any indication of the sample size? I didn't think so...

Who is Compas compared to NBC News / Wall Street Journal? Compas is the Mickey Mouse of polling.

January 6, 2009 @ 8:00 PM

James Edgar

Sorry Mike it's not just Comas saying that the Conservatives are in the lead right now . Just about every poll at the moment has them winnning a majority in there was an election today. remember not facing reality is a hallmark of american cristian conservatives and argie. Don't go there you are to smart for that.

January 7, 2009 @ 10:00 AM

Toronto Mike

I'm not arguing the facts, I was concerned about Freddie resting his case on a Compas poll. That's all.

And I stand by my prediction. No Toronto MPs will be from the Conservative Party after the next federal election.

January 7, 2009 @ 10:24 AM

Argie

James writes: "remember not facing reality is a hallmark of american cristian conservatives and argie"

Wow, what a bigoted and stupid post!

Conservative Christians are the bad guys? Think before you write next time.

January 7, 2009 @ 10:26 AM

James Edgar

"Wow, what a bigoted and stupid post!" says the pot. .

January 7, 2009 @ 10:27 AM

Argie

It’s the same American Conservative Christians who keep this world you live in safe. Without them, you’re speaking German, Russian or worse, Arabic.

You’re welcome, James!

Its OK if you don’t realize it, you’re probably too distracted by guitar hero, American Idol and other pop culture time-wasters.

January 7, 2009 @ 10:38 AM

elvis

I love Guitar Hero and Russians.

January 7, 2009 @ 10:59 AM

Ajax Mike

Elvis, are you serious?

Rock Band is where it's at.

January 7, 2009 @ 12:40 PM

Argie

Ajax Mike and Elvis: How about you both get out of the basement and learn to play a real instrument? Let the kiddies play the virtual games.

January 7, 2009 @ 12:47 PM

elvis

There's a "why don't you get out of the closet first, Argie" joke hanging out there guys - anyone want to take it?

Oops, I just did.

January 7, 2009 @ 3:20 PM

El Diablo

Democracy has been restored in Iraq – you can’t debate that.

I says! "The proof is in the pudding." Lets wait and see what happens when the international troop presence is gone to assess whether democracy has really been restored.

...he may have been an unscrupulous, power-hungry asshole, but you gotta hand it to the late Saddam Hussein...at least under him, Iraq had stability.

...and post invasion, it seems that getting back to something resembling "stability" might be the best the region can hope for.

Not to mention that there are plenty of other totalitarian regimes and sham-democracies that the US haven't seen fit to do anything (or anything significant) about...certainly not anything even kinda close to their middle east offensives.

*cough* Zimbabwe *cough* The DRC

January 7, 2009 @ 4:46 PM

elvis

I f'n love El Diablo!

January 7, 2009 @ 10:15 PM

Leave a comment


Only 26 comments? C'mon, we can do better... Leave a comment above and let's keep this conversation going!


« Heart to Heart Retro Phraseology Canada 5, Sweden 1 »