It was my original intention to let the passing of the Presidency of George Walker Bush go unmentioned in this blog. There are plenty of other people who could, and have, dissected the last eight years of cronyism and incompetence, war, torture, loss of civil liberties, lack of regulations, etc. etc. I don’t have the energy, mostly because I’ve been under the weather the last few days.
If anything, I was going to just go back to the first year of the Presidency. I recall that dustup with China and was thinking, “What’s Clinton going to DO about this?” Then I remembered, “Wait, Clinton’s not President anymore? Who the heck IS President?” After that long, tortured completion of the 2000 election, ending with the Supreme Court making a President, and despite the fact that I watched W’s inauguration, I truly absolutely forgot he was the President, so little did his Presidency imprint up to that time.
There was his limited stem cell address in August. I opposed his position, but it was unsurprising.
Then there was 9/11. Some people criticized him for not returning immediately to Washington, DC; I totally disagreed. The Pentagon had been attacked, and it seemed like a reasonable precaution.
But pretty much everything from that point on, from the USA (so-called) PATRIOT Act to the cowboy rhetoric (catching bin Ladin dead or alive – how did that turn out?) to the lack of focus in Afghanistan. Then the build up to war in Iraq – and the faulty intel that got us there; but if Scott Ritter and Barack Obama and I knew it was a fool’s task, why didn’t he? From “Mission Accomplished” to Abu Gharb and Gitmo, this was a failed Presidency. Then he got a second term, where the (lack of) response to Katrina and the economic crises were the defining events.
But I was just going to let it pass, let him pass. I was going to ignore the recent revisionist history cooked up by W and his cronies. Until Monday. I took the day off to catch up on some reading, writing and TV watching. I turn on the television set and there’s GWB’s final press conference right out of Bizarroworld. My goodness.
“Not finding weapons of mass destruction (in Iraq) was a significant disappointment.” Disappointment. Oops.
“Even in the darkest moments of Iraq,” the president said, he and his staff found that there were times ‘when we could be light-hearted and support each other.'” Yeah. Tee hee.
“I disagree with this assessment that, you know, that people view America in a dim light,” he said. “It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom.” I’m reminded of one of his exit interviews with Martha Radditz of ABC News.Bush talked about fighting al-Qeada in Iraq; the reporter noted that, before we invaded, there WAS no al-Queda in Iraq. W responded, “So?”
The other tipping point is a relatively minor matter, in the grander scheme of things, but seemingly points to a pettiness I did not expect: the inability of the Obamas to move into Blair House.
So how will history judge the 43rd Presidency? GWB is leaving office with the lowest final approval rating compared to all previous Presidents over last 40 years. Worse than Nixon, and he was practically impeached. I think he’ll be remembered as a President who had a remarkable opportunity after 9/11 to unite the world (the headline in the leading French paper on 9/12/01 was “We are all Americans”), but instead engaged a morally and strategically dubious war, could not even respond to the needs of his own people in a disaster, and helped set in motion the worst economic collapse in a couple generations.
Goodbye, Mr. Bush.