Barack Obama will become the 44th president in approximately three days, two hours and 47 minutes. (But who’s counting?) It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the 43rd president. I wasn’t even going to write this farewell column until I saw his final press conference which was an exercise in the surreal.
Firstly, Bush apparently learned a new word. He noted that among his critics were certain writers and “opiners.” He went on to use “opiner” three times. I suppose lest we “mis-underestimate” him?
Bush went on to stake his entire legacy on the fact that we haven’t been attacked since 9/11. This, despite government reports that al-Qaida is back at pre-911 strength and that 50 percent of the bomb tests the government runs at our airports sneak through. And the one time Bush was warned about an imminent attack, as on Aug. 8, 2003, he went on vacation. (He even set the presidential record for vacation days!)
During this past week, Bush and Cheney were all over the media with their “Whitewash Tour,” rewriting history as fast as they could make it up. Now, having nearly destroyed America, they’re trying to convince us we should be grateful for their service.
Seeing all this I flashed on “Godfather III,” when Michael (Al Pacino) exploded, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” That was my reaction when I saw Dubya on Larry King looking like Alfred E. Newman, “We didn’t torture.” Except that Susan Crawford, in charge of prosecuting Gitmo cases, says we absolutely did and some guilty terrorists will likely go free as a result.
Even Scott McClellan criticized the Magical Mystery Tour during which Bush called not finding WMD’s a “disappointment.” When your favorite TV show is a re-run, that’s a disappointment. When you’ve based a war on it, it’s slightly more serious.
Obviously Dubya is psychologically incapable of admitting mistakes. During the 2004 campaign he was asked what errors he might have made during his first term. He shrugged sheepishly and said he couldn’t think of a single one. He now admits that the “Mission Accomplished” sign was a mistake but points out that the sign wasn’t his idea.
According to Bush, even the 2008 election wasn’t his fault, it was “the Republicans.” (I didn’t know that many people could fit under a bus.) Because of the landslide, however, he fears his party “might look inward.” (Heaven forbid!) Bush isn’t big on introspection. Instead of studying an issue, he “listens to his gut.” After eight years, I wish he had taken Maalox, instead.
Years ago, there was a unique moment of Bush candor I’ve never forgotten. It was right after the 2000 election and he admitted that during the debates he worried about a potential question from Al Gore for which he had no answer: “What do you have against peace and prosperity?”
Looking back, imagine the right wing outrage if events on Bush’s watch had occurred on Clinton’s. What if Clinton had threatened “Dead or alive” and seven years later Bin Laden was still releasing audiotapes? Rush Limbaugh’s head would explode.
A few months ago Bush joked that he was looking forward to his post-presidency so that he could “replenish the coffers.” On that very day, six American GI’s died. Somehow I can’t envision FDR joking about “replenishing the coffers.”
Among the things Bush says he’ll miss (other than White House cooking) were the families of the fallen soldiers because they make him feel good about the war. He always sees everything as about him. How sad.
Here’s a relevant fact: Of the 4,226 dead GI’s in Iraq (latest on Jan.11), Bush hasn’t attended a single funeral. He wouldn’t even give Cindy Sheehan or Mary Tillman five minutes. He’s notorious for being unable to tolerate those who disagree with him.
George Bush never should have been president. He was intellectually and temperamentally unfit. During Katrina, the story was that his aides argued over who was going to break the bad news to him. Fearing his legendary temper, they made a DVD and left it on his chair. And where was Bush while people were drowning? In sunny Arizona, having birthday cake with John McCain (who later would call Bush’s Secretary of Defense “one of the worst in history”).
Readers e-mail to ask if I will be as critical of Obama as I am of Bush. If he starts unnecessary wars and shreds the constitution, you bet.
But before we say farewell to Bush, look at the America he inherited and the one he’s leaving. And yet he blames everyone but himself. Harry Truman said “The buck stops here.” For George W. Bush the buck stops at wherever he can shift it. Of course he might say I’m just an “opiner.”
Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.