Posted by: mutantpoodle | January 15, 2009

Um..ok, goodnight

bush_washington_011509And off he goes, with a defiant whimper.

I watched. And once again, it struck me how much smaller than his office George W. Bush remains.

For the record, I don’t mind that he made tough decisions. I mind that he got nearly every damned one of them wrong.

And, by the way, don’t tell me about how safe we’ve been since 9/11 – Bush was President before 9/11/2001, and blissfully unconcerned with Islamic terrorists in general and al qaeda specifically.

So here’s where I give George Bush credit:

  • AIDS relief in Africa.

The rest? Here’s a list off the top of my head:

  • Record deficits from surpluses.
  • An ideologically driven tax policy that inflated the gap between rich and poor. (And no, an economic collapse which serves to narrow that gap doesn’t get you off the hook.)
  • A war of choice sold on false pretenses, and then horribly bungled, wasting thousands of American lives and at least tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, not to mention what will end up being over a trillion dollars.
  • Katrina.
  • Ideology over science.
  • Ideology over health care.
  • Torture.
  • Politicization of the Justice Department.
  • Dick Cheney
  • Forcing schools to teach to tests instead of teaching students to think.

There’s more, and you can parse that list or reorder it, but it is a list of epic failure. People talk about the dustbin of history, but it is the mediocre that wind up forgotten. A Presidential failure of Bush’s magnitude will live on as a cautionary tale.

A Talking Points Memo reader wrote that

Watching this speech reminds me of when I listened to my high school principal speak for the first time after I graduated. He still sounded crazy but no longer scared me.

I compare it to a really bad first date. You’re dropping your date off (or being dropped off), and it’s been a horrible evening – it’s clear (to you, at least) that you will never deliberately see this person again. You’re standing on the porch, and a kiss of any sort is out of the question; a hug doesn’t seem right; and a handshake would be weird. You get to the door, mumble a hurried goodnight, and flee.

I can’t flee, of course, but I can be glad that, come 12:01PM EST on January 20th, George Bush will.

The residue of his incompetence will be with us for many years to come.

UPDATE: Karen Tumulty points out that

The metaphor came from our TV screens. On the day that George W. Bush gave his farewell address, the image that got the nation’s attention was one of relieved survivors scrambling out of a jet that was sinking into icy water.

And Steve Benen?

When reflecting on his two terms, in other words, Bush’s argument is that he didn’t deliberately fail. He acted with the nation’s best interests in mind? He did what he thought was right? Well, of course he did. What president goes around trying to undermine the country, making decisions he hopes are wrong?

….I’ve heard quite a few Bush defenders of late quibble with the notion that his presidency should be considered an abject failure. But how much debate can there really be when Bush’s pitch to Americans can be boiled down to, “I gave it my best shot”?

I think I made it clear above I thought Bush’s address was fairly weak tea; I neglected to mention how incongruous it was that he didn’t even mention the dramatic emergency landing of US Airways 1549, and the safe rescue of all on board.

Perhaps, as Tumulty suggests, this will be the presidential transition metaphor: Bush is the goose that flew into our country’s engines (economic and military), and it is only a brilliantly led collective effort that can lead us out of the icy waters to safety.

UPDATE 2 (thanks Mack): This is making the e-mail rounds:

One sunny day in January, 2009 an old man approached the White House from across Pennsylvania Avenue, where he’d been sitting on a park bench. He spoke to the U.S. Marine standing guard and said, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.” The Marine looked at the man and said, “Sir, Mr. Bush is no longer President and no longer resides here.” The old man said, “Okay”, and walked away.

The following day, the same man approached the White House and said to the same Marine, “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.” The Marine again told the man, “Sir, as I said yesterday, Mr. Bush is no longer President and no longer resides here.” The man thanked him and, again, just walked away.

The third day, the same man approached the White House and spoke to the very same U.S. Marine, saying “I would like to go in and meet with President Bush.” The Marine, understandably agitated at this point, looked at the man and said, “Sir, this is the third day in a row you have been here asking to speak to Mr. Bush. I’ve told you already that Mr. Bush is no longer the President and no longer resides here. Don’t you understand?”

The old man looked at the Marine and said, “Oh, I understand. I just love hearing it.”

The Marine snapped to attention, saluted, and said, “See you tomorrow, Sir.”

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