The George W. Bush that I know and love
The George W. Bush that I know and love
See ya later, George W. Bush. Believe it or not, I’m gonna miss the old son of a gun. Granted, I opposed him on virtually every count: his belligerent foreign policy, his immoral pursuit of starving social programs for the poor by cutting taxes for the rich, his practice of appointing cronies to head critical agencies and corporate hacks to regulatory positions, and the way he trashed the Constitution and authorized torture with fancy legal maneuvers. Then, there were other promises that either didn’t go anywhere or were only meant to dupe his fawning supporters: Faith-based programs, privatizing Social Security and No Child Left Behind come to mind. He did have one flash of humanity and political brilliance — proposing to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows by creating a pathway to citizenship, but the country and his party stupidly turned their backs on him. It was also the Republican Party’s last chance to retain its grip on power by welding Hispanics — more in line with the GOP on matters of family, abortion and homosexuality — into its coalition. Actually, that was probably Karl Rove’s gambit, an ironic coda for an advisor who otherwise stunk of sulfur and pocketed his triumphs with gloating satisfaction. I miss him. You may say he’s still the president, but I know the administration came to an end sometime in late 2007. Contrary to our fears that the neo-con clique would connive to retain power by declaring martial law after engineering a fake national security crisis, the fact is they knew they were finished a long time ago. Completely disgraced, they have been just biding their time, waiting for the clock to run out. I miss him because of his grace and athleticism when the first, then the
second shoe came off that Iraqi journalist’s feet and went hurtling towards his head at that press conference in Baghdad. My editor, Brian Clarey, quite perceptively noted that Bush ducked those shoes, which came toward him with startling accuracy, as if he’d been preparing for News Editor them his entire life. And in the aftermath, we can take some satisfaction in knowing that the aggrieved journalist was not hauled off to Guantanamo to be interrogated and tortured. The president took it in a stride like a laid-back rancher. “People I’ve seen a lot of weird things during my presidency and this may rank up there as one of the weirdest,” he told ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “On the other hand, I do remember when the president of China came to the South Lawn, and member of the press corps started yelling — I think it was Falun Gong slogans — at the Chinese president. So this happens, and it’s a sign of a free society.” Yes, he was a phony. The way he played at being salt of the earth, when in fact he was a member of the nation’s wealthy elite, its political aristocracy — who didn’t know it was a Texassized load of bullshit? All the same, who can blame him for rejecting the cultural trappings of his family, with its insufferable pedigree tied to the Episcopal Church, New England and his mother’s ancestral ties to President Franklin Pierce. I can certainly understand, having grown up in rural, impoverished Kentucky the son of a hippie with an unused English degree whose own father ascended to the top of the ivory tower in English criticism. I can’t begin to explain the relief I felt when the metal heads dressed in leathers and denim welcomed me into their clan as a fellow outcast after I decided I wanted nothing to do with the striving, advanced-placement sons and daughters of insurance agents, bankers and clerks of court with their barely concealed racism in Owen County, Ky. So it makes perfect sense that George W. Bush would take to swilling cheap beer, and I sure as hell hope he got stoned from time to time. I understand the wildcatter affectation, and the inevitable drift to confessional Protestant Christianity, the need for a personal relationship with Jesus after all that high-church mystique. Our nation was asleep when we handed the White House over, not once but twice, to this dry-drunk, studiously mediocre ne’er-do-well. We probably voted for him because we wanted the comfort of knowing there was someone like us in the White House. And while it started long before George W. Bush took office, we have allowed our nation to be taken over by a self-serving cabal of rip-off artists with no regard for poetry and music. And while we may have elected a caste of leaders to replace the Bush gang who hold greater respect for high-culture modes — intellectual inquiry, basketball and poker — I fear that we’ve only traded up for a more sophisticated form of chicanery. So yes, George W. Bush was worthless as a president, possibly our worst. Now that he’s almost universally shunned and despised, revealed to be an insecure and deeply flawed human being but with a touch of humility that comes with age, well, he’s become my kind of guy.
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