Mr. Bush, you shouldn’t have bothered. It wouldn’t have mattered what you said on your last Thursday evening as White House occupant. I’m sure many Americans did tune in out of curiosity as to how you were going to try to talk your way out of your mess this time. You used the same familiar tricks – that right eyebrow cocking in unison with just a trace of smirk, suggesting that this is just all kinda funny and, hey, there were a few little bumps in the road but so what? Love me anyway. It didn’t work. The results, not surprisingly, were underwhelming. Thirteen minutes of “I did TOO do a good job” loaded with vague nothings, every sentence of which made you stop, scratch your head, and say “huh???”
It really made me stand back a moment and marvel. The final public address by the man departing the Oval Office, especially after eight long years there, ought to have received a bigger fanfare. For example, although we were pretty tired of Ronald Reagan too, by the end, people still made a big deal out of his finishing touches. Quite the opposite for the feckless Dubya, except maybe among the dwindling number of denial-steeped extremists who still love him, of course. I couldn’t help noting how decisively his important farewell speech sank from the top of the average evening newscast – almost faster than that US Airways jet sank out of the sky into the Hudson River. Irrelevance, anyone?
There’s a reason why we couldn’t, and still can’t, get enough of that other story. What a stark contrast with the cool-headed, well-trained, veteran pilot/hero and every last one of his passengers’ swift and successful rescue. How many other happy endings have we had in the past eight years, anyway? Do we even remember what a happy ending is – after Junior’s reign of terror? It was certainly a dramatic and wonderful story, and what could have been another dreadful tragedy turned into an inspiring saga of bravery, quick wits, razor-sharp expertise, rapid and effective response, and a firm hand at the cockpit controls. When have we seen THAT in the past eight years – from the gang that not only couldn’t shoot straight (unless it was at the face of a quail-hunting buddy) but prized disengagement, neglect, ideological purity over competence, thievery, and corruption?
This one didn’t have to be spun anywhere by anybody, for a change. This triumph didn’t need any fix-it strategies or PR or hard-sell or agenda-driven talking points to convince that this was some sort of clean victory. When have we had one of those in the past eight years – besides perhaps the Obama triumph in November? Certainly neither of Bush’s election “wins” was clean, or unquestionable.
Young George’s farewell address was undoubtedly designed to further the “legacy project” that was supposed to put all kinds of lipstick on the pig – and the pig sty – that Dubya created from the America we all grew up loving. I’d want another news story to trump him, too, and send him to the back pages. I just don’t want to listen to the lies and the BS and the Texas Two-Step anymore. Public opinion polls show there’s plenty of agreement, with the numbers running from 22% in the latest CBS-New York Times poll to maybe a “high” of 27 percent or so, elsewhere.
Nobody cares about your version of the truth any longer, George. We’ve already seen and heard WAY more than enough already, and no one’s impressed that at least you were willing to make the decisions. What do you want, a medal? Sadly, we would all have been better off if without your decision-making, especially since your decisions were all so bad. Nobody wants to hear how you trusted your conscience, especially since many of us by now have come to doubt whether you even had a conscience. Assuming you do, it sure has steered you wrong. Thank God neither you nor any of your appointees was in the cockpit of Flight 1549.
Nobody wants to hear how you think you “kept us safe” AFTER September 11th, when the disaster that day was well into YOUR watch, after months of ignored warnings that you were repeatedly given before you even “took” office. Nobody wants to hear vague platitudes about how you beefed up “Homeland Security” when you lied and distorted and short-sheeted every other sort of safeguard on which the public also relies.
Were we really kept that safe without adequate safety inspections of imports of food, clothing, and household objects from China? Were we truly protected by a Justice Department that became so compromised and scandalized that the law it was designed to enforce was rendered toothless and its “enforcement” a pathetic, hollow joke? How about the regulatory tethers to which greedy, short-sighted bankers and Wall Street pirates were supposed to be leashed so that they wouldn’t run amok all over our life savings? Were we kept safe then? What of the suppression of objective scientific facts and findings that didn’t fit your phony, cock-eyed, pseudo-messianic world view? How safe are we with a climate crisis that’s proceeded unchecked and unrecognized by your policies, and now threatens all life on the planet? And how safe are we now, with ill-conceived and ill-advised wars still raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a third having erupted in Gaza? Your stubborn and arrogant pursuit of some grand new American empire has gained us not the admiration of the world but more enemies aflame with hatred and mistrust of us than we ever imagined. We’re safer now – with all that new hostility stirred up against us across the globe? And what kind of “homeland security” is there, really, when our economy is on the ropes, more people than ever have sunk into poverty, lost their jobs, done without health insurance, and are now (or are soon to be) homeless? I even tried counting all the examples of collateral damage. I gave up after the list overran 17 single-spaces pages.
You kept us safe, you say, George? How? By catching bin Laden? By nailing the domestic terrorists responsible for the anthrax scare (that happened AFTER September 11th)?
Bush’s “broken shoulder speech” – 13 tedious minutes patting himself on the back for a job “well” done (more like burnt to a crisp, really) was not what we wanted. We long for guys – and gals – who can uplift us. Inspire us. Make us feel proud and stand just a little taller. Heroes who tell the truth and don’t fudge the facts. We hunger for leaders who do the REAL right thing – that doesn’t require a PR massage to distract from the lousy results. That’s what your suffering, bankrupt, terrorized, intimidated, brutalized, traumatized, fleeced, betrayed, and repeatedly deceived America needs at this point, George. It sure isn’t you. At this point, we don’t even care about throwing shoes anymore. We just hold our breath waiting for you to leave, hoping you don’t cause any further trouble while you still have the chance.
We’re just not that into you, George. Some of us have NEVER been into you. You are so over. It truly is time for uplifting stories, inspiring people, heroes we can admire, authority figures we can trust. The impending inauguration of President Obama reminds us what happens when we finally have leadership ready to land our crippled nation in one piece – leadership of which we can once again be proud. And Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III has shown us what it’s like when a leader REALLY keeps us safe.