Goodbye, Mr Bush

George Bush, Jr leaves office today, perhaps marking the end of the baby-boomers tenure in the White House. Polling data indicate ”“ confirm, really ”“ almost unsurpassed discontent with his two-term presidency. Barring the unfolding of democracy and westernization in the Middle East (possible, but improbable), future judgments will not be favorable. However, a perspective granted by a decade or two might be somewhat broader in scope though no less dim than the one forming now.

Bush the Younger will likely be remembered for presiding over the country while shortsighted management and large-scale flimflammery pervaded Wall Street, the financial sector, real estate and elsewhere, and while the economy marched toward then leapt into the abyss. A considerable amount of blame will attach to Bush, but poor management and flimflammery predate January 2001 by quite some time ”“ as does idolatrous faith in free trade and in a service-sector economy. Only highly partisan historians will ascribe great blame for the economy to Bush, but there’s no shortage of them.

Bush will also be remembered for ensnarling the country into open-ended wars. So poorly thought out and executed were these wars that they have antagonized hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world and caused longstanding allies in Europe and elsewhere to question the reliability of the United States as a responsible partner in world affairs. The occupation of Iraq is apparently set to end in three years, but the war in Afghanistan is seven years old now and the US, with bipartisan support, is doubling its troop strength there from thirty thousand to sixty thousand. Suspicion naturally arises that as the years unfold the consequences of these ongoing wars will become more troubling and perhaps even disastrous. Though Bush’s blunders in the region are huge, his forbears’ smaller ones ably led the way by increasing our presence and meddling.

We’ve long heard jokes and criticisms regarding Bush the Younger’s intelligence and public speaking. The problem is not his innate intelligence, which is probably well above average and probably higher than that of say Lyndon Johnson or Robert Byrd. The problem is George Bush, Jr simply never applied himself to anything. He has never demonstrated knowledge of any subject that even a quick read of a wiki article provides. He is the scion of a privileged family who created the appearance of accomplishment by dabbling in the armed forces, the oil business, baseball ownership, and state politics. It was enough to make an impressive CV, though one that upon scrutiny would reveal little accomplishment. In short, he is a dilettante.

How did we elect such a figure? In 2000, after eight years of Bill Clinton, much of the country wanted ”œchange.” This vague sentiment periodically grips the nation like a fashion trend or influenza outbreak. It runs its course and is soon followed by another of greater or lesser intensity. Of course there were issues and policies and consequences, but outbreaks of changephilia play crucial, embarrassing roles in American electoral politics ”“ and political consultants know it. That’s at least partly how Clinton won in 1992, Reagan in 1980, Carter in 1976, Nixon in 1968, Kennedy in 1960. . . .

Perhaps sometime in the future, the judgment of history will be that Bush the Younger was simply one of a long series of lackluster presidents who with only brief exceptions flailed about in national and world affairs, wasted tens of thousands of American lives in the process, and dutifully mouthed lines about free markets and America’s global mission.

~ ©2009 Brian M. Downing
Brian M. Downing is the author of several works of political and military history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam.  He can be reached at

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  • PressTV, January 20

    President Bush’s last day in office faced with anti-war protesters, hurling shoes outside the gates of the White House to express their anger.

    About 500 people marched to the White House on Monday and threw about 40 pairs of shoes at the gate.

    Supporters said that they were acting in solidarity with Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at Bush during a news conference in Baghdad in December.

    The event was sponsored by the Washington Peace Center, the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War and other groups, AP reported.

    Organizer Jamilla El-Shafei said the event allowed protesters to express their anger over Bush, who she said is ‘leaving with no accountability for eviscerating our constitution’.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • and departure of Junior’s helicopter, on its way to Andrews AFB. Eight years too late, but, gone at last! Regrettably, there weren’t federal marshals bearing arrest warrants for Boosh as he landed in Midland, but, perhaps that day will yet come.

    “les Etats-unis, c’est le seul pays à être passé de la préhistoire à la décadence sans jamais connaitre la civilisation…”…Georges Clemenceau

  • which about sums up the feelings of 75% of all Americans…yes, there are the bitter-enders, such as Rush Limbaugh, already wishing that “…Obama fails…”, but today’s swearing-in brings back the spirit and purpose of the 1961 Kennedy inauguration, which was notable for the public affection and good wishes visited upon the new (young) President and his family, and it seems to me that the Obamas as well share in and can profit from these same sentiments.

    “les Etats-unis, c’est le seul pays à être passé de la préhistoire à la décadence sans jamais connaitre la civilisation…”…Georges Clemenceau

  • The Caucus (NYT Blog), By Katharine Q. Seelye, January 20

    Directly after the swearing-in, a crowd began to gather behind the Capitol building to watch George W. Bush airlift out of Washington.

    “We’re here to see Bush leave – we’re going to give him the Jersey wave,” said James Moore, who was there with his wife, Sandra. “If you’re from New York, it’s the same as the Bronx cheer.”

    “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” Ms. Moore said, gazing down to the Capitol. There were dozens of people holding up cameras and waiting for the moment that they considered the end of the Bush era.

    “We want to see closure,” said Deborah Tompkins, who lives in the adjacent Capitol Hill neighborhood and jogged over to the location from home holding a sign that read, “Heck Of A Job, Bushie.”

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • Bush gave a speech “almost a rebuttal” in Midland this afternoon.

    Here’s a snippet of the insanity:

    Much of his speech was a defense of his presidency and his decisions, particularly after 9/11 when, he said, “we liberated 50 million people from the clutches of terrorism.”

    Oh, and he’s planning to write a book:

    “I want people to be able to understand what it was like in the Oval Office when I had to make some of the tough decisions that I was called upon to make. History tends to take a little time for people to remember what happened and to have an objective accounting of what took place and I’d like to be a part of making a real history of this administration come to life.”

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

  • Limbaugh told his listeners that he was asked by “a major American print publication” to offer a 400-word statement explaining his “hope for the Obama presidency.” He responded:

    So I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “Okay, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.” (interruption) What are you laughing at? See, here’s the point. Everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff, “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here. Why do I want more of it? I don’t care what the Drive-By story is. I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.

    This tub of shite, and the rest of his talk-radio gasbag brethren, are tuning up their machines to let fly at Obama 24/7, and FoxNews notables are geared up to “bring it on”, in the words of a former president. Don’t ever believe that BHO will get a pass just because of high approval ratings from the public at large; JFK was villified by anti-Catholic and far-right commentators and media up to the day of his assassination, and even then they didn’t spare the rhetoric.

    “les Etats-unis, c’est le seul pays à être passé de la préhistoire à la décadence sans jamais connaitre la civilisation…”…Georges Clemenceau

  • “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

  • “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

  • “Prezidentin’s Haaaaard Work!”

    With the subtitle “Bet you woudnna dun any better!”

    “The best-informed man is not necessarily the wisest. Indeed there is a danger that precisely in the multiplicity of his knowledge he will lose sight of what is essential.”

    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  • How about “Attack of the Coffee Table” subtitled “101 Things a Noo Persadent has to Look Our 4 in the Wite House if he Ends Up Bein’ Run by Lyin’ Connivin’ Varmits Like U Know Hoo”

  • USA Today

    Saying he never took an opinion poll to tell him what to do and that he always “did what I thought was right,” former president George W. Bush is speaking to supporters in Midland, Texas.

    “I’m coming home with my head held high and a sense of accomplishment,” he said.

    “Whether you agreed with my decisions or not, one thing you have to agree with is we have not been attacked the last 7 1/2 years,” Bush added.

    (Thanks to Fox News Channel, which broadcast the event.)

  • Hopefully off the WH Press Secretary’s A List. Freedom of speech notwithstanding soon Rimbaugh may be lucky to find a live microphone anywhere outside his own bathroom. C’est la vie.

    LA Times

    Alone among networks, Fox News gives Bush homecoming cheer
    04:07 PM PT, Jan 20 2009

    Former Vice President Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials sometimes let it be known that they stuck with Fox News for their informational needs. And on Tuesday, Fox News returned the favor, even as the rest of Washington remained gripped by Obama fever.

    Late Tuesday afternoon, Fox News was the only major national TV outlet that carried a live telecast of former President Bush’s homecoming speech to cheering supporters in Midland, Texas.

    “Sometimes what I did wasn’t popular,” a smiling Bush told the crowd. “But that’s OK. I always did what I thought was right.”

    The rest of the networks, however, did not see the Bush address as news fit to broadcast. At 6:40 p.m. EST, MSNBC was in the middle of “Hardball,” with host Chris Matthews and guests batting around the meaning of Obama’s swearing-in. CNN was carrying live ongoing coverage of the final moments of the inaugural parade, with the Obamas beaming from the White House reviewing stand.

    The broadcast networks likewise did not cover the Bush speech. At least in Los Angeles, both KCBS-Channel 2 and KNBC-Channel 4 had returned to regular syndicated programming (“Judge Judy” and “Deal or No Deal”). KABC-Channel 7 was airing local news.

    -Scott Collins

  • If the shoe fits, honour it: artistic tribute inspired by Iraqi shoe-tosser

    CBC, January 29

    A large sculpture of a humble shoe was unveiled in Tikrit, Iraq, on Thursday, inspired by a journalist’s recent hurling of footware at former U.S. president George W. Bush.

    Laith al-Amari, an artist based in Baghdad, said he created the fibreglass-and-copper sculpture as an homage to the “pride of the Iraqi people.”

    About the size of a sofa, the large artwork also bears a poem paying tribute to Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at Bush during a Dec. 14 news conference in Baghdad and called the departing leader a dog.

    Al-Zeidi was arrested and has been held by authorities over the incident ever since. His trial was postponed in late December after his lawyer sought to have the initial charge of assaulting a foreign leader reduced.

    They sicken of the calm, who knew the storm.

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