Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Still Bush After All These Years.

The unmitigated failure is heading for the door and, as we have long become accustomed to, he does so without apology and without any understanding of the damage he has caused.

His final appearance before the White House press corps could not even muster a full house. The door into the White House briefing room - which will be bulging next week for the first briefing under Barack Obama's administration - opened to reveal a sombre-looking president who quickly switched on a smile for the cameras.

Bush, who is said to privately detest journalists, was ill-at-ease throughout, and at times emotional, introspective and melancholic.

He made a few jokes, often at his own expense, but he also revealed how much he has been hurt by the criticism that he was the worst president in recent US history. He admitted to some disappointments, but was generally unapologetic.

Most of the 48 minutes of what Bush described as the "ultimate exit interview" was spent trying to persuade his audience, both in the room and the public watching on television, that he did not deserve to be labelled the worst president in recent US history.

He thanked reporters, many of whom had followed him since he was on the campaign trail in 2000, even though sometimes he had not liked what they had written. Reviving one of his famous verbal stumbles, he said: "Sometimes you misunderestimated me."

He admitted there had been disappointments, and singled out Abu Ghraib, Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and his "mission accomplished" claim, only a month after the Iraq invasion. "I don't know if you want to call those mistakes, but things did not go according to plan," he said.

Although he said he did not believe in self-pity, he returned again and again to those who had opposed and ridiculed him: the journalists and political elite and the needless name-calling culture in Washington. He twice mentioned the antagonism from Europe, in particular the lack of support over the Iraq war from France and Germany, though he did not name those countries. Showing an unexpected level of bitterness, he warned Obama to expect people he regarded as friends to turn against him.

He expressed hope that history would prove kinder to him than his contemporaries had.

I don't know if he was the worst president ever, but he was - without doubt -the worst president in my lifetime. I don't expect ever to see such a hugely unqualified, incurious, and intellectually and morally bankrupt individual hold that office again in my lifetime.

Demonstrating just how much the hostility from Europe had irritated him, he screwed up his face when asked about it. "I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged," he said, while acknowledging that it might be the case among elites in Europe. People he had met in Africa, India and China did not share that judgment, Bush claimed.

He could easily have won popularity in Europe, he said, but had instead opted to do what he thought was right. "In certain quarters of Europe, you can be popular by blaming every Middle Eastern problem on Israel. Or you can be popular by joining the International Criminal Court. I guess I could have been popular by accepting Kyoto," he said.

Damn those pesky Europeans with their demands that international law should apply to Israel, or that there should even be such a thing as international law, and especially with their demands that a trifling little thing like global warming should ever be taken seriously.

Even as he exits he proves that he never, ever, got it. He has no counter argument, he simply finds Europeans annoying.

His legacy is presiding over the worst terrorist attack ever on US soil, entering into two unwinnable wars of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq, the catastrophe of Katrina and the possible collapse of the entire world financial system. And that's before we add extraordinary rendition, torture and the suspension of Habeas Corpus.

His verdict:
"We had fun."
Click title for full article.


Will Conley said...

Wow, Kel, thanks for posting this. Good commentary, and then I watched the video. It was actually kind of touching. If the guy had a little more capacity to feel, I think he would have been bawling. I mean, my heart kind of went out to him. He brought it all upon himself, well, he brought part of it on himself. His staff brought the rest of it on him. And now, frankly, I will not be surprised if he just goes and medicates himself for the next few years and dies quietly. Can't you just see the sad, sad ending of his sad, sad life? I mean, the guy is really an interesting character, if all this were just some novel you could put down and come back to, that is. And you know, Kel: sometimes, I like to think it is. Sometimes I like to think life is just a novel. I feel hugged by the hard covers, safe, harmless. Unless it's just a dime store paperback, in which case we would all just feel forgotten, passed around and dog-eared. Only to be rediscovered by some kid who just likes a good book, doesn't care how it's packaged. I'm talking about context, Kel, context. I need context in order to feel okay with all this. How long can we rattle the sabre? When does Bush get his redemption? I mean, it would make for a fabulous ending. Bad man turns human turns forgiven. When we do finally let go of him, will we learn the lesson? I just fear redemption will never come, unless you're a Christian person, but for me, the Bible just ain't a good read. We need to be comforted, and I don't think Obama can do it. We need a good storyteller to finish it for us.

Kel said...

I'm afraid that I will never be able to forgive him Will. Too many people are dead because of that man's actions for me to ever think well of him.

And the fact that he stained America's reputation by torturing people leaves me furious.

Now Obama has to decide what to do with people who have been tortured into giving confessions and I fear a further stain on your nation's character might be underway as Obama is talking about "special commissions" which sounds to me as something which might legitimise Bush's illegality.

The argument is that you can't let bad guys go, but I would argue that Bush should have thought about that before he tortured them.

Your system might be changed to allow these special commissions to accept evidence obtained by torture. If that happens then your country will have legitimised that which is utterly unnaccepable.

And that will be Bush's real legacy.

Will Conley said...

I hear you, I do. Even if we did go after him, which we won't, we would still need to find peace in our hearts somehow, you know? Hell, hang him up, lock him away, no matter what happens we will still hold the rage in our hearts. He's not just a man, he's our own psyche, much as I hate to have that man in my head. He's in there and no matter what happens in the real world, I have to deal with that. We all do, somehow. My way to deal is...well I don't know. I guess just the narrative thing I was talking about earlier. It's a story and it needs an ending. Each can have his own story, we needn't share it, but I think we all need one eventually.

Kel said...

I just think that the US needs to establish that torture is wrong. Part of the reason that Bush and Cheney are admitting what they did is to make the argument that it's legal because no-one prosecuted them.

And I have no faith that the bipartisan Obama is going to want to get into that dogfight.

Although I do think Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld would be well advised never to leave the US again as the international community would seek to prosecute them.

Will Conley said...

It takes optimism to demand accountability from U.S. officials on a real level. Sure, you can nail a guy for banging prostitutes, but not for torture or murder. Genuine offenses are totally okay in this world, and they will generally be allowed forever. Why, I don't know, but that is the pattern. On the other hand, maybe it would be even worse if not for the likes of you, who tirelessly holds the torch of justice every single day. I don't share your optimism though, which is why I don't generally blog politically anymore. Thanks for following your passion, Kel; it jerks me back to reality when I've all but given up.

Kel said...

It takes optimism to demand accountability from U.S. officials on a real level.

The one thing Obama ran on was optimism, the notion that, "we are the change we have been waiting for".

I'm not asking for the world here, I'm asking for something which Obama has already admitted. The US has engaged in torture, and the US - especially under a new administration which promised change - must acknowledge the wrong of what has taken place.

I honestly don't care if they pardon the buggers, I simply want it to be acknowledged that they have committed a crime. For, if it is not, then the next Cheney will cite the fact that they weren't prosecuted as a precedent for further illegality.

And thanks for your kind words Will, I do appreciate it.