That was one hulluva soiree, but now it's time to fold the chairs, pay the band, and settle the tab. Let's see, you had the economic collapse and deepening recession, the housing crash and implosion of our financial institutions, the corruption of the Justice Department and the renegade Vice President, two ongoing wars with a side order of torture and a generous helping of CIA secret prisons, warrantless wiretapping, the destruction of the middle class, and the city of New Orleans. All told, your share comes to 1.2 trillion dollars. Do you think we should leave a tip with that?
With this week's eye-popping, head-shaking press conference, Bush leaves the presidency just as he arrived, full of it. Full of self-absorption without reflection, and full of pride, the consequences of which a man familiar with Proverbs should understand. But Bush was never one to dwell on consequences, once his "gut" told him what to do.
From his very first prime-time televised speech about his "Great Stem-Cell Compromise," Bush has played the presidency as a performance piece, where he goes out, day after day, and plays an amiable Master of Ceremonies to the nefarious deeds being done behind the curtain, just like Chuck Barris putting a smiling face on all the bizarre Gong Show activities going on in the background. He memorably said in 2005, "See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again, to kind of catapult the propaganda." Bush certainly catapulted it with the best of them, I only wish someone had informed him beforehand that the president's job was more than Huckster in Chief.
When Bush was asked about Obama's campaign pledge to restore the United States' moral standing in the world, he replied, "I strongly disagree that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be among the elites," he continued, "or parts of Europe." Who is it that Bush considers "the elites?" Oh, I remember, it's that Eastern Establishment from whence he came that now disdains him. Bush continued that he was "aware that some of them don't like me; the writers and opiners," almost poetic in blaming the messenger.
In fact, Bush blamed everyone and everything except himself for the chasms of neglect that define his presidency. From bad intelligence concerning WMD in Iraq, to bad judgement over the aircraft carrier "Mission Accomplished" banner, to bad advice about the economy, nothing was his fault. Bush was merely a victim of circumstance, like a college fraternity president, embarrassed by a cheating scandal perpetrated by a few of the brothers. Of his time in office, Bush said he "had fun." At least someone did. A question about a proposed, legal "Bush Doctrine" of pre-emptive pardons for his inquisitioners caused the President's hackles to rise and he abruptly dismissed the question, meaning "it's supposed to be a surprise." If someone's own conduct in office is felonious, do his pardons count later? Finally, addressing the viciousness of what passed as political discourse during his tenure, Bush had the gall to again compare himself with Abraham Lincoln, saying, "There was harsh discord (sic) at #16, and harsh discord for #43," neglecting the fact that aside from being president, the only thing Bush has in common with Lincoln is the hole in the head. The delusional Bush's final press conference was truly "The audacity of dope."
So far, President-elect Obama has been low-key in discussing future investigations of the Bush abuses, saying only, "No one is above the law," but there is a groundswell of people demanding accountability. I don't believe we've seen the last of George Bush in Washington D.C., only next time he'll be answering questions under subpoena in front of a congressional committee.
Until that day arrives, as it surely will, my parting wish to George W. Bush is that he gather up all his American flag lapel pins and leftover "W" stickers, his jeans and boots and concho belts, all the Western-themed art and cowboy memorabilia, his "Shakespeares" and biographies of George Washington, the flags, the drapes, and that goddamned rug in the Oval Office and get the fuck out of my White House. Make room for someone who understands that the job is greater than the self-exaltation of one flawed and foolish man who remains thick as a brick until the bitter end. And I do mean bitter.
--Randy Haspel writes the Born-Again Hippies blog, where this column first appeared.