Commentary: Bush makes a farewell tour. Good riddance

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 18, 2008 

We've been treated to a real spectacle this week as President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney limped into the home stretch of their Magical History Tour, employing distortions, half-truths and untruths in a final, desperate attempt to pervert or somehow prevent history from judging them accurately.

The president journeyed to the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., to try to polish his legacy with a rambling 15-minute speech that laid out his many glorious achievements of the last eight years for a captive military audience.

Standing amid the splendid ruins of what once was a proud nation, Bush celebrated keeping America safe from terrorist attacks; transforming our military; reorganizing and repairing our broken national intelligence agencies; creating the mighty Department of Homeland Security, and making the world safe for freedom and democracy.

The great gray eminence himself, Dick Cheney, of no known address, went on national television pleading guilty to committing a war crime. Yes, Cheney said, he participated in the White House discussions on the use of torture in the interrogations of suspected terrorists. Yes, he said proudly, he approved the use of such outlawed practices as water-boarding, the simulated drowning of bound and helpless prisoners to make them talk. So what?

Meantime, a bitterly cold winter gripped the throat of a nation where more than half a million Americans lost their jobs during the month of November alone, and more than a million have lost their homes to foreclosure this year. Millions more Americans are trembling on the brink of losing both jobs and homes in the year ahead.

On Wall Street, the CEO's of newly bailed-out brokerages were gleefully using taxpayer billions to pay fat year-end bonuses to many of the people who helped produce an economic meltdown the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

Over in the White House, the president was busy signing a flood of executive orders opening the gates to oil drilling on massive chunks of previously protected public lands in the West; protecting big corporations from lawsuits in state courts when their products harm or kill innocent Americans, and generally giving his fat cat friends one last shot at looting a national Treasury of any remaining table scraps.

The president and his spinmeisters keep talking about how, with the passage of time, historians will come to judge his presidency a huge success, much as history has come to judge the administration of Harry S. Truman.

Balderdash. Or as I much prefer to say in situations like this: Bullshit!

Historians are more likely to rank George W. Bush as the worst president this nation has ever had in the 232 years of its existence.

While I'm at it, George W. Bush shouldn't even be mentioned in the same sentence as Harry Truman. Harry Truman was a friend of mine early in my career, and George W. Bush is no Harry Truman. Not even close.

Truman kept a little wooden sign on his Oval Office desk that declared: "The Buck Stops Here."

The buck never stopped anywhere in the Bush administration. It just circled the Capitol Beltway at ever-increasing speeds.

Bush kept us safe at home. Yes he did, by delivering nearly 200,000 American soldiers and Marines to Iraq and Afghanistan where they were much more accessible targets. Some 4,500 Americans have been killed in those ongoing wars, and more than 75,000 have been wounded or injured. Hundreds of thousands more have come home suffering mentally for what they've seen or done in these brutal wars.

Bush told his War College audience that of all the things he loved about the job, he was proudest of all of his role as their commander-in-chief.

Why then did he and his minions oppose virtually every attempt to reinforce their numbers and shorten the time they spent in Hell? Why did they oppose virtually every attempt to increase their pay and their benefits, and those of millions of American veterans of these and other wars?

How could so proud a commander sit idly by while soldiers and Marines were sent off to war without the armored vehicles and body armor they so desperately needed in this new kind of war?

How could his administration pinch pennies when it came to funding and manning the military hospitals that treat the thousands of wounded troops flowing home from his wars?

How can this man talk about making the world a safer and freer place by his actions when so much innocent blood has been shed by civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan? When millions have been turned into homeless refugees inside and outside Iraq? When America is left with far fewer friends and allies among the nations of the world?

The only good news left to us this gloomy, cold December is that we only have to put up with this wretched spectacle for another 30 days or so.

George W. Bush should make a hurry-up call to his architect and see if it's not too late to substitute firing slits for the ground floor windows in his new Presidential Library in Dallas.

Good-bye George, and good riddance.

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