Commentary: Adios, Dubya. Vaya con Dios

McClatchy NewspapersJanuary 16, 2009 

He's leaving the same way he arrived eight years ago: Clueless and somehow unable to discern up from down, right from left and right from wrong.

George W. Bush, who famously styled himself as The Decider, said a formal farewell to America in a nationally televised address from that bully pulpit, the White House.

It was largely a paraphrasing of Frank Sinatra’s rendition of My Way:

"Mistakes there've been a few, but too few to mention . . . ."

The eminence gris of his administration, Dick Cheney, was front and center.

The cowboy president from Crawford, Texas, ticked through his many accomplishments and a few small failures, working diligently to write a first draft of history his way.

He kept America safe somehow, even though he's leaving us with two ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq where American troops and innocent civilians continue to die.

He kept us safe ever since 9/11, the President told us with pride. But what about 9/11 itself, when more than 3,000 people were murdered in their offices or on four airliners?

On whose watch did that assault on Americans, on American soil, take place? Who was it that ignored repeated and specific warnings of an imminent attack on us?

Who was it that spent most of that fateful day getting to and hiding in a subterranean bomb shelter in Omaha, Nebraska?

The departing president informed us that he created jobs and a vibrant economy for most of his time in office. But who is it who's leaving us an economy in dire straits, with more than 3 million home foreclosures in the past year and more than a million American jobs lost in the same period?

He told his audience how proud he was of those who've borne the brunt of service and sacrifice in his wars, the military and their families, and how proud he was to be their commander-in-chief.

But whose administration was it that pinched every penny when it came to pay raises, increased benefits and medical care for those who're serving today and those who sacrificed for us in the past?

He told us that the mission during his eight long years in power was to spread the light of democracy and freedom to the benighted and downtrodden around the globe.

But who was it that told him the best way to do that was with soldiers, tanks, bombs and napalm? Who counseled this man that the best way to spread freedom and democracy abroad was by trampling on individual rights at home and shredding the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights?

He belligerently challenged any notion that his actions abroad have damaged our reputation among the nations of the world. Not true, he declared. America is still the shining city on the hill, still a beacon of democracy and freedom. Where did he get that idea?

Never mind that stuff about torturing detainees in Afghanistan, at Guantanamo, in secret foreign prisons operated by the Central Intelligence Agency or in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Never mind that in exit interviews, both our president and our vice president confirmed that they'd personally approved extreme methods of persuading someone to talk, like creating the illusion of drowning by waterboarding them. Never mind that they virtually confessed that they're guilty of war crimes, as defined by international treaties that we've signed and adhered to for decades.

Those were hard decisions, President Bush told us, but he was always ready to make a hard decision. Even a hard, wrong decision.

That was George W. Bush's story, and he's going to stick to it for the rest of his life. His spinmeister Karl Rove will publish his own history of the Bush administration. Then Bush will write his own version. And no doubt Vice President Dick Vader will gin up a book in which everything he writes is a lie, including the a’s, and’s and the’s.

Some historians are already prepared to judge the Bush presidency as the worst in more than two centuries, to judge him worse than all 42 previous presidents. The rest will come to the same judgment in the years ahead.

Folks say I shouldn't be so hard on our president. That surely I could find something nice to say about him and those who've aided and abetted him, all those as-yet unindicted co-conspirators and candidates for pre-emptive presidential pardons.

All right. It's nice to see you leaving the White House at long last, Mr. President. It's nice to think of you hiding out in deserved oblivion under some expensive rock in Texas.

Adios, Dubya. Vaya con Dios.

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