A Major Irritant on "Minor Irritants."
By Mike Flannigan (on loan from Ari.)
George W. Bush's final press conference at the White House yesterday morning was an absolute masterpiece of political theater. I'm thinking, of course, of the Theater of the Absurd with dyspepsia, the kind of political Dadaism that we've come to expect of a George W. Bush that was let to slip his leash and to sniff the other dogs' posteriors for a few minutes in the reality-based dog park before pissing on them and walking away. Or rather, it was more like Republican Kabuki: Full of primal screeching and histrionics, leaving one with the uncomfortable suspicion that somehow, perhaps in some arcane way, what was torn from Bush's psyche yesterday made some twisted, tortured sense to the freakish denizens of some undiscovered extra-dimensional realm from which Republicans are rumored to originate.
It was everything we could have dreamed or had nightmares of: A pathetic burnishing of a legacy more tarnished than a 200 year-old silver spoon of the sort found sticking out of Bush's kisser 62 1/2 years ago. But it turned out to be more than that and George W. Bush, to queasy and hung-over bloggers, for once did not disappoint. In fact, he even exceeded our NASCAR crash anticipations. Bush's final presser had the appearance of a man caught looting a cookie jar, vainly trying to extract his hand from it but unable to because it was still clenched in a grasping, defiant fist, finally cudgeling his inquisitors with the confectionary container while denying any wrongdoing.
So here's one of the first pieces of poo flung that caught my eye:
In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession. In the meantime there were 52 months of uninterrupted job growth.
Uh huh. Well, since Bush took over on 1/20/01, we now have 84% more unemployed Americans. Another fact: while Bush has created 3,000,000 jobs (thank God for war profiteers such as Halliburton, Blackwater, Bechtel, The Parsons Group, KBR, the Carlyle Group and others), during Clinton's eight years as President, over 20,000,000 jobs were created. A sidebar: Those three million new jobs were almost completely wiped out in 2008 alone, a year in which we lost 2.6 million, 1.9 million of them washed away in the last four months in Bush's wet dream of unrestricted free trade.
Perhaps Bush should've been more parenthetical in his sunny job growth forecast. What one suspects he meant to say was, "We've created 3,000,000 new jobs... (and sent most of them to China and India where private corporations could get around the minimum wage laws. Heh heh. So, technically, I'm right. Neener, neener.)."
No doubt, the herd of career lobbyists and neocons currently in bad odor on K Street and Capitol Hill will blame their unemployed status on President Obama just as Bush seems to be blaming the phantom menace known as the Great 2001 Recession on Bill Clinton, a recession that was characterized by an evil phantom surplus of $127 billion and millions lifted out of poverty through equally evil prestidigitation of earned income credit.
Let's move on, shall we?
Q Do you approve of the Israeli conduct in (Gaza)?
THE PRESIDENT: I think Israel has a right to defend herself. Obviously in any of these kinds of situations, I would hope that she would continue to be mindful of innocent folks, and that they help, you know, expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid.
If this was a cartoon, and I'm not entirely sure it wasn't a live-action Ren and Stimpy episode, we'd have heard screeching tires and perhaps a female scream in the background.
"Continue to be mindful of innocent folks"? At last count, of the 900 Palestinian fatalities, at least half are civilian and approximately 40% of the dead are women and children. Plus when Israel murdered an aid truck driver and injured two others, they then suspended the entry of humanitarian aid pending a Three Stooges investigation of itself (which was only three hours a day, which got supplies to 9500 instead of the 150,000 that aid workers need to reach daily). This is Bush's version of "continu(ing) to be mindful of innocent folks". It's not surprising this is coming from a Hannibal Lecter wannabe who once boiled down the countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths to "a mere comma" on the Hope and Crosby Road to Democracy. Trust me. The Boy in the Bubble's just getting warmed up, folks.
Q- I'm just wondering, as you look back, why you think you engendered such passionate criticism, animosity?
THE PRESIDENT: You know, most people I see, you know, when I'm moving around the country, for example, they're not angry. And they're not hostile people. And they -- we never meet people who disagree, that's just not true. I've met a lot of people who don't agree with the decisions I make. But they have been civil in their discourse.
And so, I view those who get angry and yell and say bad things and, you know, all that kind of stuff, it's just a very few people in the country. I don't know why they get angry. I don't know why they get hostile.
Oh, no. Bush's carefully vetted and screened audiences at "Town Hall meetings" and GOP fundraisers are never angry and the demonstrations that greet him all over the world are kept a parsec or two from him. But when he gets to Baghdad, the gloves (and shoes) come off.
And, shit, I have to play Devil's Advocate here and side with Bush. I also can't fathom why a nation of people would be angry with their President after their country got bombed four times by terrorists on his watch, then had their constitutional rights stripped from them after 90% of us supported him, after he lied us into a war that's going to cost us $3 trillion and pushed deregulation to the point of costing millions of jobs and resulting in millions of foreclosures.
How ungrateful we are! Who are we? Iraqis? Onward!
There is an enemy that still is out there. You know, people can maybe try to write that off as, you know, he's trying to set something up. I'm telling you there's an enemy that would like to attack America, Americans, again. There just is. That's the reality of the world. And I wish him all the very best.
Shorter Bush: Yeah, I fucked up and didn't catch that guy and he's gonna try to kill us all again. Good luck, Barry. Wouldn't wanna be ya!
Fucking peckerheaded putz. Didn't they have condoms in 1941 and, if not, why not?
Q And I'm not trying to play "gotcha," but I wonder, when you look back over the long arc of your presidency, do you think, in retrospect, that you have made any mistakes? And if so, what is the single biggest mistake that you may have made?
This poor reporter, whomever it was, sounds like an exasperated parent trying to get a headstrong and stubborn child to admit a mistake that he made, giving him generous, broad hints to help him along on the road to glorious penitent discovery. But alas, Georgie said,
Gotcha. I have often said that history will look back and determine that which could have been done better, or, you know, mistakes I made. Clearly putting a "Mission Accomplished" on a aircraft carrier was a mistake. It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently...
So what you were trying to say, instead, was "Mission not accomplished so let's not but say we did?"
Rhetoric from the Chief Executive is certainly an important consideration but Bush seems to be restricting his errors to rhetoric that he knows we all know is crafted for him by countless aides, advisors and speech writers.
And even if Bush could legitimately restrict himself to rhetorical mistakes, I got 16 words for him.
Typically, the subject of Hurricane Katrina came up and was one breached by Bush himself:
I've thought long and hard about Katrina -- you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.
That is, he thought long and hard about Katrina only after 1800 people were killed and billions in property hopelessly damaged, after licking John McCain's birthday cake frosting off his thumb. But, hey, better late than never.
But what Bush seems to be forgetting is that no matter where he landed, as long as he was in New Orleans, rescue and recovery efforts were paralyzed on account of the two mile-wide no-fly zone over the president's head, as this photo from early September 2005 shows:
But that wasn't even the best comment of the day on Katrina. When pressed by another reporter on what more needs to be done in NOLA, Bush had this to say:
People said, well, the federal response was slow. Don't tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed. I remember going to see those helicopter drivers, Coast Guard drivers, to thank them for their courageous efforts to rescue people off roofs. Thirty thousand people were pulled off roofs right after the storm moved through. It's a pretty quick response.
Well, I seem to recall that FEMA still took five days to respond even after thousands were packed into the Superdome and the Convention Center without either Brown's or Chertoff's knowledge. A good number of those people who were plucked off those roofs were neighbors and friends helping eachother. The first responders, such as Bush's helicopter "drivers" (A mistake you'd think a fellow pilot would never make) with whom FEMA is supposed to coordinate were basically on their own while "Heckuva Job" Brownie was flying back to DC chasing a Mexican dinner and a margarita.
So, could Bush had done something differently? Well, yes. He could've installed to head FEMA someone who actually cared about his fellow man, knew how to prepare a response to a major disaster and whose primary qualification for the Director of FEMA wasn't rooted in being Joe Allbaugh's roommate and checked horse's asses for evidence of liposuction.
On presidential decision-making:
You don't get to have information after you've made the decision. That's not the way it works. And you stand by your decisions, and you do your best to explain why you made the decisions you made.
In other words, when you're caught screwing the pooch that you thought was the hot chick that owns it, smile and gamely keep pumping and think about the hot bitch that owns it. On the world stage, there's no such thing as a do-over, even after every one of your rationales for going to war against an essentially defenseless country gets shot down like so many John McCains. And whatever you do, don't apologize, even when 800 American troops and countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dying annually over your "rhetorical" mistakes. Gotcha.
Do you remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here?
Sure. Do you? Oh, silly question. You weren't there.
I'm a Type A personality, you know, I just -- I just can't envision myself, you know, the big straw hat and Hawaiian shirt.
He's got the Type A personality assessment dead-on. As for the Hawaiian shirt, see above. That was what he originally wore to greet Queen Elizabeth II before Mommy ordered him back to the bedroom to change into his white tie and tails.
When asked about how hard Obama will be hit trying to undo Bush's fuckups:
I believe this -- the phrase "burdens of the office" is overstated. You know, it's kind of like, why me? Oh, the burdens, you know. Why did the financial collapse have to happen on my watch? It's just -- it's pathetic, isn't it, self-pity. And I don't believe that President-Elect Obama will be full of self-pity. He will find -- you know, your -- the people that don't like you, the critics, they're pretty predictable. Sometimes the biggest disappointments will come from your so-called friends. And there will be disappointments, I promise you. He'll be disappointed. On the other hand, the job is so exciting and so profound that the disappointments will be clearly, you know, a minor irritant...
Boy, that sounds like a man married to his job, huh? That disappointments in the most important job in the world that could easily affect detrimentally the lives and cause the deaths of millions could be downgraded to "minor irritants." What was Harry Truman thinking when he called the presidency the loneliest job on earth? What were we thinking in assuming that the presidency of the United States might have burdens larger than pardoning the National Turkey and lighting the White House tree and conducting the Easter Egg roll on the White House lawn?
Lastly, Bush had this to say about his first day as an ex-wouldbe President:
And so I wake up in Crawford Tuesday morning -- I mean, Wednesday morning...
Obama's ascendancy to the Oval Office is a historic event and a privilege to see from a ringside seat, as Bush said, yet not historic enough to remember that Obama will get sworn in on Tuesday the 20th, not Monday the 19th.
Which is a scenario that I suspect would be congenial to many across our non-angry land.
Finally, to show what a class act he was, he refused to even acknowledge Helen Thomas' very physical existence by never calling on her while letting some reporters ask more than one question. Yeah, he sure respects the hard work they do in the WH Press pool and he proved it by completely ignoring the dean of WH correspondents while having in the past called on bullet-headed boobs like Jeff Gannon.
(Mike Flannigan is the author of a byline at an unnamed liberal publication of some antiquity and of an upcoming memoir entitled American Zen. He lives with his wife and three and a half children in central Massachusetts and inspects the undercarriage of his car every morning with a mirror.)