Friday, January 16, 2009

Bush: Almost Gone

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There's a whole page of quotes from Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels. Obviously the first one, his most classic one is:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

In his buh-bye, suckers speechyesterday, Bush repeated the biggest of the Big Lies that were the hallmarks of his tragic regime, the most infamous one of all: "I kept you safe."

In fact, no modern president-- say, post-James Madison-- has presided over as big a domestic calamity of unsafeness as Bush, who can and should be blamed for not protecting us from the events of 9/11-- and who then proceeded to make us less safe every single day for the rest of his horrendous time in office.

“There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions," he blathered, "but there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.” Funny how he conveniently started the clock ticking on 9/12. I guess Clinton was still technically president on 9/11, right? Bush had been in the White House how long? Not paying attention.

In his last scheduled-- please God-- appearance beefore he finds himself on the ash heap of history, Bush quacked out another pathetic attempt to justofy the worst presidency in our country's history.
With a touch of nostalgia for his accomplishments and an air of defiance to his critics, Mr. Bush took Americans back to the first night that he addressed them from the White House only hours after terror had struck American soil and killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

“We must resist complacency. We must keep our resolve,” Mr. Bush said. “And we must never let down our guard.”

If only he had resisted complacency and if only he hasn't let his (our) guard down between his inauguration and that fateful September day, we might have avoided all the tragedies that followed.
The address was the latest attempt by Mr. Bush to help shape his legacy. But even though Democrats said they had no plans to offer a major response, saying that his time in office speaks for itself, the farewell speech would hardly be the last word on his tenure.

Dan Froomkin's take over at the WaPo, hits the nail squarely on the head. "President Bush bid the nation goodbye last night with a simpering speech that may have appealed to those who still believe in him, but offered nothing to change the minds of the vast majority of Americans who don't."
Bush smirked and twitched while delivering a highly defensive farewell address in which he tried to hearken back to his glory days right after 9/11, sought credit for having made "tough decisions" and insisted his intentions were good.

There was no real attempt to bind the wounds he leaves in his wake. There was no apparent awareness of irony when he held up his administration as a champion of moral clarity and human dignity. He even gave himself credit for his response to the financial crisis he didn't see coming: "When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them," he said.

And he tried one last time to conflate his "war on terror" with the unrelated debacle in Iraq, recasting the American troops perilously occupying that benighted country as "part of a broader struggle" between "a small band of fanatics" who demand "total obedience to an oppressive ideology" and a system "based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God, and that liberty and justice light the path to peace."

In a fitting end for a presidency that has often operated in its own reality, Bush was greeted warmly by his audience-- a hand-picked selection of hangers-on and human props-- even as public-opinion polls show that the nation is way past ready to move on.

Bush's former press secretary, Scott McClellan, listened to the speech too. He didn't seem very impressed.
"It's hard to talk about moral clarity when you have really tarnished the government's moral standing," McClellan said bluntly.

"There are really two problems that they don't seem to get. First of all, the public trust. The president, long ago, sadly, lost the public trust. They are no longer listening to what he has to say or buying what he is selling. You know, unless, he is willing to come out and talk candidly about his own mistakes, his own policy mistakes, and address those issues openly with the American people, then they are not really tuning in. It's the same old song. It's just a different variation of it. It's much like listening to Charlie Brown's teacher.

"The second part of this is... it's terribly mistaken to think that good intentions and your inner decency will somehow outweigh your actions and policies, and the way you went about them with the American people. They are terribly mistaken if they think that the American people are going to look at that as more important than what he actually did while he was in office."

But more important than analyzing Bush's self-serving speech is analyzing the reluctance of the Obama Administration to hold him and his cronies accountable. Paul Krugman summed it up nicely yesterday in the NY Times:
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. “I don’t believe that anybody is above the law,” he responded, but “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power.

Let’s be clear what we’re talking about here. It’s not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation’s security. The fact is that the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.

...Now, it’s true that a serious investigation of Bush-era abuses would make Washington an uncomfortable place, both for those who abused power and those who acted as their enablers or apologists. And these people have a lot of friends. But the price of protecting their comfort would be high: If we whitewash the abuses of the past eight years, we’ll guarantee that they will happen again.

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.


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