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On this, the last day of the Bush Presidency

January 19, 2009
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Wow. Eight years. On the night of this past election, my younger sister sent me a text message saying, “This is my first adult experience with a Democratic president. Unreal.” She was 17 when Bush got elected in 2000 and is now 25. She spent her late teens and early twenties under a Bush, so to speak (I apologize. The joke was just sitting there. I couldn’t help it.) I’m sure she was aware of Clinton, but as a member of the voting public, the only President in her life was W. And I wonder how that affected her. Sure, there are so many moments that affect us as individuals, it’s impossible to say what effect one President or another might have, but I think it is definite that who is President affects who we are as a nation. I have often wondered what my political views might have been over the past eight years if Al Gore had been President. Would I have given him more leeway in his choices? Would I have even paid as close attention to what he was doing? It worries me to think that the only reason I was so adamantly opposed to most of the Bush policies was because of Bush himself. I like to think I have more integrity than that. I like to think that my principles are not so easily swayed. But, the honest answer is, I don’t know.

Here’s something I don’t like to admit in pleasant company-When I first heard Bush on the campaign trail–we’re talking late 1999–I actually was kind of taken with him. My political leanings have always been left-of-center, but here was a Republican talking about compassion and bi-partisanship. It appealed to my reconciliatory nature. Even then, I’m not sure I would’ve voted for the guy, but, in my quick judgment, he didn’t seem like a terrible choice. Of course, I was also the guy who said he didn’t trust McCain because of his “creepy smile” (about 9 years early on that joke) so don’t let me delude you into believing I was some kind of political pundit. Anyway, by the time Bush got the nomination and was actively campaigning against Gore, my feelings for him had changed. He seemed like a small man and a not very bright man. He seemed like someone who had a job he didn’t really want thrust upon him. Oh, the people around him really wanted him to be President, but I’m not sure he did. Of course, I’m not sure that my present self isn’t reinterpreting some of those memories. Suffice it to say, I voted for Gore, thought he got hosed, and am still not entirely convinced Bush and company didn’t steal that election.

My next memory of Bush is getting a $300 check in the mail from his tax cuts and, being broke as hell at the time, thanking him out loud.

My next memory is 9/11. And this is where things get hairy. First, can we please stop saying that Bush has kept us safe? We forget that there have been multiple terrorist attacks around the world since and Americans died in them. (Here the assumption is that only American lives matter, which while a despicable point of view, seems to be the one held by a vast number of people). Ok, so maybe you could say Bush can’t control what happens in other countries, that those attacks were not his responsibility, that America herself is a safer place because of Bush. Fair point, except you’d be wrong. And it’s not my opinion that says you’re wrong. The National Intelligence Estimate in 2006 stated that Bush policies (the Iraq War, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, torture) has made it more likely that we will suffer another terrorist attack in the future. But we haven’t experienced one, and that’s all that matters, you might say. Except isn’t saying that Bush didn’t allow anymore terrorist attacks after 9/11 a little like thanking someone for wearing a condom after they’ve already given you HIV? Bush should not get a pass for 9/11. And because he has made it the centerpiece of his presidency, I don’t feel bad for criticizing him about it.

One last thing, I no longer want to hear that Bush is a moral man just because he’s also a religious man. Those two concepts don’t always go hand in hand. I’m sorry, but lying and cheating and stealing all week long and then going to church on Sunday is not my idea of morality.

Ok, this post is getting longer than I anticipated, and too long for our short-attention spans. I have hope for the Obama Presidency, but one thing I can thank Bush for is that he made me pay attention to politics in way I never had before, and because of that I plan to stay vigilant regardless of what political party occupies the halls of power.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelly permalink
    January 20, 2009 12:18 pm

    I’ve had these weird feelings about Bush lately. He seems so awkward and beaten down that I’ve started to feel sorry for him, and then I have to remind myself that no matter what he’s done for Africa, he’s actively been involved in the killing of others. And he’s racked up record debt. And millions of people still don’t have health insurance. And then I don’t feel sorry for him anymore.

  2. Caleb permalink
    January 20, 2009 4:52 pm

    I know what Kelly is saying, I’ve felt the same way. I don’t mind giving Bush props for Africa, but only because I feel that by admitting the one thing he’s done right, it allows for a fuller discussion of the atrocities that he has willingly committed. This brings me to your point about the religious man being a moral man. I keep thinking of The Inquisition, and by that I mean religious people acting very immoral. It happens and Bush is proof of that.

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