George W. Bush gave his final press conference today as President of the United States of America and I, for one (and I could be alone here), will miss him. For someone who enjoys writing as much I do, with a humorous spin whenever possible, Bush has been a godsend that won’t easily be replaced. It makes for a good time to look back upon his Presidency though, and to look forward to what lies ahead for our next President.
From the point of view of a humorist, Bush’s many faux pas and foibles have been vitamin rich in opportunities to ridicule and torment. Rarely has a week gone by in the past 5 or 6 years when he hasn’t done something worthy of a jab or a dig. From his mispronounifications of words to his goofy grins and expressions, Bush has provided a continuous and ever-present butt for any and all jokers.
From the point of a political analy st, the loss is equally as significant. Right or wrong, regardless of which side of any particular issue you may have come down on, Bush has provided lots of fodder for debate, discussion and in many cases, blatant outrage. His policies and procedures have been in almost constant question since he took office. He has been at the center of political and social debate for eight long years now and it’s been a full eight years with a seemingly nonstop train of issues and consequences.
What I’ll miss the most about him though is the ignorance. Not his ignorance, but the absolute and blissful ignorance the American public, and the world at large for that matter, had regarding his decisions, actions and politics. I think that Bush, unlike anyone before and as no one in the foreseeable future has been the president of perception.
To many, he has been a clown prince and political buffoon. He has been the scapegoat for many things that have happened which were far beyond his control. To many, any decision he has ever made has been completely and unquestionably indefensible. His detractors are many and they almost uniformly fail to find a single good thing to say about him, or point out a single good thing he’s ever done.
This, of course, is ridiculous. Not liking a president is one thing, not agreeing with him more often than not is certainly understandable, but President Bush has been vilified to an alarming and unbelievable extent. There are actual people who side against certain issues just because Bush favors them—regardless of the facts. I can’t think of a single idea that more fervently betrays democracy than that one.
I happen to believe that history will much kinder to Bush than we have been. I imagine he’ll be long gone before anyone will care to look at his presidency objectively, but an objective eye is going to see that the past eight years have been a failing of the governed, far more than they have been a failure of the government.
I don’t mean to come off as a defender of President Bush. I’m afraid that his second term has been a disaster and that much of the criticism he’s gotten has been warranted. The idea that everything he’s done has been bad, that he’s a bad person, that he’s evil, that he’s manipulated the people and the government for personal gain and personal reasons is simply foolish. How quickly and conveniently we forget that there are three branches to government. How quickly and conveniently we forget that we elect the officials who preside over that government.
The most glaring part of the past eight years is the absolute lack of culpability the American people have felt. Some will point out the disputed results of the 2004 election without giving a thought to the fact that had things gone the other way, those results would have been as justly disputed as they stand now. They use that election as a get out of jail free card for all that has happened since, pointing out that their ability to affect change was stolen from them, making it convenient to give up entirely on the political process.
And that, in a nutshell is the problem. Democracy is founded on the principle of a fighting people, a people so hungry for freedom and justice that they would stop at nothing to see to it that those ideals were consistently perpetrated. We are a lazy people though and find it much easier to whine than to do when things go against what we want.
Over the past eight years, ignorance has reigned, not in the seat of the Presidency, but in the minds of the people. The most common ignorant idea is that the war in Iraq is entirely about oil, yet while every and any anti-Bush propagandist uses this as a staple of their beliefs, I’ve yet to find a single person who can explain to me the actual benefit or gain that Bush hoped to achieve in this Oil War. I’ve yet to find an adequate explanation as to why the vote to go to war in Iraq was so lopsided? The Senate, working from the same false intelligence that Bush did voted overwhelmingly to go to war, and have escaped any and all culpability for that action.
Again, it is not my intention to let Bush off, but I have to wonder why he alone faces the consequences of that decision? I have to wonder why he takes the blame for poor intelligence? I have to wonder why he alone takes the blame for the poor military strategy we took? The indictment should have reached into our military, our intelligence community, the two other branches of executive government and to the citizenry, but it never has and until a far removed historian is able to look back at the times, probably never will.
In the end, the same things that made him such a convenient target to humorists made him an easy scapegoat for all that went wrong. Our forefathers specifically created a government where one person could not rule as the monarchs of Europe once did, but that never stopped us from lopping every imaginable blame for any possible problem in the lap of one man.
Worse, we now assign the task of making everything all better in the lap of our next President. We don’t want to participate, we want someone to wave a wand and make it all better. The expectations and hopes for President Elect Obama are so incredibly unfair that it’s staggering. His election has many crying out against some of his ideas that lean towards Socialism, but what we should all be worrying about is the very real threat and reality that we are so unappreciative of our liberties that we are willing to allow them to be taken from us.
Say, for instance that Obama works miracles and turns things around quickly. Say that he leads us to four and then eight years of prosperity. Say that the country is happy and fat and content under his Presidency. Say that older generations die and younger generations replace them and the day comes when a choice is given to us about the possibility of allowing a president a 3rd term because we are so happy with him—then even a 4th.
Such a short step it would be to absolute p ower, to dictatorship, to monarch rule. If we are so willing to place blame on one man as our scapegoat, surely we are equally willing to place glory at the feet of another as our savior. The precipice at which we stand is a precarious one. We fail to remember our history—a history of scapegoats, appeasement and absolute power that led to genocide as recently as World War II—and one false step could leave us doomed to repeat it.
Say what you will about George W. Bush as our President. Say what you will about Barack Obama as our next. But please, understand that no one person could ever screw it all up, or put it all back together again. If you believe either of those things is possible, you are a fool, you are ignorant, you the problem. Our government allows only one finger to every be justly pointed in blame, and that is our thumb—opposable, supposed proof of evolution, and yet curiously absent in this discussio n, as are the lessons of history, begging the question, just how evolved are we really?