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Thursday, January 15, 2009
George Bush's valedictory
George W. Bush gave his farewell address to the nation tonight. It was a sad, strange ending to a failed presidency, full of denial, self justification, self-soothing, and an apparent total lack of comprehension of just how bad the last eight years have been, and by extension, what an utter failure his presidency has been.

Bush during the speech was so delusional, he actually claimed that the air and water in the country are cleaner for his having been there. And he congratulates himself for siding with his conscience in his utter determination to keep the country safe from evil, as if his presidency did not begin until September 12, 2001. The evil terror attack that happened before that revised start date to the Bush presidency is apparently, not his problem.

I have long believed George Bush to be an ignorant, shallow man -- a man who came into office, as Chris Matthews brilliantly put it tonight during an appearance on "Countdown," as a "tabula rasa," devoid of his own ideology, disdainful of "intellectuals" and their book learnin'. But somehow, after 9/11, he adopted a very strong ideology, which happened to belong to the coterie of neoconservatives Dick Cheney brought in with him when he muscled his way into the vice presidency, clearly sensing the possibilities for himself with such an intellectually inferior "boss." Now that Dubya has absorbed the ideology, the poor thing actually believes it. Among the delusions:
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security has been created. The military, the intelligence community, and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances, and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them. Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
Really? Last time I checked, we stopped "taking the fight to the terrorists" so that we could kill 4,000 of our troops and help Iran out by invading Iraq. And pardon me, Dubya, but the Taliban are still stoning women in the streets of Afghanistan, and girls remain terrified to go to school. From RAWA, the main organization fighting for the women of that country (since 1977):

Disappointingly, there has been little progress for women under the Western-backed Government of Hamid Karzai. RAWA's struggle for women's rights is as vital - and dangerous - as ever. These brave Afghans put their lives at risk every day, but the alternative - submitting to degrading and brutal treatment - is not an option for them.

Forced marriage for girls, sometimes as young as 11, abuse, wife beating and other forms of maltreatment are commonplace in Afghanistan and often lead to women committing suicide. In one such case, during November 2006, in the north of Afghanistan, an 11-year-old girl, Sanubar, was kidnapped by warlords and exchanged for a dog.

Extreme poverty, high mortality rates related to malnutrition and childbirth; and a culture of misogamy are still bleak features of everyday life in Afghanistan.

Security for girls is extremely poor, kidnap, rape and murder are frequent. Thirty years of war have left two million widows in Afghanistan, 50,000 of them in Kabul. These women and their children often live in horrific conditions.

More delusions:

When people live in freedom, they do not willingly choose leaders who pursue campaigns of terror. When people have hope in the future, they will not cede their lives to violence and extremism. So around the world, America is promoting human liberty, human rights, and human dignity. We're standing with dissidents and young democracies, providing AIDS medicine to dying patients -- to bring dying patients back to life, and sparing mothers and babies from malaria. And this great republic born alone in liberty is leading the world toward a new age when freedom belongs to all nations.
Peace, hope and freedom? All from "elections?" Tell it to the Palestinians. And as for "promoting human liberty, human rights and human dignity," you might want to refer to this Washington Post article in which a member of your own administration admits that we're in the business of committing Saddam Hussein-style torture. And the piece de resistance:

For eight years, we've also strived to expand opportunity and hope here at home. Across our country, students are rising to meet higher standards in public schools. A new Medicare prescription drug benefit is bringing peace of mind to seniors and the disabled. Every taxpayer pays lower income taxes. The addicted and suffering are finding new hope through faith-based programs. Vulnerable human life is better protected. Funding for our veterans has nearly doubled. America's air and water and lands are measurably cleaner. And the federal bench includes wise new members like Justice Sam Alito and Chief Justice John Roberts.
Let's see ... under Bush's watch, the United States ranks near the bottom of the Western world on rankings for child health, child poverty and education. According to the 2008 American Human Development Project report:

  • The U.S. ranks #24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy – yet spends more on health care than any other nation.
  • The U.S. infant mortality rate is on par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia, and Poland; if the U.S. infant mortality rate were the same as that of top-ranked Sweden, 21,000 more American babies would live to celebrate their first birthdays every year.
  • A baby born in Washington, D.C. is almost two-and-a-half times more likely to die before age one than a baby born in Vermont. African American babies are more than twice as likely to die before age one than either white or Latino babies.

... and on education:

  • Fourteen percent of the population – some 30 million Americans – lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.
  • Twelve percent of Americans lack the literacy skills to fill in a job application or payroll form, read a map or bus schedule, or understand labels on food and drugs.
  • More than one in five Americans – 22 percent of the population – have “below basic” quantitative skills, making it impossible to balance a checkbook, calculate a tip, or figure out from an advertisement the amount of interest on a loan.
  • In 2006, 4.5 million young people ages eighteen to twenty-four were not in school, not working, and had not graduated high school.

Heck of a job, Bushie. ...

Meanwhile, the faith based initiatives were declared a failure by the very man Bush put in charge of them. And veteran's funding has been given such short shrift, the Bush presidency manage to heap utter disgrace on such a vaunted place as Walter Reade Hospital, redefined under Bush's policies as a Dickensian hell hole.

And we haven't even gotten to Katrina, the corruption of the Justice Department, war crimes, war profiteering, Guantanamo prison and the decimated economy. ...

Bush's address tonight solved nothing for his place in history, which will be terribly low. It did nothing to advance his "legacy project," except to seal his place as one of the worst, if not the worst, presidents we've ever been cursed with.

The Economist puts it most succinctly with their headline: "The frat boy ships out." And their subhead makes the point crystal clear:

Few people will mourn the departure of the 43rd president


Here's Chris Matthews' take on Bush's speech. The best line, a quote from Shakespeare -- "where did we find this sudden scholar?"

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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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