An open letter to GW Bush
Must be a different world for you now that you don’t rule it, back in Texas shuffling around the new digs and wondering what became of your grand ideas about yourself. I wouldn’t show your face in public for a while; I don’t think you know just how disappointed we are in your presidency and angry at the incredible mess you left, but first let me thank you from the bottom of my heart for fucking up so badly that America elected Barack Obama as your replacement.
You made it possible through incompetence and outright abuse of power. You inherited a fairly stable international order and created chaos by blithely provoking the Russians, disregarding treaties and attempting to reinvent the United Nations with a square wheel like Josh Bolton. You inherited a budget surplus, the greatest accomplishment of your predecessor, and spent us into bankruptcy—the whole world almost! Don’t play dumb; what did you expect when you removed the last regulatory restraints of your Yale buddies and created an atmosphere of anything goes if the price is right?
The destruction you’ve caused goes further into literal territory when we consider Iraq, then New Orleans, then Washington D.C., then the mess you left in Afghanistan. You know how you like to brand people with nicknames? (Brownie, for example) I call you George the Destroyer and have ever since you used 9/11 as a pretext for war in Iraq. It fits. Think about what else you destroyed in eight years:
Trust in our election system, the entire process tainted when the Supreme Court bypassed the House of Representatives and the will of the people to really know who they elected. Many of the same people who beat the drum about preferring you over Gore in a time of war wish otherwise now that you are (thankfully) departed the White House.
Trust—any shred of—you destroyed that our leaders will speak the truth to us about important matters like, oh, wars, national budgets, self-characterizations (A compassionate conservative who doesn’t think twice about executing possibly innocent people to execution?), election results, true intentions upon entering office, military service records, your family connections to the bin Ladens. Do I need to go on, or do you get the point? You lied to us, misappropriated, misinformed and misguided into a god-awful conundrum.
George, you also destroyed America’s trust that Mr. President will never morph into Mr. Hyde. Get it? I don’t mean Henry. You scared a lot of us for a while that absolutely nothing restrained your whim. I was so sure at one point that you were about to expand your terror war into Iran that I would have bet my entire savings, not that you’d be impressed by my bank statements. One more national disaster or terrorist strike on home soil and you might have instituted martial law. And you might have gotten away with it for a time, the opportunity used to institute more midnight end-runs around the Constitution.
Destroyed during your presidency was also our trust that the executive will be overseen by the Congress. Goes back to the previous point. For a while you had Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert and Bill Frist twisting their respective institutions in creative ways to ram through legislation that is proving to be exactly what your critics warned: wrong-headed and seriously harmful. You chose political expediency every time over sound judgment and wise deliberation, and look what it cost us. Yeah, you better hide your face, and if you show it again, wipe off that cocky grin. It never fit you, and now everyone sees that the flight suits belong on a real soldiers.
You ask us to respect that you made tough decisions, to wait and let history judge when the people currently writing that history are piling on the facts you conveniently ignore that add up to miserable failure. Even the one aspect of your job that you think you passed, to our eternal gratitude, as a “war president,” is less than stellar, perhaps only passing. George, you grabbed at that opportunity to define your job. Back in 2001, you got your tax cuts, but the rest of your legislative agenda was going nowhere. Once your campaign promises of 2000 had to be interpreted for the reality of implementation, collectively we started getting the first idea that you were less prepared than commonly understood for the presidency. Your proposals polled lousy and the Democrats were starting to wonder when you were going to give something back for their generous early support, something your Republican friends in the Congress did not extend to Obama. Face it George, the circumstances of your first election should have kicked off the mutual antagonism. You were never a uniter.
Instead you defined yourself as a war president. Maybe you thought the definition included permission to do whatever the hell you damn well pleased. That’s what you did. (I had never heard of a presidential signing statement until you used the excuse to circumvent Congressional law.). Students of American government from grade school on up are taught that our system of government is preserved by checks and balances. Were you asleep during those lessons, maybe working in Georgia on a senatorial campaign? We elect candidates we think we can trust to accept the incredible power that comes with the job, leaders who will act like all of the previous presidents and respect the balance of power enshrined in our founding principles and laws. You shredded centuries of tradition and legal doctrine in an underhanded expansion of executive authority during war.
Some war president. Instead of rising to the challenge of the job, you shrunk down the definition. Don’t judge you as the steward of the national budget and economy, the carrier of our international respect, the spokesperson for our collective interests, the equalizer between all of the competing Washington interests, or as the one person we could turn to in an emergency. After you used 9/11 as a cover for an extreme domestic agenda, then to launch an unnecessary war in Iraq, all trust was lost. Took people a while to figure out who you really are—or, thank God, were, now that you’re back in Texas enjoying the perks.
GW, I’m glad not only that you cleared the way for President Obama, but that you got reelected in 2004. I kid you not, told all my friends at the time that you needed four more years to lie in the bed you had made. Dropping that mess on John Kerry would be like a Democrat president fucking up as badly as you did, then passing it off on Bob Dole. Despite the flaws of those losers, a person would never wish such a thing on such decent losers. Both were a little too mild for American taste in presidents. You bamboozled us just long enough to get elected twice—elected by selling yourself as one thing to grab votes, then delivering another, George, that a few of us saw in you back when you were just a governor of Texas.
Let me correct something while we’re at it, on a question you answered during the primary campaign in 2000 about your favorite political philosopher. Jesus wasn’t a political philosopher. I don’t blame you for taking the opportunity to say what was needed to attract evangelical support, but as a political philosopher, I must remind you that Jesus expressed a few views that can be extrapolated as political philosophy. Like render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, telling people to pay their taxes. You created a tax system where Warren Buffett is taxed a lesser percentage than his secretaries, and he takes no tax write-offs, no loopholes that you know well from your experience helping billionaires avoid paying a fair share.
Jesus also said to feed and cloth the poor, and be generous, especially with the less fortunate. You inherited a tremendous opportunity in 2001 to prove yourself as a godly man and follower of Jesus by doing a little more for the po’ folks. They got little or nothing from your tax breaks. Instead your administration relentlessly slashed—or tried to slash—programs that feed hungry families, keep them warm and provide their health care. How symbolic was your first veto used to deny an expansion of children’s health care? Please, don’t cry budgetary priorities when you spent trillions in Iraq and wasted untold billions on top of the billions we already know about, more found out every day as what little record you left behind is scoured for information about what you were really doing for eight years.
So the question begs to be asked, if Jesus is your favorite political philosopher, who is your Messiah?
I don’t know about you George, but Jesus struck me as the sort of Messiah who preached against violence, if you remember that saying about turning cheek. I know that responding to the possibility of terrorist cells all over the country after 9/11 required force and speed. The public can forgive getting swept up in war fever and abusing a lot of innocent people along the way. But George, those guards in Gitmo were shoving stuff up the asses of some detainees, and other Gitmo guests are finally being set free to tell stories of horrors beyond horrors. You are ultimately responsible. People were tortured to death.
Some of the public blames Dick Cheney for the worst of the abuses authorized by your administration, but I blame you for believing Dick Cheney. You, George, who famously claimed to be able to look into someone’s eyes and get a sense of their soul, and famously failed twice that I can think of, no three: Dick, Putin and Brownie, though you might have never really looked in Brownie’s eyes. You also failed to seriously consider that Saddam might be bluffing about WMD in an attempt—like he had done so many other times in so many ways—to look more dangerous, both inside of his country and in the region. You didn’t look in his eyes and see a tired and desperate despot? Iraq could have been overthrown in 2003 by an army of grandmothers with knitting needles?
George, you also destroyed all respect for the President Medal of Freedom. After you used it to payoff your war buddies, no other president will feel comfortable awarding it again. Might as well call it the Thanks Anyway Medal of Presidents on Nitrous Oxide, or TAMPON for short.
And finally, between you and me George, thanks a lot for destroying your party. You left us with Rush to lead the Republicans further into obsolescence. You were the last Republican to exploit the Southern Strategy for winning the presidency. If you do show your face in public anytime soon, I recommend black face.