Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lost Without A Clue

It was one month ago today when we elected our newest President-elect, Barack Obama. And of course, with only a month and a half left, it’s now time to review our outgoing president’s legacy. I just happened to come across some excerpts of an interview on of the current President George W. Bush, by Doro Bush Koch (his sister) and commissioned by StoryCorps.

Admittedly these were softballs, as you can imagine (it’s his little sis, after all). But the answers have to be seen to be believed!

STORYCORPS: How do you want to be remembered, and what are you most proud of?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: … I surrounded myself with good people. I carefully considered the advice of smart, capable people and made tough decisions.
Yes, he did say that. Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and of course, Donald Rumsfeld – all the good folks who gave us the lasting “victorious” legacy of the War in Iraq! Our decider continued ….

BUSH: I'd like to be a President (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process … that helped elderly people get prescription drugs and Medicare as a part of the basic package; that came to Washington, D.C., with a set of political statements and worked as hard as I possibly could to do what I told the American people I would do.
… like reducing the size of government, reaching across the aisle and working in a bipartisan manner, not to engage America in nation-building or have a situation where two of America’s brigades were not ready for deployment (as under Bill Clinton), or capturing Osama bin Laden – dead or alive. Right ….

STORYCORPS: Mr. President, one of your education initiatives is the No Child Left Behind. Can you reflect on that a little bit?

BUSH: I think the No Child Left Behind Act is one of the significant achievements of my Administration because we said loud and clear to educators, parents, and children that we expect the best for every child, that we believe every child can learn, and that in return for Federal money we expect there to be an accountability system in place to determine whether every child is learning to read, write, and add and subtract.
But more importantly, it focused the country's attention on the fact that we had an achievement gap that – you know, white kids were reading better in the 4th grade than Latinos or African American kids. And I'm very proud of that accomplishment, and I appreciate all those here in Washington and around the country that have worked hard to see that the promise of No Child Left Behind has been fulfilled.

An unfunded mandate along with budget cuts to school systems across the country (thanks to the tax cuts), teachers giving up the profession in frustration and even schools being discredited and leaving students to crowd into to other still-open schools. Oh – high school drop out rates have risen too, can’t forget that! With all this, Bush’s promise has been fulfilled! Victory.

STORYCORPS: What role does faith play in your day-to-day life?

BUSH: I've been in the Bible every day since I've been the President ….
He’s been IN the Bible – must’ve missed those chapters. Yes, another instance of baffling President-speak.

BUSH: I would advise politicians, however, to be careful about faith in the public arena. ...In other words, politicians should not be judgmental people based upon their faith. They should recognize -- as least I have recognized I am a lowly sinner seeking redemption, and therefore have been very careful about saying (accept) my faith or you're bad. In other words, if you don't accept what I believe, you're a bad person.

And the greatness of America -- it really is -- is that you can worship or not worship and be equally American. And it doesn't matter how you choose to worship; you're equally American.
What country has he been living in? Just recently came the press note about an Egyptian-born physicist from Pittsburgh who was smeared by the Feds, lost his job and was jailed without ever seeing charges (which subsequently ended up being dropped), was then unable to find work in his profession and so now is moving with his American-born wife back to Egypt. A Muslim by faith, he was declared a security risk for unknown reasons and had his security risk stripped.

According to a Boston physicist, also Muslim, who barely knew the scientist from Pittsburgh, he’s being questioned now.

Bush has stood by while anyone with an R next to their name have declared America being founded on “Christian principles” and made clear by actions if not words that all other faiths: whether Jewish or Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon or Muslim are treated as suspect and “lesser than” in this America where freedom of religion is supposed to be constitutional.

Presuming he’s not a pathological liar, how is it this guy can be so clueless and still have been President for the past eight years?

The above interview underscores the ABC News personal interview with Bush which was just as bat-shit crazy:

CHARLIE GIBSON: Mr. President, let's start with the economy because it's what's on everybody's mind. Your successor will inherit not just a troubled economy, but an economy in crisis. Did you miss any signals that this would –?

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: You know, we anticipated some issues revolving around Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and early in my administration called for a regulator…. I can remember sitting in the Roosevelt Room with Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke and others, and they said to me that if we don't act boldly, Mr. President, we could be in a depression greater than the Great Depression.

GIBSON: When was that?

BUSH: That was, I would say, five weeks, four weeks after we began to deal with some -- like AIG. And that was right before we went to Congress for the $700 billion.
Did you catch that? Direct from the transcript of the show, the Shrubber Duckling claims he caught issues about the financial meltdown “early in my administriation” and when asked when: “five weeks, four weeks after we began to deal with some – like AIG”! Right before everyone’s eyes, just good old ‘aw shucks’ duplicity and smiles! Bush continued on his answer:

BUSH: And my attitude is, is that if that’s the case, this administration will do everything we can to safeguard the financial system. And that’s what we’ve been doing.

And I’m sorry it’s happening, of course. Obviously I don’t like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401Ks. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. …

And eventually, however, this economy will recover.

Bush kept repeating “on the other hand” in about half of his first six answers. He apparently had internal struggles between both hands, but it seems he was always listening to that “other hand.” It’s the other hand that seems to have gotten us in trouble.

GIBSON: But was there an "uh-oh" moment -- and I could probably use stronger language than that – when you thought this really could be bad –?

BUSH: … When you have the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Fed say, if we don't act boldly, we could be in a depression greater than the Great Depression, that's an "uh-oh" moment. But you got to understand, leading up to that we had been bailing water in this way: AIG was failing; other big houses on Wall Street needed to be merged, one failed –

GIBSON: When you add it all up, you've got about $7.5 trillion in funded and unfunded backing of securities now.

BUSH: Yes.

GIBSON: And that's about half of what our economy is in its whole. Does that scare the willikers out of you?

BUSH: What scared me is not doing anything, which would have caused there to be a huge financial meltdown and the conceivable scenario that we'd have been in a depression greater than the Great Depression.
On the other hand, a lot of the -- you know, these -- some of these are investments. I've got faith that the economy will recover. As a matter of fact, I'm confident it will recover. I can't tell you exactly the moment, but when it does recover, a lot of the assets now owned by the government will be sold. And I can't guarantee that we'll get all our money back, but it's conceivable we could.

There’s that other hand again. And whatever “willikers” are, yeah, they’re scared out of me ….

GIBSON: Do you feel in any way responsible for what's happening?

BUSH: You know, I'm the President during this period of time, but I think when the history of this period is written, people will realize a lot of the decisions that were made on Wall Street took place over a decade or so, before I arrived in President, during I arrived in President.

… And when people review the history of this administration, people will say that this administration tried hard to get a regulator.

GIBSON: How high do you think unemployment will go?

BUSH: Too high. I mean, anybody unemployed is too much. And I – I'm not a very good economic forecaster.
Using some Bushian logic: on one hand, Bush-baby did accurately predict that we were going into a recession after only the one final negative quarter of Clinton’s presidency. Sure enough, after Bush’s first quarter, he was spot on that we were then officially in a recession. On the other hand, Bush was noting last December how our economy was “fundamentally strong” … and we know as of yesterday that our economy has officially been in a recession (after the fact) since last December. That troubling other hand ended up being right again!

BUSH: I do know that we are taking steps to make sure -- see, the most difficult thing about this is that a lot of people out there in Main Street wonder why the government is having to act because Wall Street went on a binge. And I'm one, frankly -- at first. …

And on the other hand, though, when you're the President and somebody says, we better move big, Mr. President, otherwise we could have a depression greater than the Great -- we're moving big. And it is hard for the average citizen to understand how frozen the system became and how over-leveraged the system became. And so what we're watching is the de-leveraging of our financial markets, which is obviously affecting the growth of the economy.
One wonders how “average” our C-student President is ….

GIBSON: What were you most unprepared for?

BUSH: Well, I think I was unprepared for war. In other words, I didn't campaign and say, "Please vote for me, I'll be able to handle an attack." In other words, I didn't anticipate war. Presidents -- one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen.
So sayeth the self-described “war president” after prosecuting the war on terror as per a blueprint drawn up in the mid-90’s by the Project for a New American Century (whose signateurs included folks like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and his own baby bubba, Jebby Bush). Who could’ve possibly foreseen that?

Well, in his presidential campaign against Al Gore in 2000, Bush-baby – ever the comedian – did utter this gem: “As President, I will protect America from America itself …from missiles and from blackmail.” Maybe that explains why he wasn’t prepared for an attack from outside the country. Seriously, he did say this. We elected him anyway!

But Bush did additionally pledge he’d, “protect American citizens and our allies from terrorism and attack,” as well as, “if they sponsor attacks against America our response will be devastating.” Iraq was indeed devastated. Too bad that it was Afghanistan that sponsored the attacks – sorry Iraq, mistaken identity. It’s what you get for hanging out in those bad sides of the globe next to the real sponsors … sometimes we retaliate against who’s closest, not the actual culprits.

GIBSON: You said you were not going to be in the business of nation-building. And so much of what you had to do was nation-building.

BUSH: Well, what I said was, in the course of a debate, I said the military shouldn't be used to build nations. In this case, it turns out the military, in my judgment, was needed to remove threats to our security, and after that removal, the military, as well as our diplomatic corps, needed to help rebuild after tyrannical situations.

GIBSON: That's the second time I've heard you use the word "joyful" about the presidency, and that might take people by surprise. Even in really tough times?

BUSH: Oh, yes. As I said, some times are happy, some not happy. I don't want people to misconstrue. It's not -- I don't feel joyful when somebody loses their life, nor do I feel joyful from somebody loses a job. That concerns me. And the President ends up carrying a lot of people's grief in his soul during a presidency. One of the things about the presidency is you deal with a lot of tragedy … and you spend time being the Comforter-in-Chief. But the idea of being able to serve a nation you love is -- has been joyful. In other words, my spirits have never been down. I have been sad, but the spirits are up.
“I’ve got a joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, down in my heart …!” And next time I feel those really dark, depressing days come in, I’ll simply duck my head under my Bedspread-In-Chief and think of Bush-Baby. Comforting ….

GIBSON: Was the election in any way a repudiation of the Bush administration?

BUSH: I think it was a repudiation of Republicans. And I'm sure some people voted for Barack Obama because of me.
Well there’s a little bit of honesty! But note he mostly dodges the bullet and foists it on all those hapless fools willing to drink the Kool-Aid and devotedly follow him these past eight years! Beware who you devoutly trust in politics! There’s a bullet with your name on it too….

GIBSON: Given the fact that you did start campaigning for change, said you were going to change the ways of Washington, do you feel you did in any way? Or did 9/11 really stand in the way of doing it?

BUSH: No, you know -- actually, 9/11 unified the country, and that was a moment where Washington decided to work together. I think one of the big disappointments of the presidency has been the fact that the tone in Washington got worse, not better.
Having said that, there were some moments of strong bipartisanship. I mean, No Child Left Behind Act, for example, or eventually funding our troops. … I mean, there were moments of bipartisanship. But the tone was rough. And I was obviously partially responsible because I was the President, although I tried hard not to call people names and bring the office down during my presidency.

“You’re either with us or you’re against us.” While the President himself declared this in regards to countries around the world regarding our war on terror, it was also used widely by conservative politicians, their campaigns against Democrats and neo-conservative punditry alike to divide America into Toby Keith support-the-President-right-or-wrong vs. Dixie Chicks free-speech-about-when-wrong-making-it-right. He should’ve known that his own Turdblossom Rove would use it widely in the Tom DeLay / Republican America Forever mindset.

GIBSON: I guess the bottom-line question I'm asking you is, do you feel you were in any way able to change Washington? Or do you feel --

BUSH: I think we did. I think we brought a results-oriented government, and we insisted that people focus on results, not process, and on a variety of reforms ….
Yes, it’s really his quote. He’s as sharp as a bag of ball-peen hammers! Sometimes you can find humor in the most unexpected places!

GIBSON: As you leave, what do you think the country's feeling is about George W. Bush?

BUSH: I don't know. I hope they feel that this is a guy that came, didn't sell his soul for politics, had to make some tough decisions, and did so in a principled way. I'll be frank with you. I don't spend a lot of time really worrying about short-term history. I guess I don't worry about long-term history, either, since I'm not going to be around to read it – (laughter) ….
Principled. So stealing from the poor and middle-class and giving to the rich wasn’t accident. This is a principled decision, and so what if everyone stops buying! Fundamentally strong economy ….

GIBSON: You've always said there's no do-overs as President. If you had one?

BUSH: I don't know -- the biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq. A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is a reason to remove Saddam Hussein. It wasn't just people in my administration; a lot of members in Congress, prior to my arrival in Washington D.C., during the debate on Iraq, a lot of leaders of nations around the world were all looking at the same intelligence. And, you know, that's not a do-over, but I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.

GIBSON: If the intelligence had been right, would there have been an Iraq war?

BUSH: Yes, because Saddam Hussein was unwilling to let the inspectors go in to determine whether or not the U.N. resolutions were being upheld. In other words, if he had had weapons of mass destruction, would there have been a war? Absolutely.

GIBSON: No, if you had known he didn't.

BUSH: Oh, I see what you're saying. You know, that's an interesting question. That is a do-over that I can't do. It's hard for me to speculate.
Yeah … why speculate over things that never crossed your mind in the first place? It’s not like there was ever a notion not to invade Iraq ….

GIBSON: Greatest accomplishment? The one thing you're proudest of?

BUSH: I keep recognizing we're in a war against ideological thugs and keeping America safe.

GIBSON: How do you mentally adjust for life after January 20th?

BUSH: … obviously this financial situation makes it really hard to think about what life's going to be when we get out of here, because I've spent a lot of time thinking about people who are losing work, or watching their 401Ks go down.
Yeah, this free market stuff of shipping American jobs out to get the rock-bottom labor prices worked only for a bit. It’s not so good once America stops buying things (because they can’t afford them any more!) Now it’s affecting businesses bottom lines because they can’t move their product, affecting those Wall Street 401Ks!

GIBSON: So what do you anticipate the feeling will be? I'm always wondering what's going through the mind of that -- it's always been a man -- walking down the Capitol steps, getting on the helicopter, flying out for the last flight on Air Force One, and suddenly realizing his life has just changed totally.

BUSH: Well, first of all, no one will be more relieved than my mother and dad, because one of the things I learned during his presidency is being the son of the President is a lot tougher than being the President. I mean, it is really agonizing to have somebody you truly love get banged around in the political process. It was hard. And so, no doubt they're going to be relieved to have their boy out of the limelight. And I bet a lot of our friends will be relieved, too.
That was a good belly laugh! It’s tougher being the son of the president than the President! Always thinking of others, isn’t he?

GIBSON: Is there one more deal in you? Is there one more thing you really want to achieve?

BUSH: That's an interesting question. I'm confident -- look, first of all, you don't get to be President unless you're a "Type A" personality who's driven to do things. And I am confident I'll be driven to do something; I just can't tell you what it is yet.

GIBSON: Is the President too much in a bubble?

BUSH: This idea about how the President doesn't understand this, that, or the other, just simply is not the case. I mean, there's a lot of information that comes through the White House.
Does anyone get the impression that George W. Bush understands anything but George W. Bush? Anyone???

GIBSON: One thing you'll miss most?

BUSH: … and it's going to sound strange to you -- I'll miss meeting with the families whose son or daughter have fallen in combat, because the meetings I've had with the families are so inspirational. They -- I mean, obviously, there's a lot of sadness, and we cry, and we hug, and we occasionally laugh.… But the Comforter-in-Chief is always the comforted person.
Believe it or not, I'll miss going to the hospitals as the Commander-in-Chief, and looking a kid in the eye, and have him say, heal me up, Mr. President, I want to go back in. And so, there will be a lot of these special moments that we'll miss.

That spoke for itself ….

GIBSON: And final question, just to finish the sentence: I will leave the presidency with a feeling of?

BUSH: I will leave the presidency with my head held high.
Well, you have to give Bush-Baby credit for this: he’s consistent. I’ve never seen anyone in leadership so out of touch with the day to day reality of America. It’s beyond comprehension how he managed to live such an insular life and still impress enough ideologues and independents to re-elect him (much less elect him in the first place) to lead the greatest superpower on the planet!

Maybe the drugs have somehow ruined his short-term memory – it’s the only explanation. Even during the Gibson interview, you could see Bush-Baby doing the coke-freak jaw grind, a little too conspicuously. The only thing I can surmise is that his memory has all the long-term retain of an Etch-A-Sketch.

The gates are down and the lights are flashing … but the train’s not coming.

“[His] presidency was rife with attempts to expand the president's power against enemy-run institutions. He held a world view in which confrontation with implacable enemies was both necessary and proper. He lacked serious respect for procedural democracy in the sense of permitting opposition to exist as a legitimate alternative to his own exercise of power.” — Conclusion of ‘Richard Nixon & The Imperial Presidency’ by Russell Renka

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