And while dreamy thoughts of a shackled Junior standing before a Federal Court awaiting sentence will persist, I can at least now be thankful that I will never again be forced to look upon him as anything other than a terrible memory, a shameful mistake from which we have all learned.
He was on the tee-vee last night, trying to frame his legacy. I didn't watch, and I have to imagine that most Americans joined me when I hit the clicker to switch channels. I'd rather watch Bret Michaels select a prostitute than endure the Grand Liar's plea. To me, and to millions of others, he will always be a miserable failure and a scoundrel. Junior is a blight on the honor of our nation. (And Bret Michaels ain't doing us any favors...)
So, now it's time for me to assess what I know about the man. Some of it, I've deduced from facts; some of it I've inferred using my "gut," in much the same way that Junior himself used to assess people like Vladimir Putin and Ariel Sharon. Here we go...
Mommy and Daddy never loved him the way he needed to be loved
The way I hear it, Bush came from a home and a family where he felt unloved and alone: the product of a weak but ambitious father and an over-bearing, haughty mother. According to the book Bush on the Couch by Justin Frank, there was a younger sister whom Junior loved, but who died when Junior was but 4 years old. Apparently, Barbara and George Senior never openly grieved for the child, but hid their grief in other activities. No fault to George Senior and Babs. Grief is a complex thing; and losing a child would drive anyone mad. (Recall the slow, painful disintegration of Cindy Sheehan, one of the millions of victims of Junior's crimes.) But young Junior was profoundly effected by his sister's death. He was left to grieve by himself without anyone to help him through it.
Since then, his life has been a sequence of enterprises aimed at winning his parents' love and approval. Enterprises that failed dismally, every time. It starts with his mediocre marks at Ivy League schools and goes right through his disastrous business career.
This last failure, his presidency, ought to about ice the deal. It's not that his parents don't love him. I'm sure they do, in their emotionally-crippled way. But their love and their pride in him will always be tempered by a painfully intimate knowledge of his severe limitations.
Can't you just hear that old battle-axe Babs Bush? "Well, you know, George Junior was always... special."
And as far as the Old Man... well, Oedipal complex don't cover the half of it. Many men (myself included) have tortured relationships with their fathers. But only the rare few get to play them out on a world stage. Junior came into office imagining that he was going to outdo the Old Man, prove once and for all that he was better, stronger, smarter than the father that he loved, but for whom he held a certain contempt and resentment.
And, in a sense, Junior did outdo his papa. George Senior left office unpopular, but not disgraced. Junior leaves office not just unpopular, but despised, hated. And Junior knows it. Check the pictures of him lately. His expression is bewildered, confused. He seems to have no clue as to why he is the object of so much animosity.
Surrounded by scoundrels
So, how did he come to this pass? How did a man who at one time met with the approval of 90% of the American public become so abhorrent?
If we go back to the late 90's, toward the middle of Bill Clinton's second term, we recall that the country was at peace and largely prosperous. The big scandal of the day, the "issue" that Republicans banked on to try to overcome the Clinton successes, was the "character" issue. Republicans made political hay of the fact that Clinton was a lothario and that he lied about it. Alas, alas. If only Junior's faults were so trivial.
The Republicans needed a candidate that they could put up as titular head of the party. Ideally, the candidate would be smart, capable, and charismatic. But mostly, he needed to be "in the know." That is, he would know how to mouth platitudes for public consumption, but at the same time know without being told who was his real constituency. There was a huge pile of money sitting out there in the Federal Treasury in the form of budget surpluses, and the scoundrels behind the GOP simply had to get their hands on it.
The problem was that the most prominent and capable Republicans, people like Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, and Dick Armey were all flawed in major ways. Then somebody thought of George Junior. Granted, he wasn't going to win any Nobel prizes for science --in fact, he struggled with basic English --but he had the advantage of a good family name and an unscrupulously effective political handler. And most importantly, with the right cadre of whispering advisers, he could be controlled.
Enter Dick Cheney. Cheney was at first chosen to head up a committee to find Junior a running mate. But after a search that apparently failed to find a sufficiently pliable drone, Cheney named himself as the vice-presidential candidate.
Then came the election of 2000. Papa Bush brought in the family consiglierie, James Baker, and with a little fancy legal footwork and a whole lot of favors being called in on Nino Scalia, Will Rehnquist, and some of the other black robes, Junior got in.
Big Dick took charge. And with Dick Cheney came Don Rumsfeld. And with Don Rumsfeld came Paul Wolfowitz. And with Paul Wolfowitz came Richard Perle. And on and on and on. Neoconservatives and scoundrels all. And the neoconservatives had an agenda which they had formulated years before, in the form of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC).
The neoconservative agenda gibed nicely with Junior's adolescent urge to show up his old man. The neoconservatives wanted to invade Iraq. Junior wanted to succeed where the old man had failed.
“He was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” said author and journalist Mickey Herskowitz. “It was on his mind. He said to me: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief.’ And he said, ‘My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of Kuwait and he wasted it.’ He said, ‘If I have a chance to invade….if I had that much capital, I’m not going to waste it. I’m going to get everything passed that I want to get passed and I’m going to have a successful presidency.” Read the whole thing here.
Bin Laden's gift
Things weren't going very well for the Bush administration through the summer of 2001. Apart from the tax cut package that barely squeaked through the Congress, Junior didn't seem to have much of an agenda, nor much of a mandate. There was an attempt to lend him some gravitas by puffing up his "carefully considered" decision regarding federal dollars and stem cell research, but it didn't really work. He went on vacation in August. It was during this period that Karl Rove's hair follicles probably accelerated their abandonment of his oily scalp.
But then, seemingly out of the blue, another son of privilege and heir to power from a family friendly to the Bushes burst onto the world stage with the 911 attacks, and Junior was bestowed with a mighty gift. Immediately, public support for Junior went through the roof as people shocked by the barbarity of the attacks looked to him for a response.
Big Dick and crew saw the opportunity, and seized it. According to CBS news:
"...barely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq — even though there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the attacks." Read the entire article here.And the rest is history. A sui generis historical event provided the opportunity; a cadre of capable, thoroughly wicked villains provided the agenda, and an emotionally-stunted, forlorn creature provided the figurehead to which people instinctively cling in times of crisis.
It took 19 months for them to finally begin the invasion of Iraq. The case they made was flimsy and dishonest and has now proved chimeric. But they convinced just enough people; and they made it happen.
For all his other faults, mendacity, and ineptitude I might have forgiven him. But for Iraq... never! How many millions of people have died or been maimed or driven insane because of it? How many millions of lives ruined?
"I was willing to make the tough decisions"
Reading through transcripts of his speech last night, I caught this little snivel:
"You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions." --Junior, January 15, 2009I might agree with this statement if I believed for one moment that he cared one way or the other about the lives he has ruined. But I don't believe that. I believe he is a sociopath. I believe that he views the common people, the hoi polloi, the proletariat as resources at the disposal of the ruling class. In short, the decisions he made weren't tough at all.
To the extent that he has regrets, and I do believe he has them, they are due to those things he has done to humiliate himself, or because of his failure to surpass his father, to redeem himself in the eyes of his mother.
But now, with these pathetic public pleas for reassurance, he debases himself before us all. The whole sordid spectacle reminds me of nothing so much as an abusive drunk calling his ex-wife in the middle of the night and pleading "But we had good times, too, didn't we, honey?"
A word of thanks and a farewell
Anyway, very soon he will be gone. In a way, I suppose, I owe him a debt of gratitude. He definitely has made me more self-aware. Before his rotten stink descended on this country, I had believed that I could not hate anyone. He has taught me the folly of such naivete. So, thank you, Junior. It's a bitter lesson, but a necessary one.
And, yes, if I understand the meaning of the word, I hate him. But I also pity him. His self-imposed burden is enormous. I believe that in his heart of hearts, and in spite of his public protestations to the contrary, he is tortured.
A terrible fate awaits him: to be hated and scorned by millions for the rest of his life. People will curse his name for many years to come, and he will find his place in humanity's chronicle alongside such spectacular failures as Neville Chamberlain, George McClellan, and Chiang Kai-shek.
The dissipation of all the energy and thought that I spent hating him, cursing him, reviling him will leave a void in my soul. At least for a time. Good riddance. It's taken a toll on my psyche. In time, I will find something to replace it... something constructive and good and hopeful. And that's all to the good.
Adieu, Junior. Auf wiedersehen. But I do have to tell you, before you go: No. There were no good times. You've had every opportunity to make something of yourself and you squandered it all. You're the worst.