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Michael Winship: Bush's Farewell Hallelujah Chorus

(Photo by Robin Holland)

Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

Bush's Farewell Hallelujah Chorus
By Michael Winship

With all the interviews President Bush has been giving out lately, you’d think he has a new movie coming out for Christmas.

ABC, NBC, NATIONAL REVIEW, MIDDLE EAST BROADCASTING, the Real Clear Politics website – even a talk with the WASHINGTON POST’s NASCAR expert. For a fellow who’s sometimes gone for months without a press conference, suddenly, the President’s a regular chatterbox, spreading the word in these final days that his eight years in office really, really weren’t all that bad. Honest.

Regrets, he’s had a few. But only a few. Or so he told ABC’s Charlie Gibson: “I think I was unprepared for war… In other words, I didn’t anticipate war. Presidents – one of the things about the modern presidency is that the unexpected will happen.”

But of course he anticipated the war. He and Cheney and the neo-con biker gang had been gunning for an invasion of Iraq long before 9/11. Not that Gibson followed up and asked about that.

This is a President, you’ll recall, who once said he couldn’t think of any mistakes he’s made. Instead, he regrets what he sees as the blunders of the intelligence community, not himself. “The biggest regret of all the presidency has to have been the intelligence failure in Iraq,” he said to Gibson. “A lot of people put their reputations on the line and said the weapons of mass destruction is [sic] 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."

Truth is, as far as intelligence goes, the President heard what people thought he wanted to hear, shaped it to his purpose, turned his agents loose to scatter rumors and hearsay on the Sunday talk shows, and bullied a frightened Congress into compliance. He stirred up fears of smoking guns and mushroom clouds where there were none.

Nor was he ready to take the rap for the financial meltdown, even though he said he was sorry people were losing their jobs and savings. As he explained to ABC’s Gibson, “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."

Odd syntax aside, point taken. Many of the seeds of economic woe were planted by lax oversight and deregulation during Bill Clinton’s watch (and Ronald Reagan’s and that of the President’s father). But whatever happened to, “The buck stops here?”

This legacy tour – few dare call it victory loop – is all part of a strategy, the WASHINGTON POST reported, devised two months ago at a meeting in the White House, when White House counselor Ed Gillespie “began meeting with agency heads as part of an effort aimed at compiling the major accomplishments of the Bush administration.”

The LOS ANGELES TIMES got hold of two pages of positive talking points that have been sent out to officials so they can be included in speeches and interviews. According to the Times, the memo states that the President “‘kept the American people safe’ after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, lifted the economy after 2001 through tax cuts, curbed AIDS in Africa and maintained ‘the honor and the dignity of his office.’”

Would that the mainstream media would open up the questioning to the rest of us. For one, Mr. President, did you value abject loyalty over know-how and wisdom? MOTHER JONES magazine reports that recently Republican Senator George Voinovich asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for questions to ask Barack Obama’s political nominees. He got back more than he bargained for – a 150-page list of issues left undealt with during the Bush years.

Among the revelations within the GAO’s report, according to the magazine’s Jonathan Stein, “The Department of Homeland Security and Department of Agriculture have no plan to work together in the event of a food-borne disease outbreak or terrorist attack. The Department of Defense's security clearance process takes so long it jeopardizes classified information. The EPA's chemical risk assessment program is improperly influenced by private industry…

“Problems like the politicization of the Justice Department are not mentioned. But this report serves as a peephole into the myriad internal problems of the executive branch, depicting a federal bureaucracy that is rife with mismanagement, inefficiency, and faulty communication practices--all of this combining to jeopardize both the nation's health and security.”

No one has asked George Bush about this. Instead, the reporters granted the President’s valedictory interviews have asked perfunctory softball questions about Iraq and the economy, then segued to inquiries about domestic life in the White House and what he’ll do in Texas after January 20.

For one, the man who NEWSWEEK once said was too busy making history to read it, is going to write some – he told NATIONAL REVIEW’s Byron York and Rich Lowry that his interview with them was “jumping jacks for my own book that I’m going to be writing.”

Will it answer any of the tough questions? Perhaps. But almost certainly not the biggest one, from which he will divert, splintering off into a thousand digressions and self-deprecating anecdotes: Why?

Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.


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Comments

Chris: From your outraged rhetoric I feel you would enjoy the plays of Bertolt Brecht, such as "The Caucasian Chalk Circle" in which a former outlaw is appointed a very credible judge. Or "The Good Person of Scezhwan" in which 3 gods descend to earth to "help" a poor prostitute. Chris, you are now commenced upon a road of alienation on which a sense of irony and gallows humor will be needed to preserve your sanity. Do you have any trusted companions in your quest? (Besides us egotistical nuts on this blog.) I suggest you exercise your ideas on real people, but read first. Contact lindengallery@hotmail.com

This turkey already collected his Christmas ham. It is time now to focus upon Jeb Bush and his criminal career to prevent his re-entry into government. Harry Shearer always mentions the defective pumps he sold New Orleans but that is the least of it. Jebby gave Dubby the presidency with his Florida voter role program. Jeb was also involved with Abramov and the 9/11 plot. I would not be surprised in he plsyed blackjack with Mohammed Ata on a cruise to nowhere. We not only have to intimidate naughty schoolboys like Obama, but prosecute Sopranos like Jeb Bush. (Mama always said he was the chosen one.)

With two wars going on, over 4500 men lost of life, thousands wounded, trillion of dollars spent for the war and trillions of dollars for the bailout, economic meltdown, ramped corruption, Depression and “Financially the U.S... is bankrupt”, the president states, ‘‘With all the actions we’ve taken these past eight years, we’ve laid a SOLID FOUNDATION on which future presidents and future military leaders can build.’’ GOD HELP US! A senator states, “I will not support a bill that revives the patient with a taxpayer dollars...!” Why did he “support the others patients such as, “AIG, Freddie Mac, Banks etc.?” “The politicians are rolling out a draconian emergency response which will loot the assets and seriously undermine the freedom, liberty...!” To ignore the tyranny at the local level of government, authorities, school boards etc. would be an understatement.
Depression, National bankruptcy and financial chaos are here. Crises rooted in fundamental problems cannot... be fixed by ramped corruption and tyrants. Many do not have the slightest idea “from the unfolding chaos and its lasting after-effects!” The judicial theory of “substantive due process was a means... by which establishment retained control of... the institution and government.” Thus, they defined “LIBERTY” to mean “liberty of contract”, a term not expressly stated in the Constitution. A man states, “we must speak our conscious in a moment that demands, even if we are the only voice”. The “RULE of LAW” - the power is maintain by the establishment to silent the voice, the truth and the “WILL of THE PEOPLE!”

President Bush doesn't go far enough when he states that modern-day presidents have to deal with the unexpected. I venture to guess that every president who has ever served this country has dealt with the unexpected every day of his service. And so has everybody else. The unexpected is a fact of life, and how we deal with it is a measure of us as successful human beings.

Bush had it right, at least sort of. After all he IS a Harvard Man.

Building a skeleton to frame his management team is good, but he must have SKIPPED THE CLASS where they organized the muscles, tendons, organs, etc., 'cause he sure got the wrong people for the task requirements.

It may not be Bush's fault, unless you hold him responsible for the incompetants he selected, and as everyone knows the PRESIDENT can't be wrong. So, how could he change? Then he might be wrong!

Did ya'll notice his hand shake & at'a-boy Brownie, and recently his hand shake & at'a-boy Hank?

Bush is OK--really! It is all those around him--except for Laura. She really is OK. Hey-50\50.

Billy Bob, Florida
oh! what's the use-no one reads this stuff anyway

As far as I'm concerned, he is the most depraved (see his torture policy for that one), laziest (most vacation time), worthless (see Katrina, Ivan, and a host of other problems) president that we have ever had. A life of ignominy and ridicule would be justice. Instead, he'll spend the rest of his life in luxury setting an example for our children about the profit to be made via illegal and corrupt behavior.

Maybe he was born in a crossfire hurricane...

Isn't that a bygone model of Oldsmobile?

Anyway, having an oil man as President was a gas-gas-gas...

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