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Well, goodbye Mr. Bush.

You did some good things. The AIDS money for Africa? That was very cool. The Libya thing was good. The reachout to India was big. The attempt at an immigration deal was principled.

Beyond that you were in over your head. We handed you a country that hadn't taken a direct hit since Pearl Harbor. A country that was the unchallenged hyperpower (as the Frogs say.) A country running a surplus. A happy, cocky, devil-may-care country.

Before you came along, Mr. Bush, I could look anyone from anywhere in the eye and say, "No, we don't do things like that. Because we're the Americans." I lost that. I don't know for sure just what the hell we do any more.

I trusted you, Mr. Bush, and you screwed me. You said you'd deliver Osama in handcuffs or with a bullet in his head. And you didn't. You said you'd take down the Taliban and Al Qaeda. You failed.

I actually thought you had sense enough to know that invading Iraq would take all our resources. It never occurred to me that you didn't know what you were getting into. It never, honest-to-God, occurred to me that you were that stupid.

The first real inkling I had of the disaster you would become was when you asked nothing of us after 9/11. You know what? I would have sold my house and mailed you the check at that point. And you asked for nothing. Go shopping. Here: have a tax cut. That was an insult. I was a bit past enlistment age, but we were all so ready to do something. You stiff-armed us. You acted as if we had nothing to give.

And yet, I fell for Iraq. Alarm bells going off in my head I muttered to my friends that it was a 51/49 thing for me. The Shinseki thing happened and I thought, no, they don't really think they're doing this thing on the cheap. Do they? They couldn't be so stupid they actually bought Rumsfeld's crapola. It had to be a feint, later, they'll do what had to be done.

Or not.

We toddled off, me and some film guys, to shoot a documentary on anti-Americanism in Europe just after anti-war demonstrations raged through France and Spain. I defended you, Mr. Bush. You want to know something embarrassing? We were shooting a stand-up, on a balcony in Paris. I think. The whole thing's kind of a blur. Anyway, the director throws an off-camera question at me and the question contains the assumption that you, our president, had ignoble motivations. And I said, No, I think he wakes up every morning seeing those planes hit the towers and thinks, I need to keep that from ever happening again.

And here's the embarrassing part, I started crying. Because I was still not over it. 9/11 being the "it" in question. And of course I hadn't slept in a week: tight budget, tough schedule, jet lag, no sleep.

But even then I knew you had fucked up. A Frenchman asked me what I thought of the barely-begun occupation. I said, Can I defend the way the occupation is being handled? No. But give us time, we just got there.

Yeah, well . . .

You doubled down on stupid, Mr. Bush. And by the time you finally, finally, finally listened to the people who'd been screaming that we were in deep shit in Iraq, it was too late to pull off a victory. We may have gotten a non-defeat that accomplished less than half of our objectives. But we could have won. We could have changed the world. If a more capable man had been president.

And then, Katrina. I drove down to Mississippi a few days after. I saw National Guard vehicles on the roads but then I went shopping, stuff for an emergency shelter. I went to the nearest Wal-Mart. They were marking down prices. The federal government was just getting there and Wal-Mart was marking down prices. Your federal government, Mr. Bush.

Katrina, Don Rumsfeld, Tora Bora, Karl Rove, Valerie Plame, Abu Ghraib, Terri Schiavo, privatizing Social Security (Jesus, that was a bullet dodged) Guantanamo, Dick Cheney, stem cells, deficits and debt and divisiveness.

I'm prepared to believe you were the victim of some bad luck, Mr. Bush. But we pay you to be lucky. We didn't force the job on you, you demanded it of us. So it's on you to come through. Hell or high water, your job was to succeed. And you failed.

The United States is weaker, poorer and sadder after eight years of you, Mr. Bush. We're not sure how long it's going to take us to pull ourselves out of the ditch you drove us into. You hurt the country and the Constitution you swore to defend.

I don't think you're a bad man. But you were a bad president.


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  1. Anonymous gljunket Says:

    I have to agree with most of your points, and the Donklephant entry that sums up the Bush legacy with two words: Barack Obama. While I certainly don't blame all of our problems on Bush like the liberals (and a lot of Centrists), I think the biggest thing is, Obamamania wouldn't have happened without all of Bush's screw-ups AND a pathetic GOP/McCain campaign. Now we're faced with the Age of Entitlement and fiscal insanity.

  2. Blogger kreiz1 Says:

    Perfect essay, Michael.
    Just wish I would've listened to Molly Ivins way back when.