Tuesday, January 13, 2009

ThinkProgress.org's Take on the GWB Parting Shots

ThinkProgress.org sat through George W. Bush's final press conference, an orgy of self-promotion and parting gripes with the liberal media, the latest installment in the ongoing magic makeover of the 43rd presidential administration that came on the heels of a Faux News "interview" with Prick Cheney. I thought the report so exceptionally done and keenly observed, I would preserve it here, interspersed with the Doctor's comments, set off in italics.

Bush's 'Ultimate Exit Interview'

Yesterday, President Bush appeared before the White House press corps for his 47th -- and last -- full-scale press conference, taking questions in what he called "the ultimate exit interview." Though the White House had high expectations for Bush's farewell meeting with the media, telling reporters that it would be "standing room only," the last two rows in the seven-row briefing room were empty. Subsequently, a press aide had to tell White House interns to fill the seats.***

Isn't this par for the course? I mean, any administration that gets caught red-handed planting a stud hustler in the press room to ask planned questions designed to make it look good is an administration that would go to any lengths to persuade us that it continues to have the love and respect of the American people even as polls show it in a downward spiral even as the economy heads south as well. Planting a claque into a photo op goes hand in hand with the refusal to allow photographs of the bagged bodies coming in from Baghdad, providing Sean Hannity with the latest GOP talking points, and a myriad of other attempts to manipulate public opinion in an ongoing effort to become the least transparent administration in history.

***Despite job approval ratings around or below 30 percent since February 2007, Bush "seemed largely in good spirits" as he pontificated on his years in office.

A wise choice of words: Remember, this is the president who referred to his "war on terror" as a "crusade," immediately informing those who Bush's good friend Ann Coulter characterizes as "swarthy" Mideastern types that jihad is on the table. Bush was in fact the Pope of Profiteering, as witness all of the army functions that were privitized for the benefit of crony corporations that did not even have to submit to competitive bidding. The only reasons Bush's approval ratings are so high is that Americans are sentimental. Some folks just feel sorry for him.

***Bush "was by turns impassioned and defiant, reflective and light-hearted, even as he conceded that some things 'didn't go according to plan,'" notes the New York Times.

Actually, nothing he did went "according to plan," as even his crony appointments had disastrous blowback for him. First, he praised the "fine work" of "Brownie" of FEMA fame -- the man who learned just what America's school districts found with "No child left behind": the Bush administration was all talk and no substance. No help for Katrina victims, no rebuilding of New Orleans. Brownie became the symbol of Bush's buddy system. One was reminded of the scene in John Ford's The Last Hurrah, where the savvy old Irish pol, running for mayor one last time, talks his opponent's halfwit sun into donning a fire chief's hat so that photographs can be taken for the morning edition. Brownie was made to look like a fool; one imagines him having a stiff drink with Colin Powell following the latter's ultimately humiliating U.N. speech, talking about "weapons of mass destruction."

***"Clearly putting a 'Mission Accomplished' on an aircraft carrier was a mistake," said Bush. "Running the Social Security idea right after the '04 elections was a mistake." Bush continued his administration's efforts to paint his legacy in a positive light, declaring that he had "a good, strong record."

Poor George! He's a person only a father could love. (That tough old broad, Barbara Pierce Bush probably gave up on him years ago.) The "Mission Accomplished" banner was Bush's fire chief's hat, providing anti-war liberals with all the ammo they needed to paint the prez as a village idiot. In fact, it was about this time that sales of a bumper sticker along these lines began to skyrocket: SOME VILLAGE IN TEXAS HAS LOST ITS IDIOT. Even GOPS thought ill of the Social Security overhaul. Oh, sure, the neocons were dead set on dismantling entirely the New Deal reforms of FDR, but the more middle-of-the-road among them thought the idea of privitizing social security a certain way to lose their seat in the next election. Claiming his is a "good, strong recor" is simply laughable.

***Unfortunately for Bush, the American public believes his administration "will be remembered more for its failures than its accomplishments."

Excuse me! WHAT accomplishments.

***Asked if he "made any mistakes" while in office, Bush said he had "thought long and hard about Katrina" and admitted that "things [could] have been done better." However, he denied any problem with the federal response to the disaster, insisting, "Don't tell me the federal response was slow." The fact is that the federal response was disastrously slow. As the White House itself acknowledged in a February 2006 report, "the response to Hurricane Katrina revealed a lack of familiarity with incident management, planning discipline, and field-level crisis leadership." A 2006 report compiled by House Republicans slammed what it called "a failure of leadership," saying that the federal government's "blinding lack of situational awareness and disjointed decision making needlessly compounded and prolonged Katrina's horror." The report specifically blamed Bush, noting that "earlier presidential involvement could have speeded the response" because the President alone could have cut through bureaucratic resistance. In fact, despite a FEMA official's eyewitness accounts of New Orleans's levees being breached starting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29, the Bush administration "did not consider them confirmed" until 11 hours later. FEMA did not order the evacuation of New Orleans until 1:30 a.m. on Aug. 31, two full days after Katrina made landfall. Bush even praised the rescue efforts as a "pretty good response."

Yes, and thouands of taxpayer-purchased mobile homes that sat, rotting, in a field -- which, as it turns out, is just as well: those who were given manufactured housing have health problems associated with leaking formaldehyde and other toxic chemicals from the walls of the units. The recent PBS Frontline interview with an elderly African-American who stubbornly refused to leave New Orleans pointed up the lasting human miseries of those affected: the man's large family is now cast to the winds. He struggled to get insurance money, then money from a program designed to pay off what the carriers did not cover, but he continues to have problems, not the least of which is his isolation from relatives. The point is, the Bush administration just did not care about the mostly-black population of New Orleans.

***Asked about President-elect Obama's desire to restore "America's moral standing in the world," Bush bristled at the idea, saying, "I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged."

What parallel universe is this nitwit living in? The so-called "Coalition of the Willing" early on revealed sane nations' reluctance to become involved in a Mideastern misadventure prior to the exhaustion of diplomatic efforts, and it is somewhat questionable that we would have ANY friends other than that girlie man running England at the time once the Big Lies started circulating, e.g. WMD's and an al Qaeda link (the latter simply defying logic, given that bin Laden's jihadist methods in furtherance of theocratic ends were just a little bit incompatible with Saddam's Westernized state.

***"It may be damaged amongst some of the elite, but people still understand America stands for freedom, that America is a country that provides such great hope." But it isn't just "the elite" who question the negative effect that Bush's presidency has had on America's standing in the world. As a Gallup fact-check of Bush's comments points out, 69 percent of Americans believe that the "U.S. position in the world" lost ground under Bush. According to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, "positive views of the United States declined in 26 of the 33 countries where the question was posed in both 2002 and 2007." "Mounting discontent with U.S. foreign policy over the last eight years has translated into a concern about American power. In the view of much of the world, the United States has played the role of bully in the school yard, throwing its weight around with little regard for others' interests," according to Pew.

As another GOP president was wont to say to debate opponents, "There you go again!" What IS it with this "elites"? Does everyone who takes issue with his Napoleanic ambitions qualify as an "elite"? Since when did "elite" become synomous with most of the press, the anti-war movement and liberals in general, and all those who dared criticize our unilateral, preemptive strike against a country that posed little if any actual threat? Remember, John McShame tried to label Obama as an "elitist": remember the Power Point ad showing Barrack with the likes of Paris Hilton? "Elite" is GOP base code for "liberal." Those international polls speak for themselves. It amazes me to learn that almost eighty percent of the world's peoples thought badly of the U.S.A. due to GWB policies. Clearly, the overwhelming support and good will we enjoyed after 9/11 were simply squandered on Bush's Folly.

***Asked to give his "closing message" to the American people about his economic policies, Bush acknowledged that "obviously these are very difficult economic times" while deflecting much responsibility for the economy's troubles. "This problem started before my presidency, it obviously took place during my presidency," said Bush.

Actually, Bush is right here. But if the Clinton administration put Reaganism on steroids, deregulating financial entities and encouraging bizarre experimentation in the mortage industry even as the White House thwarted all meaningful plans for oversight. Which hardly exonerates Bush. If anything, he exacerbated the problems and revved up the deregulation. Cronies in significant positions had nothing to do.

***He also vigorously defended his 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, adding that he "will defend them after my presidency as the right course of action." "There's a fundamental philosophical debate about tax cuts," said Bush. "Who best can spend your money, the government or you? I've always sided with the people on that issue."

He did NOT side with the people. He sided with less than one percent of the country, given huge tax breaks at the expense of the poor and Middleclass America. Trickle-down doesn't work. The super-rich simply hoard or invest their bucks in something they think will bring the biggest bang.

But as the Washington Post noted yesterday, Bush "has presided over the weakest eight-year span for the U.S. economy in decades." The federal government "had a modest budget surplus when Bush took office," but his administration ran up deficits "even as the economy was growing at a healthy pace." When Bush took office, it was projected that the federal government would run a $710 billion budget surplus in 2009. Now, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated that Bush's tax cuts accounted for 42 percent of the fiscal deterioration between 2001 and 2008. Though Bush claims he "sided with the people" through his economic policies, he really just squandered their money.

To say the least.

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