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George Bush Redux January 14, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in George Bush, Iraq War, National Politics.
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It is a core virtue of humanity that all of us greatly desire to be recognized – even posthumously – for our lives.  It is that desire that motivates us to our finest and, sometimes, our worst moments.  And it is often at the lowest ebb of our lives when we accept ourselves and our fates but expect we will be brought back; to be finally returned from our long exiles and be vindicated by the lives we led.

In the 1971 John Updike novel, “Rabbit Redux”, this principle is played out through the small town life of Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom.   He is a man who has tried to make all the right life choices and done the right things, but ultimately, his decisions have trapped him in an long spiral of decline and disappointment.  At the end, he has little fight left, but has found the acceptance  – and peace – that only exhaustion can bring. 

I thought about Harry Angstrom as I watched George Bush defend his Presidency Monday during his final news conference.  At times he was cocky and argumentative and at others kind of wistful and eloquent, but at all times he portrayed the confidence that, in the final analysis, he will be recognized for his strong and commanding leadership.

Bush defended his actions from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina to the current economic crisis.  As I watched, the word “delusional” kept popping up in my head.   For every gigantic failure of his administration the president presented an alternative reality; a parallel universe Bush administration that says that only “writers, opiners, and some Europeans” view America as morally damaged by his presidency.  That says that the response to thousands drowning in New Orleans and tens of thousands more left without food, water, or sanitation for more than a week was not too slow.  That brushes off the main reason we sent over 4000 Americans to die in the desert and several thousands more to be gravely injured – weapons of mass destruction – as a “big disappointment” because they were not there – and they never were.  That justifies inhumanity and brutality and torture as just another tool in the toolbox that keeps America safe.  That accepts that his choices to abrogate American civil liberties and the rights of the accused as good and necessary. 

The real stunner is that George Bush really believes his version of reality.  This is not just the desperate spinning of a man desperate to be vindicated by history but rather the self-deception of moral certitude; the fallacious belief that with enough time, we will realize his rightness.

 The best review of the Bush Farewell was offered by Ron Suskind, journalist and author of “The Way of the World” on MSNBC Monday afternoon.  Suskin joined “Hardball” host Chris Matthews and Newsweek editor Howard Fineman on Matthew’s show.   “Denial is the last note of the Bush presidency,” Suskin pronounced.  I could not agree more.

(watch the Suskind/Fineman/Matthews commentary HERE)

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