Site menu:

The Essential Neruda

A Must Have For All Renegade Neruda Readers

Townes Van Zandt

An American Treasure

How To Find Lost Objects

I can't live without this!

Site search


January 2020
« Nov    



He’ll Go Quietly Into That Good Night

Somewhere In Texas…, originally uploaded by elefanterosado.

For several years now I’ve been driving around with a bumper sticker on the back of my car, which reads: “Somewhere In Texas, A Village Is Missing An Idiot.” After eight long years, that idiot will finally return to his village.

Yet the question remains: Is he really?

An idiot, that is.

After watching his exit interview with Charlie Gibson on December 1, in which he answered questions ranging from the impact of his presidency upon the economy to the implications of an election which firmly put a democrat into place as his successor, I was surprised to hear Mr. Bush answer with surprising candor, and, dare I say it? Intelligence.

My husband and I had both snickered derisively when Harriet Miers made the incredibly dubious (and seemingly obsequious) claim that Bush was one of the most intelligent humans she had ever encountered. Miers, we reasoned, was either a well-oiled sycophant desperate for her 15 minutes of fame, or (quite likely), a few French fries shy of a Happy Meal. Or both.

Still, as I listened to Gibson volley the questions, I couldn’t deny that I was bearing witness to a particularly shrewd brand of analytical reasoning, hair-split as it was with the now familiar homespun, albeit awkwardly uncomfortable syntax that we have come to expect from George Sr. and George Jr, both graduates of Yale. Even so, I am forced to admit that some of W’s answers carried the weight of an intellectual mind capable of complex thought and reflection. In his campaign analysis he accurately pointed out that McCain had “a tough headwind coming in,” and went on to say that historically, American voters tend to switch to the underdog party after two terms. The statement might have packed more weight if it hadn’t been prefaced by the egregious grammatical blunder “Rarely does the American people…” which he expeditiously amended to “ the American people give a political party three terms. That in itself was difficult for [McCain]. They did one time since World War II; that happened to be for President 41, my dear dad.”

Certainly, this has been the political trend for the past 20 years. Mr. Bush also astutely noted that Mr. Obama is the individual Americans want to see “in their living room for the next four years explaining policy.” And although I hadn’t thought of it in exactly those terms before, the visual image is both powerful and startlingly authentic. That, in a nutshell, is why I voted for Barack Obama. I want to listen to this steady, levelheaded avuncular uncle help me make sense of an increasingly senseless, inhumane and alien world.

Yet when it came to examining his legacy, the ribbons of a dark Roman shade began unfolding fast down the window, forever obliterating the bright rays of sun that had managed to infiltrate that impenetrable demeanor only moments before. Most sophomoric and frat-boy-on-a-beer-bong-high seeming of all was his claim that his presidency had been “joyous.” Joyous for whom? I wanted to shout, shaking him by his expensive, carefully pressed lapels. It certainly hasn’t been a joy ride for the American middle class, of whom I am (just barely) a member. Nor has it been joyous to watch my investments and retirement cut to ribbons, my rights as a citizen diminished, nor to see my compatriots butchered and slaughtered or maimed for life by a senseless and unwarranted war of attrition in the Middle East.

The President went on to shrug off his tainted legacy and to claim that the problems on Wall Street had begun before his tenure in office. While I’m not familiar with all of the terms of deregulation that occurred under the Regan administration, I found this statement, particularly, to be a disingenuous cop-out.

Mr. Bush also vaguely promised that the government will “secure” the financial markets for the American people, yet didn’t bother to elaborate either on how this will occur or how the outcome will be secured. I took it as a sly nod at Mr. Obama’s administration, which is now left with the twisted puzzle pieces of this economic maelstrom. Our new government has either to pick up the pieces and bear the brunt of the responsibility for this catastrophe, or find itself squarely on the wrong side of history. I began to squirm in my chair. The Village Idiot was duping me again. And with a staggeringly casual, blasé aplomb that left me with the disquieting feeling of being outclassed and out maneuvered by a first rate con artist. Lately I’ve begun to suspect that underneath his carefully groomed guise of homespun homilies and Texas good cookin’, our outgoing president has a mind as shrewd as the well-greased gears and perfectly tuned engine of a finely engineered German automobile.

Still, you can take the boy out of Texas, but never Texas out of the boy. In a game of drag racing between Mr. Obama and Mr. Bush, I’d lay my odds on Mr. Bush. But only for starting. Mr. Obama, I’ll wager, is an official too prudent and honorable to go in for cowboying. The frontier was settled in Illinois a long time ago, after all.

“Give me the keys, George,” Obama would probably say. There’s a good boy. Now go on home.”

And therein lies the distinction: Mr. Obama appears to be genuinely concerned with the hopes and fears of the nation, while Mr. Bush has always been the slave of his own agenda and formidable ego.

My husband didn’t believe the 2008 presidential election would actually come to pass. He was convinced Mr. Bush would impose martial law, jump back into his “Mission Accomplished” flight suit and start tap-dancing on the war rhetoric wagon again. Indeed, quite the opposite seems to be true. In a recent documentary about the history of the white house, Mr. Bush declared believably: “I’m looking forward to getting home.”

And why ever not? Back in Texas he can kick back and polish and load his shotguns, cowboy boots kicked up rakishly on his wide oak desk. On his vast estate in Crawford, life will indeed be joyous for an ex president busy rewriting his version of history. In this exercise he will almost certainly defend and excuse the lies, excesses and abuses of power that arguably made his the worst and most corrupt administration since Richard Nixon’s. As I am now convinced that he is in sly possession of Nixon’s powerfully analytical mind without benefit of its accompanying paranoia, such a memoir should make for good copy.

For W, after all, moral relativism works nicely in that it allows him to paint and outfit his stage as he sees fit. As the spotlight rises and aims its beam on him, the set will be strangely bare. Emptied of a supporting cast of Iagos, the Othello of all presidents will now be ready to take his final bow. He may have smothered the public he vowed to serve, but only because it was in our best interests. Because his sense of moral superiority trumped ours. Perhaps he’ll bow quietly, bearing a wide grin at the few bouquets that fall at his feet. A reminder of his thinning band of loyal supporters. Then he’ll turn and shuffle quietly stage left.

And fade quietly into that good night.


Comment from FjordWoman
Time December 4, 2008 at 7:42 am

So incredibly well put! I envy your ability to illuminate a dark subject so that no details are overlooked.