Bye, Bye Bush 

Part I: For better or worse

Eight years ago, a person I argued politics with on a regular basis showed me an essay she'd written to express her delight that Bill Clinton—utterly loathsome in her eyes—was being replaced by George Bush, a man she seemed to think represented the best our country had to offer. She titled it "Feels like America Again," and she showed it to me because she had hopes of being a writer and wanted to know what I thought of her effort. Style, tone, clarity, zing level ... that sort of thing. She had no hope that I would agree with any of it. She just wanted to be told by someone other than family or friends that what she had written had been written well. I know the feeling. Every aspiring writer does.

It's been eight years since I read the thing, so pardon me if I have to reconstruct it from memory, but the piece reflected her surety that the America of her particular vision should be led by strong-willed men of unshakable convictions and impeccable morality, and not some po'-boy Arkansas upstart who has a pushy wife and can't keep his zipper zipped. As I remember, the lion's share of the text dealt with the flaws of the out-going prez rather than the strengths of the incoming, simply because at the time, this was what she knew best—how greatly she detested Clinton more than how greatly she admired Bush.

It was written well, and I told her so. I also told her, if not in so many words, that you can write something well—even remarkably well—and still have your head up your ass. But she ignored that admonition and continued to applaud Bush's every move for as long as I had contact with her, which ended four or five years ago.

I bring it up because, as a lingering result of having read that essay, I have spent these eight years wondering what I would write when Bush finally left the White House. Especially after the full horror of what he has done became increasingly clear, I wanted it to be something extraordinary. But what does one say to sufficiently commemorate the shuffling off of the worst excuse for a human being to squat in the Oval Office in modern times?

I have concluded that one column simply isn't enough. Hence, I have dedicated today's entry along with the next two weeks, ending on the day after Barack Obama's inauguration, to saying a proper farewell to Dubya. That's right ... a three-parter. And get this ... the second installment will be (if the logistics can be arranged with Boise Weekly) an opera. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, an opera. I am wavering between what to call it—either Il Bushliacci, Cosi Fan Georgie, or Der Decidermeister—but I assure you it will have everything a proper opera must have. Except, of course, for an orchestra, staging, singers and music.

Now, if you feel I am giving the man more attention than he deserves, remember that this moment will never come again. Within another month, he will sink back into the mud of mediocrity from which he emerged, leaving nothing but a ruined economy, a devastated federal structure, an endangered biosphere, two failing wars, an ocean of debt and an indeterminable number of corpses behind to remind us he was ever here.

Besides, I have just come off a four-part series on mincemeat pie. Not that I would ever cheapen such a noble foodstuff in any sort of comparison to George Bush, but let us give him his due, then to the best of our ability, let us set about the task of making sure nothing like him ever happens again.

To kick this off, I thought it would be fun to list a few of the individuals who have come out of the last eight years better off than Bush. And by "better off," I mean with one or more of the following qualities intact: the respect of respectable people; some dignity; a record of honest accomplishments; a general appreciation for what they have contributed to the world; a general satisfaction that they will continue to contribute; a general feeling of pleasure when we see them or hear their name spoken; etc., etc. In other words ... all those things Bush lost years ago.

I can not include everyone who is better off than Bush, obviously. But those I do include will all be people who have some history of discord or disagreement with Bush and his associates, and who to one degree or another were ostracized either for something they said, did, or simply for who they are. You will recall, a cottage industry arose within the oppressive shadow of the Bush administration whose mission was to ruin anyone and everyone who was critical of Bush's decisions, and the people listed below were all at one time or another subjected to that treatment. Judge for yourself whether the Bushies were any better at destroying enemies than they were at anything else. Here goes:

• Harry Reid, Helen Thomas, Nancy Pelosi, Jimmy Carter, Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson, Dan Rather, Jane Fonda, the Dixie Chicks, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Janeane Garofalo, Al Gore, John Kerry, Sean Penn, the French, Muntadhar al-Zaidi the shoe chucker, George Clooney, Martin Sheen, Harry Belafonte, Old Europe, Barbra Streisand, Hans Blix, Al Franken, Bill Moyers, Howard Dean, Keith Olbermann, Ted Kennedy, Michael Moore, Katy Couric, Oliver Stone, respectable scientists, believers in global warming and the entire Democratic Party.

There. A partial list of people who came out of the Bush anathema immeasurably better off than Bush. It does my heart good to know that whatever inferior species it is that Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh are examples of, could not, in the long term, do any appreciable harm to these people or their reputations.

But before we exhaust ourselves rejoicing over the survival and success of Bush's critics, let us take a moment to reflect on those who came out of the Bush years in worse shape than Bush. Which is to say, in pretty damn bad shape. I will just get the ball rolling with a few entries:

• The Department of the Interior, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, 100,000 dead Iraqis ... at least, New Orleans, polar bears, the automobile industry, capitalism, Laura (think about it: unlike the rest of us, she's stuck with him) ...

As I take my leave—I have an opera to prepare, remember?—I invite you to add to the list in your own way. Have as much fun with it as you can, dependent on personal factors such as 1) do you still have a job, 2) will you ever be able to retire now, and 3) did you lose a son or daughter, husband or brother in Iraq?

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