At various times over the last several years it seemed that January 20, 2009 would never arrive. It still hasn’t, of course, so I’ll have to go outside, turn three times and spit (or curse), lest I incur the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing, but you could scarcely be unaware that a new U.S. president is being sworn in tomorrow.
Over the last couple of weeks, aside from news about preparations for the inauguration, and its resonance with history, we have heard from a steady stream of apologists for President Bush. Bill Kristol, aside from crediting our outgoing president with standing firmly by Israel, praises his surveillance, interrogation, and counterterrorism policies, and believes he deserves more recognition for his greatest achievement – winning the war in Iraq. Excuse me, but how can I credit the president with succeeding (assuming, for the moment, that I could agree with that estimate) at something that NEVER should have happened in the FIRST PLACE? That’s like crediting the arsonist who shows up with an extinguisher for putting OUT the fire.
That President Bush has been a steadfast friend of Israel comes as no surprise. As Tara Wall observed, he has a “strident conviction in doing what was right for the country.” Funny, I never thought of being strident as a good thing, like being unreasoningly stubborn in the face of overwhelming evidence (careful – I know I’m leaving myself open there). She also praises Mr. Bush’s civility and dignity which, while fine personal characteristics, are poor substitutes for achievement for a man who has involved us in a disastrous and costly war that should never have happened (see previous paragraph), undermined our civil liberties in the name of security (it’s a small thing, but doesn’t anyone else find the use of the word “homeland” a little creepy?), and led us to the brink of financial armageddon (at least she acknowledges that).
On the eve of the inauguration of our 44th president, I honestly can’t help feeling that it comes not a moment too soon. I can’t help feeling that the last eight years were some kind of bad dream from which I have been struggling to awaken. No, we didn’t ask for what happened on September 11, 2001, but our president (and far too many of us who were willing to go along in the face of such murderous intent) made choice after choice after choice that it will take decades, if not more, if ever, to undo.
I deeply respect the office of president, and have always considered President Bush to be my president, too, disagree with him as I might, but I will not be sorry to see his term end and welcome a new president tomorrow.