That wears a crown — or thinks it does
July 1, 2008 | The presidency is not kind to the visage of those that hold the office. George W Bush is no exception. I was struck last week by a picture taken at the announcement of agreement with North Korea to dismantle their nuclear program, about the only positive accomplishment of the last seven years.
That is not the face of a happy man. His hair is completely gray and a bit frizzy; furrows line his sagging face; his eyes are puffy and squinty; his neck shows folds of excess skin; his suit is ill-fitting, as if he has shrunk.
Compare that with the picture on the right, addressing a joint-session of Congress shortly after assuming the presidency in 2001: time and athletic, distinguished-looking, with well-coifed salt-and-pepper gray hair, a dashing figure of a man, a veritable picture of confidence. Note also that in those glorious days before "9/11 changed everything" even Republicans did not feel the need to flaunt their patriotism by wearing a flag on their lapel.
Bush was then the "compassionate conservative" that voters (well, almost half of them) identified with, thought he shared their values, and would be a nice guy to hang out with and have a beer. He had excused his earlier reputation as a party boy with unexplained gaps in his National Guard service by saying "when I was young and foolish, I was young and foolish." He and his handlers portrayed him as one who had matured.
If only. His penchant for cockiness could not be supressed. After Saddam Hussein was quickly deposed, Bush indulged in a publicity stunt that would haunt the rest of his presidency. He flew to a returning aircraft carrier — supposedly he piloted the plane — to announce, under that infamous "mission accomplished" banner, that "major combat operations in Iraq" were over.
Alas, major combat operations in Iraq were not complete, the mission was not accomplished then, and is still not. In the years since, Bush's administration has proven itself utterly incompetent — think hurricane Katrina. Croneyism ran rampant — "Heck of a job, Brownie!" Corruption became endemic — think Halliburton and all those no-bid contracts. Lawlessness ruled the day as Bush, Cheney, et al shredded the Constitution and international treaties. The moral authority of the US was destroyed by Abu Ghraib and torture at Guantanamo. Budget deficits soared as Bush cut taxes for the wealthy and spent like a drunken sailor, and the value of the US dollar has fallen ever lower.
The American public has seen clearly that this emperor has no clothes. Bush's approval ratings have fallen to all-time lows while the percentage of Americans who disapprove of his performance continues to soar.
Bush is looking to go down in history as "worst president, ever!" The harm that he has done to the US and to the world is vast.
Despite the insulating effects of "the bubble," Bush has to know he has fucked up royally in full view of everybody. It's hard to imagine the effect of such utter public failure on the psyche. Come to think of it, it's surprising he doesn't look even worse!
Last updated on Sep 6, 2016