Friday, January 16, 2009

Flashback Friday: The Bush Years

On the last Friday of the Bush Administration, I'm devoting this entry to some memorable photos of our worst president ever, as well as list some of the music, books, and movies that capture the essence of this era.

The closer we get to Inauguration, the happier I feel I'm becoming. I know that happiness depends on me. I can always choose to be happy, even when I'm in a miserable situation. I believe that happiness is a choice we make. Sometimes, in my moments of pondering my life's trajectory, I wonder if I subconsciously manifested the worst job of my life (along with the two other mediocre jobs I had during Bush's reign of error) so that I would never be nostalgic about this period of our nation's history. The Bush years have been the worst years of my life. I've experienced too many losses and seem further from my dream life than I was nine years ago. So, I'm happy to see an end to this disasterous presidency and if anything, having Obama in the White House will definitely change my mental state because I am ecstatically happy when I think about my party and candidate of choice in the White House.

I'm actually shocked how short these eight years have been. I feel like I did a whole lot more during the eight years of the Clinton Era: Navy, college, and internship. I lived in five places (instead of two in the Bush years). The quality of my life was certainly better during the Clinton years than the Bush years. A lot of people used to think that it didn't matter who was president, for a president doesn't have that kind of power to affect lives.

However, when your dream career was to be a political aide in a Democratic administration and you finish college when your candidate is expected to win, and then the other guy gets in and completely breaks with tradition by politicizing government to the point where only loyal, Bush-voting Republicans are hired for government jobs, that's a long time to be in exile. I'm hoping that my karma account accrued in the past eight years to the point where I will get into the career I was destined to be in as soon as Obama is sworn in as our new president. It's a new era and I'm so happy to see this day finally arrive.

But first, a look back at some of the memorable moments of the past eight years...

The photo that I hope he will be most remembered for: proclaiming "Mission Accomplished" on May 1st after six weeks of launching the invasion of Iraq. We'll still be in Iraq on May 1, 2013--the tenth anniversary. Bush considers the sign "a mistake", but not the war. Tell that to the families of the 5,000 American servicemembers who died.

My second favourite Bush photo, taken on September 11, 2001 after the second plane hit the World Trade Center. He sat there for longer than 7 minutes after Andrew Card informed him that "we are under attack." He wasn't paying attention to the book ("My Pet Goat"), the teacher or the children. He just kind of sat there with a dazed look in his eye. I'd love to know the thoughts that were going through his mind at the time. It's probably the biggest "oh shit!" moment of his entire life. And that's probably exactly what he did, too.

There's a saying that events tend to repeat themselves twice...first as tragedy, second as a farce. This photo showed that Bush was still as clueless as ever. Nearly four years after 9/11, Bush was seen strumming a guitar for fundraisers in San Diego while New Orleans was drowning from the broken levees in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It took him several days before he went to the area to survey the damage himself. He had to be given a specially made DVD (what? He didn't have the Fox Propaganda Network at his ranch?) by aide Dan Bartlett and urged to watch it before he did anything. Exactly the kind of go-getter we want as president!

The other photo that I hope the Bush regime will be remembered for: that degrading photo of an Iraqi being made to stand on a block while wires were attached (apparently, it was not connected to a real bomb). But it's the black hood that truly creeps you out the most. It's like, who the fuck came up with that kind of shit? Truly someone demented. It's like a scene out of the Saw movies or something (though I've never seen the Saw movies).

God should've sent hurricane-force winds to blow this couple right out of the White House permanently.

"Sock it to me!"

Bush always has that frat-boy smirk that indicates something deviant and cruel beneath his good ole boy persona.

Poor Barney doesn't look pleased to be manhandled that way.

Evangelical Christians forwarded this photo a lot in emails during the Bush reign of error. They loved the halo effect (Bush was in front of a flag with a state or presidential seal), as though it was proof that Divine favour was bestowed on a president who couldn't even win the popular vote in 2000. Evangelicals, surprisingly, seem totally okay with authoritarian tyrants who aren't held accountable by oaths, laws, or the people.

I love the photos of his pouting. Why so mad, George? You didn't even want to be president, remember? It's too much hard work.

Some measure of accountability finally arrived in November 2006 when Democrats regained control of Congress with Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House and milquetoasty Mormon Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. If anything, I believe that Democrats regaining control of Congress prevented the neo-con dream of invading Iran before Bush's term was up.

I love this photo because Bush actually looks sincerely sad here. Plus, he has aged A LOT in eight years. The stresses of the presidency has left its mark all over his frat-boy face.

You can really see the pain on his face, like he's about to cry about something.

But, there were also lovey-dovey moments with Condoleezza Rice (the only member of the Administration I like). Although liberals seemed to be against her being named as Secretary of State in Bush's second term, I thought it was a good move, partly because she was a lousy National Security Advisor and she seemed better suited towards diplomacy, which I credit her for moving the administration away from its dream war with Iran. I would've been okay with her remaining as Secretary of State for President Obama, but I look forward to seeing what she's going to do next. Her memoirs will be the only one I'll buy from this administration.

Bush in one of his more likeable moments, dancing like the goofball that he is as he waited for a late-running Senator McCain to arrive at the White House for a formal endorsement.

The infamous wink that infuriates so many people. And he did it again in his final farewell address to the American people last night! I always thought it was interesting when he winks because he's always saying something untrue when the wink occurs. Its a dead-giveaway (the body often betrays a person's true feelings). To me, the wink always seem to say: "I can't believe I'm getting away with this bullshit!" Yeah, to his loyal legion of supporters, they believed his every utterance, but the wink revealed the truth.

Is he playing "giggly-winks" with Sarah Palin?

Poor Barney! I love Bush's expression in this photo.

Bush looking tired. Eight years of hard work will do that to you.

Endorsing his old rival McCain as his Republican successor.

Checking out the Beach Volleyball Babes of the Summer Olympics. You know Clinton envies him for this one!

The Best Song to remember the Bush years by is the Black Eyed Peas, "Where is the Love?" Bush came into office promising to be a "compassionate conservative" but his record over the past eight years has been anything but. Would a compassionate conservative sign off on torture? I don't think its any coincidence that the Saw movies were made in the Bush years. And the show 24 was a hit during his presidency. It's great that a hip-hop band wanted to remind Americans, "where is the love, y'all?" It's the best protest song you can get these days.

This was Green Day's eighth album and it completely shocked music critics because its rare that any band releases a masterpiece after six previous mediocre albums that followed a hit debut, which featured songs about dookie and masturbation. Inspired by Bush's presidency, Green Day recorded a true "rock opera" with an actual storyline and characters, multi-part songs with varying melodies, and all with substantial lyrics set to catchy rhythms. It's true brilliance and the best they'll ever get.

My favourite bit of lyrics comes from the song "Holiday":

"Hear the drum pounding out of time
Another protestor has crossed the line
to find the money's on the other side
Can I get another amen?

There's a flag wrapped around a score of men
a gag
a plastic bag on a monument

The representative of California has the floor
Sieg heil to the President Gasman
Bombs away is your punishment
Pulverize the Eiffel Towers
who criticize your government..."


"I beg to dream and differ
from the hollow lies
this is the dawning of the rest of our lives."

I especially love the song "Wake Me Up When September Ends." The whole album covers the trajectory of a young life in the Bush years...from a dead-end job to joining the military and fighting in an overseas war while a president lies and a media complies. You won't find a more brilliant critique of the Bush years than this. It truly is the masterpiece of the decade.

Now I get to the four books that are absolute necessities for understanding the Bush administration. The Greatest Story Ever Sold covers the propaganda aspect of his term from 9/11 through Katrina. It's quite readable and captures all the things that have outraged me about his administration.

Dead Certain is considered "the first historical draft" of the Bush Administration. I just recently bought the paperback of this book (for $3.99), so I'm not sure when I'll get around to reading it. It seems to be the most objective of Bush books (unlike the full-on Bush-bashing ones out there, nor the propaganda glowing crap from the likes of Karen Hughes).

Cruel and Unusual is worth reading because it recounts the hypocrisy of Bush, matching his statements (particularly his criticisms of Clinton) to his deeds. What we find is a huge disconnect. A lot of his (and conservatives in general) statements against Clinton more accurately describe him and his actions. Though a full psychological profile of Bush can be found in Bush on the Couch, Cruel and Unusual is a vital read to see just how cruel the man truly is and how it shaped his presidency.

Maureen Dowd became a favourite of mine in the Bush era as I read her wonderfully witty columns. She has a great way with words and quips and creating unique terms to explain the world Bush lives in. This book is a collection of her wonderful essays. Quite a few are laugh out loud funny.

As for movies, I have selected the three absolute must see films that I'd put in a historical time capsule for Americans in the far future to unearth if they wish to learn about the awful president. First on the list is the incendiary "documentary" by Michael Moore, Fahrenheit 9/11. This film was controversial because of Moore's reputation for skewing some of the facts in ways to push viewers into the anti-Bush camp. There are also a few "cheap shots" (such as the scene of Wolfowitz licking his comb before running it through his hair, or Ashcroft singing horribly a badly patriotic song that he wrote), but they deserved it. Ridicule of elites is the tool of the masses, which Moore is quite good at.

The main point of his documentary is to show that the Iraq War was a fraud, committed by people who didn't serve in military, who send good young people lacking job opportunities into battle while they reap the financial rewards. The closing statement, where Moore quotes from Orwell's novel 1984 was chillingly brilliant. Say what you want about this film, but it made over $100 million in the summer of 2004. The best review I read was of a young man in Iran, who said that America was truly an amazing country where a man could get rich making a movie criticizing the leader of the country. See...the film wasn't "anti-American" as conservatives claimed. It's success and popularity reminded the world what they loved about our country. That's what freedom is all about. Though it didn't cost Bush reelection, I believe that it served as the first crack in the fawning media portrayal of Bush. Making the film was a courageous act at a time when Republicans accused any criticism of the president as being "unpatriotic" and borderline treason (even though they had no such view when Clinton was president).

Oliver Stone's bio-pic attempts to explain the basic psychology of Bush so people can understand how this man became such a failed president. Basically, it boils down to the idea that Bush lived an unmotivated life where he didn't know who he truly was and strove to follow in his father's footsteps, failing in every endeavor, and not being held accountable for any of his failures. Josh Brolin plays him sympathetic and after the film, I left the theater truly liking the Bush I saw on screen.

I admit that Bush might be a likeable oaf in real life, but the damage his decisions have cost many millions of people in our country, not to mention around the's hard to sympathize with the man in his pity party of late. He should've seen a therapist to work out his psychological problems with daddy, rather than pull the whole world into his family drama. Before you think I'm being unfair to Bush, I was equally livid about Clinton in 1998. My view then was that Clinton should've taken care of his sexual addiction before he sought the presidency, saving our country and the world from the dramas of his life. A president isn't perfect, but if one can't behave like an adult for a term or two, they have no business running for the most powerful office in the world.

Finally, the third film I'd recommend watching to understand the Bush years is Recount, the excellent HBO-produced drama about the 36 days after the 2000 election when we truly did not know who won Florida, and thus the presidency. The film shows the major arguments and both points of view regarding the debacle.

In all the media's talk about how Bush's presidency might rate to future Americans, I didn't hear the most important detail...Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 by half a million votes. Even if historians of the future want to re-assess Bush's presidency through rose-coloured lenses because Iraq and Afghanistan end up as functioning democracies (which I seriously doubt, because democracy has to be developed by the people themselves, and both countries are too tribal and accustomed to strong, tyrannical leaders), how can his presidency rank higher than last place when he is one of three or four presidents who became president even though they didn't win the popular vote. Granted, the others were only one term and the popular vote winner became the next president, 2004 defied history to disasterous results.

A president should be judged in total, from the condition of the country when he assumed office to how he leaves it to his successor. By the promises made versus the promises kept. By matching words with deed. Bush promised to be a "compassionate conservative" who is a "uniter, not a divider" and would have a more "humble" foreign policy that did not engage our military in "nation-building" operations. Not a single promise was true.

Good riddance to the President Gasbag. May karmic justice catch him quickly in his retirement years. I'm glad his era is over. The past eight years have been some of the worst years of my life, so I have no doubt that life will be better under President Obama. Let the festivities begin!


Margie's Musings said...

It's true that Bush made the presidency a dictatorship but the entire presidency was primarily Cheney's. Cheney knew he could not be elected so they chose the simple likable buffoon to run and used him like a puppet.

Rumsfeld and Cheney will never live down their influence on this presidency. They were both truly "Nixon" men...who believed in the absolute power of the presidency.

The war they started gave them the opportunity to enforce that doctrine.

Sansego said...

I saw a final interview between Cheney and Jim Lehrer and I just couldn't believe all the lies Cheney said. The man is truly evil, no doubts there. Basically, he claims that the Americans endorsed their presidency by reelecting them, so that's what his argument will be if brought up on charges. I'm hoping that someone will hire a bounty hunter and put a price on his head. I'd love to see Cheney have a fatal heart attack on Tuesday.