Don Froomkin-President Bush bid the nation goodbye last night with a simpering speech that may have appealed to those who still believe in him, but offered nothing to change the minds of the vast majority of Americans who don’t.
Bush smirked and twitched while delivering a highly defensive farewell address in which he tried to hearken back to his glory days right after 9/11, sought credit for having made “tough decisions” and insisted his intentions were good.
There was no real attempt to bind the wounds he leaves in his wake. There was no apparent awareness of irony when he held up his administration as a champion of moral clarity and human dignity. He even gave himself credit for his response to the financial crisis he didn’t see coming: “When challenges to our prosperity emerged, we rose to meet them,” he said.
And he tried one last time to conflate his “war on terror” with the unrelated debacle in Iraq, recasting the American troops perilously occupying that benighted country as “part of a broader struggle” between “a small band of fanatics” who demand “total obedience to an oppressive ideology” and a system “based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God, and that liberty and justice light the path to peace.”
In a fitting end for a presidency that has often operated in its own reality, Bush was greeted warmly by his audience — a hand-picked selection of hangers-on and human props — even as public-opinion polls show that the nation is way past ready to move on.
I think its fitting that Bush’s speech, his one last, futile attempt as President to sway public opinion of his failed administration, was upstaged by a “miracle” airplane crash on the Hudson river. Adios Dubya.