Posts Tagged ‘George W. Bush’
Posted on May 1, 2013 at 11.14 am
I’ve never been one for poetry — prose is my game. But one poem I’ve always appreciated is Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias, a short poem which tells of a once-glorious statue to a powerful king, now abandoned and decaying with time. Here’s the text:
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Our modern kings take Ozymandias’ lead, but they tend to be less interested in statues and more interested in libraries — specifically, Presidential Libraries.
Above, the five living U.S. Presidents stand in front of the newly-dedicated George W. Bush Presidential Library while literally being heralded by a row of trumpeters. Ozymandias would be proud.
In the wake of the recent opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, Reason has a good piece from Gene Healy calling for an end to tax-dollar funding of Presidential libraries. “Let America’s former presidents burnish their legacies on their own dimes,” cheekily declares the tagline.
I completely agree. Not only are these fluff projects expensive:
At 226,560 square feet and a cost of $250 million, the Bush Presidential Center is the biggest and most expensive yet of the 13 presidential libraries that one scholar has derisively called “America’s Pyramids.” [...]
Though the libraries’ construction is privately funded, they’re managed by the National Archives and Records Administration, using federal tax dollars. Last year, it cost the American taxpayer some $75 million to keep them open.
…but they also (in this case, at least) seek to justify the unjustifiable, serving as a new wing of the self-glorification campaign in which ex-Presidents apparently love to engage:
One of the key exhibits at the Bush megalith is Decision Points Theater, a virtual Situation Room wherein visitors can “consult” video advisers and make their own calls on some of the “Decider’s” key decisions, like war with Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and bailing out the banks. [...]
In Decision Points Theater, if you decide not to go to war with Iraq, “43″ himself comes onscreen to tell you flatly that you’re wrong: ”Saddam posed too big a risk to ignore. … The world was made safer by his removal.”
All sarcasm aside, let’s be honest: These libraries are vanity projects, nothing more — fodder for field trips and president-worship incarnate. Erected to memorialize the greatness of Presidents not yet dead, they’re Ozymandias’ statue modernized: ”My name is George W. Bush, Decider of Deciders: Look on my works, ye Tourists, and accept that I’m right!”
Let’s be honest again: These guys are not poor. Of the living ex-Presidents, Clinton clocks in as the wealthiest with an estimated net worth of $38 million, and even Carter, the “poorest,” is not exactly struggling at $7 million.
If former Presidents want to play Ozymandias, let them also play financier. They’re better situated to it than are we. Healy concludes, “As it happens, our recent presidents have mainly left us a patrimony of mounting debt, intrusive government, and permanent war. If you seek their monument, look around you.”
Perhaps our Presidents have surpassed the ancient king in one regard: They’ve skipped straight to the decay.
Posted on September 19, 2012 at 12.36 pm
When each new President takes office, he is allowed something of a grace period in which he may say, effectively, “I’m simply cleaning up the other guy’s mess; soon I’ll get to the good work on my own agenda.”
This is all good and fine for a while, but sooner or later his partisan opponents in particular will begin to demand an end to these claims. With Obama, of course, we have long since passed that point — that the President puts too much responsibility for the economy on Dubya is a standard Republican talking point. Obama apparently disagrees, and it may be an effective election strategy:
In a big campaign speech in Ohio this week, President Obama made perhaps his most focused case that the economy is still struggling because he inherited a giant mess created by eight years of Republican policies. And according to a new Gallup poll , Americans don’t necessarily disagree: Three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, 68 percent of Americans still blame our 43rd president a “great deal” or a “moderate amount” for the lousy economy. The “blame Bush” crowd includes 67 percent of independents and, surprisingly, 49 percent of Republicans. What’s more, those numbers have remained relatively static since August 2010. Mitt Romney is running hard against Obama’s economic record, but could Obama keep his job by running against Bush’s?
Those are fascinating stats, and while I’m no fan of Obama’s economic strategies, it’s good to see that Republicans are beginning to accept that Bush wasn’t so hot either.
I think the bigger issue, however, is this: How much responsibility is it actually fair to attribute to any President for the policies and changes in the country which occur while they’re in office? Typically supporters of any candidate are eager to give their guy credit for all the good stuff while just as eagerly asserting that all the bad stuff is out of his control. Whatever we conclude about the President’s responsibility, I’m pretty sure that conclusion is wrong.
Posted on May 2, 2012 at 11.57 am
On yesterday’s first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand twelve, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth, President Barack Obama has in one of his more strikingly Bushian moments (of which there are many) declared “Loyalty Day” as a national holiday to be celebrated annually.
Now, at first glance, this seems fairly innocuous. The press release drops a lot of distinctively American, feel-good rhetoric — “Founders,” “Constitution,” “liberty, equality, and justice” — these are things which, by and large, we all like. To observe Loyalty Day, we are encouraged to display an American flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance, presumably while pondering the principles and history the release discusses.
And yet — Loyalty Day is hands down disturbing, but I’m glad this declaration is getting so much attention.
You see, as it turns out, Loyalty Day isn’t a brand new thing, though you might get that impression from the White House press release. It’s been around for decades, and most recent Presidents have made one declaration about it over the course of their time in office. But, whether because of growing cynicism in American politics or thanks to the GOP’s short-term memory loss in its opposition to Barack Obama, this particular declaration seems to be sparking more outrage. Here’s why that makes the declaration, though not the holiday, a good thing:
1. That press release could have been written by Glenn Beck at the height of an on-air frenzy, but it was released by the Obama White House. The tone has every bit of the most concerning strain of red-state genuflection before the military and other “patriotic” aspects of our government and history, but it isn’t a red-state document. It demonstrates the equal willingness of both sides of the aisle to play on emotion — on love of country and pride in history — to advance uncritical allegiance to the state. Honestly, I couldn’t have written a better exemplar of why “it’s not left vs. right; it’s the state vs. you” (as the sage philosopher Bumper Sticker puts it) if I’d sneaked into the Oval Office Monday night and typed it up myself.
2. Even if their initial objection stems only from partisanship, the distaste this proclamation has produced in people can’t help but cause some thought about why it is so objectionable. Why is a holiday described in extremely positive terms so off-putting? Why does this discussion of “liberty, equality, and justice” seem so inimical to those very concepts? Why do we feel a sort of vague discomfort at the idea that the government seeks a little extra assurance that we support it? These are questions which some might not ask aside from the first visceral reaction which Loyalty Day seems to be producing in so many. The stated purpose of Loyalty Day might be “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom,” but this year, at least, it’s turning out to be more of a special day for considering why it’s so damn creepy that the government wants this reaffirmation and how that same government is so thoroughly ignoring that heritage of freedom.
3. Finally, Loyalty Day casts the government in its most honest light: jealous and abusive. Not to get too fanciful here, but as Wes Messamore has so ably pointed out, our relationship with our government has all the markings which in an interpersonal relationship would signal abuse. Take just one of his ten examples and be sure to read the rest):
Do you feel nervous around your partner?
Be honest — even if you’re a perfectly law-abiding citizen, do you feel nervous around police officers? Even when you’re driving the speed limit and obeying traffic laws in a car for which you have a valid license, deed, and registration, do you feel nervous when a police car is driving behind you or pulls up next to you on a city road or freeway? Do you feel nervous when you’re going through TSA checkpoints at the airport even though you have no prohibited items in your baggage and have no intention of doing anything disruptive, violent, or illegal? Have you ever wondered why you should feel that way when you “have nothing to hide” as the police say?
Loyalty Day is the national equivalent of an abusive partner asking you to “prove your love for them” — and just like it wouldn’t be right then, it’s not right now.
As I’ve written before, I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance for religious, philosophical, and gastronomical reasons, so perhaps I’m uniquely predisposed to objecting to this holiday. But on Loyalty Day 2012, I’m not alone in my objections — and that’s a good thing.