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Bush Says Goodbye

Following George W. Bush's televised farewell address, a friend emails:

I am pretty floored by how lame and forgettable that speech was.Why even bother?

I don't even hate him, I just feel sorry for the poor bastard.

I agree that the speech was pretty weak tea. Fittingly for a Bush address, its center of gravity was a remembrance of September 11 and the hard choices it demanded, and a lot of treacly talk about the greatness of the American spirit.

Bush also bragged that we've now gone over seven years without another terrorist attack. And for a long time I thought this was indeed an impressive talking point--something Bush can truly be proud of. But lately I'm reconsidering. It's not as though, under Bill Clinton, terrorists hit us once a month. Nor is it the case that we never broke up big terrorism plots in the 1990s. Bush seems to suggest that September 11 was more the norm than the exception until he clamped down, but that's far from obvious.

There was some talk of "setbacks" and "things I would do differently," but no real admission of error or regret. Rather, I thought Bush was conveying a sense of regret physically. His body language and facial expressions looked to me sheepish, contrite, and appealing for mercy in a "I'm really not such a bad guy" kind of way. Or, as my friend, who saw it the same way, puts it: "It was his demeanor--he seemed defeated, and embarrassed and ashamed."

Yes, he did. Unlike his delightful second-in-command.

--Michael Crowley