George W. Bush. (Photo: Getty Images)
Take me down little Susie, take me down
I know you think you're the queen of the underground
And you can send me dead flowers every morning
Send me dead flowers by the mail
Send me dead flowers to my wedding
And I won't forget to put roses on your grave ...
- The Rolling Stones
To: George W. Bush
From: Your biggest fan
Re: Your imminent unemployment
Greetings, Mr. Bush.
I was sorry to hear about the passing of your cat, India. Eighteen years is a long time for a cat - my mother has one that's 20 and still going strong, if you can believe it - and I'm sure India had a comfortable, caring life with your family.
I got to spend part of last weekend with an old friend of mine. He's a bit older than 18, and he's also a troop who recently rotated back from a tour in Falluja. He just had a baby daughter, and he will be sent to Afghanistan before too much longer. He did his duty in Iraq, dealt his share of death and saw his friends die or be ripped to shreds right in front of him.
He was hollow in a lot of places that had been full before he went to Iraq. He was not the same man we'd said farewell to. But he was alive, and if he survives his upcoming Afghanistan tour, maybe he will get the chance to have a long, comfortable, caring life with his family, just like little India.
At present, my friend's life is the polar opposite of comfortable, and he still has Kabul waiting for him just over the horizon. His life is the way it is because of you, Mr. Bush. You have been the single greatest influence upon his time in this world; you put him over there and hollowed him out, and because of you, it's about to happen again. You were the single biggest influence upon the lives of every person he knew over there, every person he saw over there, and every person he killed over there.
It's funny. I was thinking the other day about when I marched in one of the first large-scale post-inauguration protests against you in Washington, DC. It was May of 2001, it was The Voter's Rights March to Restore Democracy, and it was a few thousand people shouting down the unutterably ruinous Supreme Court decision which unleashed, just as we then feared, everything that has since come to pass. "Not my president!" we bellowed. "Not my president!"
It's funny because that memory seems so very quaint to me now. A stolen election? Pfff. To paraphrase a different president, Americans get scarier stuff than that free with their breakfast cereal nowadays. Thanks to you, governor.
My All-Time-Grand-Prize-Bull-Goose-Gold-Medal-Winning Top Five list of what you've done, in no particular order, and in my own humble opinion:
1. You were warned by the outgoing administration when you first took office. You were warned by the Russians. You were warned by the Israelis. You were warned by the Germans. You were warned in a memo given to you by your own National Security Adviser. You were warned by men like Richard Clarke. You were warned all those times that Osama bin Laden intended to strike the United States, and still the Towers came down.
(All those people working on that Legacy Project of yours should go back to bed, by the way; they are trying to salvage the unsalvageable. You protected us, they claim? Ha. You're 0-1 on terrorism and 0-2 on war)
2. Less than a month after those Towers came down, a reporter asked what you thought we should do. "We need to counter the shockwave of the evildoer," you replied, "by having individual rate cuts accelerated and by thinking about tax rebates." I happened to be watching television and heard you say that live into a camera. The only reason I didn't throw up on myself is because my teeth were clenched too tightly for the vomit to pass my lips. I swallowed hard, grabbed a pen, and wrote down what you said and when you said it. It was October 4, 2001, just after nine in the morning. You'd like people to remember you standing on that pile of rubble in Manhattan, you with the bullhorn and the heroic pose. I, however, will always remember you pitching tax cuts to a devastated nation while a pall of poison smoke still hung in the air over Ground Zero.
3. A few years later, you wanted hundreds of billions of dollars diverted from other areas of the federal budget and into your war in Iraq. You took more than $70 billion out of the budget used by the Army Corps of Engineers in Louisiana to fund the repair and maintenance of the New Orleans levee system. Katrina struck not long after you took that money and poured it into the sand, and the levees failed for lack of funded upkeep. Through this, along with your disinterested disinclination to help your own countrymen in their hour of darkest need, you played the very last note for that old, sad, lost American city. Reflected in those actions are the same budgetary priorities that motivated you to turn Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the hospital where I was born, into an abattoir of suffering and neglect for the wounded soldiers you tore apart for a lie.
4. You let Dick "Crazy-Eyes" Cheney do whatever the hell he wanted to whomever he wanted whenever and wherever he wanted, and be damned to the damned old Constitution anyway. Cheney once said the vice president's office was not part of the same branch of government as the president's office, and he said it with his bare face hanging out the whole time. Why? He didn't want to give any of his official papers over to the National Archives, as mandated by at least two federal laws. Nope, he said, my office is in Congress today, sorry about that, but be sure to come on back after you drop dead. Or words to that effect. That's about one zillionth of a percent of what he did, because you let him pick himself to be your boss.
5. On July 19, 2006, you vetoed H.R. 810. On June 20, 2007, you vetoed S. 5. Both vetoes killed legislation aimed at funding and vastly enhancing the reach and scope of stem cell research in America. The father of someone I know died of bone marrow cancer just after that first veto; he was adopted, no family could be located, so no donor match for a bone marrow transplant could be found. With stem cell therapy, doctors could have taken his own marrow and grown enough healthy, matching marrow to save his life. Two other people I know have diabetes, like millions of Americans. Stem cell research could offer them a cure. Someone else I know has multiple sclerosis, and stem cell research could very well help her, too. She'd write you a thank-you note for those vetoes, but her right hand doesn't work so well anymore. She's getting better with her left hand, so maybe that note can get written next year.
Also, you defied lawfully issued subpoenas and potentially set a precedent that could shatter the separation of powers. You told the American people Iraq was in possession of 26,000 liters of anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin, 500 tons - which is one million pounds - of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent, 30,000 missiles to deliver the stuff, mobile biological weapons labs, al-Qaeda connections and uranium from Niger for use in a robust nuclear weapons program, even though all of that was a lie. You made a joking video about not being able to find any of it. You outed a deep-cover CIA agent who was running a network designed to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of terrorists, and you did so because her ambassador husband told the truth about you in the public prints.
You gave away our right to privacy by sending the NSA to spy on us. You turned us all into torturers and butchers in the eyes of the world with your decision to use Abu Ghraib prison the same way Saddam Hussein once did. You tried to appoint Henry Kissinger to lead the investigation into 9/11. You turned the entire Justice Department into a carnival of political hackery. You championed the economic policies and deregulation fantasies that have left the financial stability of millions in ashes. You used the threat of terrorism against your own people in order to give yourself political cover. You killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who did you nor us no harm.
You did all this, and so much more.
From a certain perspective, one could argue that you have been the most successful president the country has ever seen. Think about it, because according to your definition of "success," it's true. You came into office looking to make your friends richer, and to fulfill as best you could your most overriding personal belief: that government is the problem, so government must be damaged and denuded to the point of impotence. Through your tax cuts and your two vastly expensive boondoggle wars, you made your friends rich. By unleashing Mr. Cheney and your other minions, you tore the Constitution to shreds and tatters. You have achieved both goals in smashing style, so from that certain perspective, you have triumphed.
Could you also, from the proper perspective, be considered our greatest president?
Perhaps, someday, if we make it so.
It will be in the best interests of many powerful people if we as a nation simply dismiss you and forget you ever happened. A lot of news media people want us to forget you, because in forgetting you, we would forget the media's vast complicity in your actions and misdeeds. A lot of rich people making new fortunes from war profiteering and defense contracts want us to forget they and you even exist, as it would make it possible for them to do it all again someday. A lot of politicians who stapled themselves to you would simply adore it if we forgot about you. The Republican Party would be forever in our debt if we forgot about you.
No. We will not forget you. We will remember.
We the people are going to save you from ignominious oblivion. We will remember. You could be the president who doomed America, the worst president of all time, but we must not, will not let that happen. You will be remembered differently, because we will hold the memory of you high, and behold you, and say, "Never, never, never again." We have tasted the soot and smelled the blood on the wind; we have seen how fragile our way of government is when placed in the hands of low men such as you, and because of that, you will be remembered for all time.
Your greatness will be defined by how we rise to overcome and undo what you have done. Your greatness will stand forever if we never, ever forget the hard, bitter lessons you taught us. We are responsible for this republic, for our Constitution, and for each other. We are our brother's keeper. You taught us that by becoming our Cain. You nearly slew us, but here we stand, and we defy the place in history you would relegate us to. We defy you, and by doing so, we rise.
Something like you must never again be allowed to happen to this country, and if we save ourselves by preventing you from ever happening again, your greatness is assured. You are the tallest of all possible warnings, and a promise all of us must solemnly and stalwartly keep. If we can damn you to the past, we will save our own future.
May you live forever, you son of a bitch.