Thanks go to Frank Rich's column in the New York Times for the PDF. Whatever you think of Rich, he's a good writer. In a piece titled A President Forgotten but Not Gone, Rich tears into George W. Bush as an ineffective failure, whose only worth to history is the amount of time it takes to say, "sucked." Note the lack of an exclamation point. In Rich's view, the Bush administration isn't even worth getting excited about.
Rereading that paragraph, I'm probably doing Rich a disservice. He's not really saying that Bush should be a forgotten man, just that -- at this point in history -- Bush is a forgotten man. And our amnesia is self-inflicted; we're so tired of the man that we're all willing to pretend he never existed. There was no Bush, there is only Obama.
I can't help it, I've got to give you a bit of Rich's column:
The joke was on us. Iraq burned, New Orleans flooded, and Bush remained oblivious to each and every pratfall on his watch. Americans essentially stopped listening to him after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, but he still doesn’t grasp the finality of their defection. Lately he’s promised not to steal the spotlight from Barack Obama once he’s in retirement -- as if he could do so by any act short of running naked through downtown Dallas. The latest CNN poll finds that only one-third of his fellow citizens want him to play a post-presidency role in public life.
Bush was supposed to be the Second Coming of Reagan. And he was. Only without all the leadership. Bush was never a man, but a committee -- he was Reagan's team without the captain. Dick Cheney and the rest of the neocons put together their Dream Team and that team didn't actually have a coach. The Bush administration was an experiment to determine whether the Executive branch could operate without an Executive.
Turns out it can't.
But back to the PDF. "[An] elaborate example of legacy spin can be downloaded from the White House Web site: a booklet recounting “highlights” of the administration’s “accomplishments and results,” Rich writes.
He also points out that these "highlights" read like Highlights for Children. Rich's column is much, much broader, but I want to write about this PDF file -- Frank Rich wrote his column and there's no reason for me to rewrite it. I'm all about the downloadable PDF. Bush's file is a great example of really, really lousy propaganda. It assumes you're a freakin' idiot.
We get -- in Great Big Caps -- talking points worth the virtual paper they're printed on. Point one, KEPT AMERICA SAFE AND PROMOTED LIBERTY ABROAD. This is otherwise known as THE GREATEST EXAMPLE OF PRESIDENTIAL INCOMPETENCE EVER -- WITHOUT A DOUBT.
Protecting the American people is the President's most solemn obligation. Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the President has carried with him a symbol of sacrifice and courage; a police shield given to him by the mother of an officer who died at the World Trade Center. As the President noted after the attack, "This is my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end... I will not yield; I will not rest; I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people.
The absolute worst intelligence failure ever happened on your watch, George. 9/11 was an astonishing example of incompetence. It's hard for me to believe that Bush is still trying to milk it. After he'd exploited 9/11 to invade Iraq, you'd think he'd want everyone to forget about it. Iraq is, after all, the defining failure of the Bush administration -- as much as it should be 9/11 -- and it's a measure of Bush administration incompetence that this disaster is the first example of Tremendous Accomplishments in his propaganda file.
It gets worse. The file is littered with diner menu factoids, in big "Did You Know?" boxes. For example, Did You Know President Bush implemented the largest reorganization of the Federal national security apparatus since 1947?
Wow, all that illegal wiretapping and torture was just so awesome! Reading through it, you get the feeling that the loyal Bushies aren't all that loyal anymore -- it doesn't seem like they're trying very hard. Bush LOWERED TAXES & INSTITUTED PRO-GROWTH POLICIES -- which, of course, explains the fiscal and economic mess we're in right now. Those "pro-growth policies" didn't actually result in growth. A competent propagandist wouldn't even have included economic policy."For only the third time in history, " we're told, "Americans received across-the-board tax relief." Turns out there's a reason why that's so rare -- it was stupid. He even takes credit for dumb ideas he didn't actually accomplish; for example, we're told the inheritance tax is "on the road to extinction." Really?
All in all, the PDF is amazingly awful BS. We all know about Bush's legacy project to rewrite history in his favor, but it's hard to believe that someone looked over this thing and thought, "Yeah, that'll do it." It's the same old tired crap we've gotten again and again. It hasn't worked so far, why think anything's going to change any time soon?
In fact, this sort of propaganda has failed as spectacularly as anything else Bush has done. Last month, a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll found that only 23% of respondents said they'd miss Bush. He really does suck that bad. In a weekend appearance on Meet the Press, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Bush was "the worst president we’ve ever had." Don't look for that to be blown up into a minor scandal. Reid's not really going out on a limb here, this is the majority opinion.
In the end, Frank Rich finds Bush "a narcissist with no self-awareness whatsoever." I think that's giving the man too much credit. He's a stupid little man with no idea just how stupid he actually is. Beware the man with no idea what his limitations are. I doubt Bush believes he's brilliant, but rather that the neocon ideology is. Bush is an example of what can happen when the president has a cultist's mindset, where faith supersedes reason and theory trumps results. When everything goes all to hell, you keep doing exactly what your political theory tells you will work and trust it'll work eventually.
Bush may be a narcissist. I have no reason to believe he's not and plenty of reasons to believe he is. But that's probably true of any president. That's not the problem. The problem with Bush is that he's simply jaw-droppingly incompetent.
Luckily, that incompetence extends to this final propaganda push. We'll remember Bush exactly as he is, not as he'd like us to.