By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The little man at the podium

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Admit it: You didn’t watch President Bush’s farewell address. Well, I did. In my latest for the Guardian, I take a look at his short, half-hearted effort at vindication and conclude that the real message is we no longer need fear the little man at the podium.

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  1. Ani

    It is jarring to me to read that the [Hudson River] is near La Guardia Airport — maybe it looks that way from Boston, but not to someone from the NY Metropolitan area.

  2. Adam Gaffin

    Bet you have that Steinberg poster on your wall :-). LGA really IS close to the Hudson – Manhattan only seems a world apart from Queens.– A former New Yorker

  3. Aaron Read

    Dan, it wasn’t Dr. Frankenstein that you had to worry about…it was his monster that did all the killing.That doesn’t mean the doctor wasn’t the ultimate cause of all the pain and suffering.

  4. NewsHound

    Very sadly, the speech was an emblem of his presidency. It made no contribution. I don’t know how he even had the nerve to read what someone else wrote, the content of which told absolutely nothing.I think behind the curtain there is a decent but incompetent person, sadly for him and us, mostly us. He gets the lifetime pension, office budget and more no matter what happens to us, our pensions and our economy, After eight years it would have been interesting if he had spoken from the heart and soul, and told us how he really felt. Instead, what was on television was someone struggling to perfectly deliver a written speech prepared by a battalion of writers, paid by taxpayers. It reinforced the plastic, artificial image we’ve already seen too much of. Is there a real George Bush?Couldn’t he say anything from heart? I mean, after eight years he can’t even say goodbye to us without reading it from a taxpayer-paid script! What’s he afraid of, ruining what he thinks is a near perfect record by making a little verbial error in saying goodbye?

  5. Don, American

    George W. Bush is twice the man that B. Hussein Obama will ever be. He cared for you and me so much that he sacrificed his reputation and endured undeserved abuse to keep us safe. God bless George W. Bush.

  6. Ani

    Adam Gaffin,A world and many traffic jams apart!

  7. NewsHound

    Don – a most valid perspective that GWB did put the country and its people ahead of his concern for a perceived legacy.

  8. O'Rion

    I thought the audience was a terrific metaphorical touch. They were there to prop W up one last time. They represented his parents, the people of Texas who gave him a stadium, the Supreme Court, the Military Industrial Complex, enablers all. Wouldn’t it have been different and possibly even effective had Bush appeared sitting a desk, beginning his talk saying he wrote what he was going to say himself? He had a chance to end with a –small–degree of respect but as usual he fumbled it away.

  9. Bill H.

    To Don the American: Bush didn’t care enough to listen to the experts, even those who disagreed with him; he didn’t care enough to educate himself on the issues of the day; he didn’t know enough to realize–even though at his age he should have–that the world’s problems are complex and not given to simplistic, black and white solutions; he didn’t trust the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law; he didn’t trust the American people, and thus found it necessary to lie his way into a needless, murderous war, thereby squandering the worldwide support for this country after 9/11; he jokingly(?) claimed to have “flunked Econ. I” and thus exempted himself from questions at the start of the current financial meltdown. Throughout the early part of the 2000 campaign against Gore, nominee Bush went out of his way to emphasize that he didn’t read books, distrusted long reports, didn’t get into newspapers, etc. In other words, he aimed to mine the deep vein of anti-intellectualism that runs just below the surface of this country. He serves as a great lesson of what we get when we endorse his sort of candidacy. I have no doubt that, as you say, he believes that every thing he did was in our best interests, but I am equally confident that his administration will go down as the absolute nadir of the American experiment.

  10. O-FISH-L

    Bill H., at long last we are about to shed that “deep vein of anti-intellectualism” that has infected the White House these last eight years. Surely, all “57 states, with one to go” will rejoice at the cerebral renaissance led by Obama.

  11. acf

    I don’t think there is any decent but incompetent person behind the curtain in the world of George Bush. He is what he seems to be, an incurious, but not stupid person who is accustomed to having what he wants regardless of the costs or consequences. I didn’t watch his speech, yet another attempt to craft reality. He isn’t worth my time.As far as his quality vis a vis Barack Obama, only an blind ideologue would think him better as a man, and only a right wing partisan would emphasize his middle name of Hussein as they so often do in the hope of linking him with Saddam in the minds of other small thinkers.

  12. Bill H.

    Fish, it can’t be any worse. Generally, I distrust claims of American exceptionalism, but now I’m not so sure. If this country can survive eight years of George W. Bush, we may well be able to survive anything. And Fish, renaissance is not a bad thing.

  13. MeTheSheeple

    I gotta say I honestly don’t know where Obama will take us or how well he will do it.But I am rather excited about having a former ConLaw professor in office. I think anyone who considers themselves a patriot should read Charlie Savage’s “Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency.” Parts of that historical record made me simply want to scream.Economy-wise, we were in awful shape before the implosion, with a deficit already then greatly out of control. I wish I knew what the answer was. -That- said, the economy is pretty much psychological, so it will turn around when people expect it to turn around.

  14. lkcape

    “The Little Man at the Podium” from “The Little Man with the Blog” Come on Dan, you’re not a sophomore in high school any more.

  15. O'Reilly

    I think behind the curtain there is a decent but incompetent person, sadly for him and us, mostly us.-newshound.Finer words…

  16. O'Reilly

    O-FISH-L said… Bill H., at long last we are about to shed that “deep vein of anti-intellectualism” that has infected the White House these last eight years. Surely, all “57 states, with one to go” will rejoice at the cerebral renaissance led by Obama.… a transparently prejudicial statement but not because Obama is black, because Obama is a Democrat. Who is on board with O-FISH-L’s argument that Obama’s pragmatic, anti-ideological, big tent, open dialogue approach has anything in common with Bush’s anti-science, anti-intellectual, ideologically driven, self proclaimed moral arbiter decider approach? Anyone? Anyone?Bush was a massive failure. You’d be well advised to consider why rather than offer the “so is Obama knee-jerk response”. It makes you look stupid.

  17. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. O’Reilly – it is hard to compare Bush and Obama because we have zero specifics to examine vs. Obama’s rhetoric. We DO know he’s already ditched repealing Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, the middle class tax cut, and other campaign talking points in pre-inauguration statements – but the man hasn’t DONE anything – pragmatic or otherwise.

  18. Dan Kennedy

    PP: What the hell are you talking about? A middle-class tax cut is part of the stimulus package. As for “don’t ask, don’t tell,” Fox News reported as recently as Thursday that Obama has reiterated his pledge to repeal it.

  19. Rick in Duxbury

    Excellent discussion, Dan. It would have been a bit more productive however, had it been conducted BEFORE the election. I found it interesting this morning that “Meet the Press” spoke of a post-partisan, more sophisticated America than we have seen in the last 8 years, (followed by an ad for Olbermann’s show about his attempts to try Bush as a war criminal.) “Same as the old boss….”

  20. NewsHound

    FDR told a friend if he succeeded he would be “remembered as America’s greatest President. And if I fail I will be remembered as the last one.”It is hard to predict the future, and how various twists and turns would have affected the past is conjecture, but it most certainly appears we and the new President are in the same situation as were at the Inauguration in 1933.It certainly seems reasonable that we don’t have the cushion to absorb the mistakes in the next administration that have been made in the last eight years.Bush is correct that we as citizens helped it into the trouble we are in with spending and non-saving habits, along with doing our jobs building houses, working as carpenters, plumbers, in manufacturing, trading options, futures, assembling more automobiles than we can afford, allowing executives to get away with being so overpaid it gives the appearance of embezzlement, and for taxpayers to suffer consequences within the last couple of months because the Washington crew – senators, representatives, the President and Secretary of Treasury so carelessly and recklessly disbursed money in the Recovery Act without sufficient regulation and oversight.Many of the hardworking citizens who contributed to this were just doing their job of selling real estate, trading deritivates and manipulating markets teased to tremendous success for the best skilled with extraordinary pay, and bankers who took in deposits and lent out the money only to have our financial system almost completely fall apart. To some extent, isn’t that what they were hired to do? Can you imagine being a builder and not building, or a banker and not lending? Or saving and sacrificing to some extent to maximize the future in a 401K plan only to be let down with a 50% decline in less than a year?Perhaps it isn’t all George Bush’s fault, but we as a society were, for the most part, at least many of us, all doing the jobs we were hired to perform, some if not most of us faithfully and honestly, paying our taxes and educating our children and providing for the unfortunate, volunteering in our community and society, and we have every damned right to feel the way we do right now.

  21. mike_b1

    Bush is basically Rod Blagojevich on a much bigger scale. Anyone who thinks Bush put his own interests and ego aside in order to protect Americans is sadly mistaken. As Woodward and others have documented over the years, Bush in fact believes he is chosen by God to do this work. He believes himself infallible, and that in time the world will recognize his vision.He is, in short, a psychopath. We will all be lucky never to hear from him again.

  22. NewsHound

    George Bush will be a part of American history for a long time or as FDR might say, until time immemorial. His Presidency and Administration will be studied and restudied over and over again.He isn’t the first president, and fearfully not the last, who has demonstrated strange behavior patterns. Many seem to have personality disorders that grow into dysfunctional emotional self-importance and overload resembling that of a nervous breakdown concealed from the public with a huge protective staff. Most try to make the Executive Branch more powerful when maybe we should be thinking in the inverse. A weaker presidency perhaps – – – someone to attend funerals, give talks and calmly read books to little school children.The position seems to be a chaotic, growing nightmare where the person who holds the office has departed from the mainstream of life and becomes horribly isolated from reality living under the extraordinary comfort, plushness and security provided by hard working taxpayers. At least it seems that way looking currently at the current president.Maybe we need someone like Harry Truman again to bring this back to planet Earth. This certainly is Mr. Obama’s time to make many, many welcome changes. It is a time to try to be optimistic and we as a nation and society should be most appreciative if he really does outdistance himself from so many prior Administrations.All of our well compensated politicians have let us down either by oversight, incompetence, reckless disregard, or by accident. We should not be in this big of a mess.

  23. O'Rion

    Can we just dismiss the talk–we’ll hear it this morning– that you have to wait 50 years to determine just how awful he truly was? He sucks, he always will suck, and anyone who says he doesn’t, is delusional or lying.

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