A Fond Farewell to Bush - Macleans.ca

A Fond Farewell to Bush

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A (more than slightly tangential) continuation from yesterday’s post

Has it been eight years already? It feels like just yesterday when I was bemoaning the new, anti-intellectual president elect from Texas. Time flies, it seems, when you have a focus for your hatred. But now that Bush, by the time of this printing, will already be gone, to make way for the commencement of a new era, I’ll kind of miss him. He had that rare ability to unite people – even though he was uniting those who opposed him. Yet, if not for him, I would never have marched alongside wild radicals with whom I otherwise have little in common. At the great world-wide protest against the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, I met vegan farmers, girls with rainbow-coloured hair who wore ponchos and moccasins, and extremist Maoists, who called themselves “Spartacists” and advocated a simple, proletarian life for all. Had it not been for the foreign policy of Mr. Bush, I would never have come across these colourful – and eccentric – people. The assumed evil of the Bush Doctrine also gave me hope in the somewhat moribund system of the United Nations. For those of us opposing the Iraq War, the UN was given a hallowed, almost infallible, position – notwithstanding the fact that, through the Oil For Food Program, it had been partly complicit in helping certain states gain great financial benefit from the status quo of Saddam Hussein’s regime. I also found heroic the anti-American actions of countries (France, Russia, Turkey) who otherwise have far from admirable foreign policies. And, finally, I found a certain poignancy in the somewhat maudlin and misleading filmmaking of Michael Moore. For these reasons, I must thank George Bush. It is also necessary to correct certain misconceptions – or, shall we say, misunderestimations. The predominant one is that he was not intelligent. Most of us assumed this, not necessarily from his policies, but rather from his infamous linguistic missteps during speeches. In fact, these laughable proclamations became the primary evidence for disagreeing with his political decisions. We asked: “How can someone who sounds so dumb ever develop smart initiatives?” Yesterday, I referenced the recent BBC compilation of a list of well-known Bushisms. Reading it over, I couldn’t help but feel a certain admiration for the frankness and creativity of his language. After eight years of listening to this man, I’ve developed an ear for his cadence, as well as his somewhat Byzantine message. Here are some of the most beloved utterances of the now-former President, along with some of my own explanations as to their possible meaning: “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” (January, 2000)If we consider “our children” not as the plural of “our child,” but rather as a category unto itself, the noun then becomes singular. In the same way, one could say: “We are asking the right questions in the following domains: war, the environment, our children, social security, etc.” “I understand small business growth. I was one.” (February, 2000)In the business community, many owners often associate themselves as symbiotically connected to the business which they founded. “It’s clearly a budget. It’s got a lot of numbers in it.” (May, 2000)This, I presume, is a joke. Just think, if Obama had said a similar thing (albeit not in these trying economic times) with a characteristically straight-faced delivery, the media would have been rolling in the press room aisles. “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” (September, 2000)A good thing to say in any fishing community. Just think of Harper in the Maritimes. It’s sort of like him saying, “The executive must contemplate the best method to balance the interests of the local fishermen, including the possible need to diversify the economy of the region, as well as supporting a generalized moratorium on cod fishing, since, we must think of generations to come and their likely reliance on the same supply.” “They misunderestimated me.” (November, 2000)He gets a lot of flack for this one. But it’s quite an ingenious neologism: had he simply said “They underestimated me,” the term would be vague and rather clichéd. But by “misunderestimated,” we can understand that his detractors did not merely think little of him, but what little they thought was done for the wrong reasons. Ie. Over eight years, we have not only underestimated Bush, but also misplaced that underestimation by thinking him a simpleton when, in fact, he was – in his own way – a genius. “I think war is a dangerous place.” (May, 2003)Like a great poet, the President combines the tough reality of war with a geographical location (“place”). Is it not true that war must necessarily take place in a place? Lesser minds would overlook this connection. “The ambassador and the general were briefing me on the – the vast majority of Iraqis want to live in a peaceful, free world. And we will find these people and we will bring them to justice.” (October, 2003)This is a simple example of a quote taken out of context. We have a number of characters involved (ambassador, general, the majority of Iraqis and the terrorists). This likely came at the end of a long passage focusing on the terrorists. Thus, even though he has mentioned the majority of Iraqis in the previous sentence, any listener would know that “these people” refers to those mentioned in the central thrust of the speech, the terrorists. “I’m the decider, and I decide what is best.” (April, 2006)A perfect, pithy description of executive power. “You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” (September, 2006)True. I hope this gloss has helped enrich our appreciation of the man who led the world’s most powerful country over the last eight years. Perhaps, for his expansion of English vocabulary and syntax, we owe him our grudging respect. 

Unfortunately, this may pale in comparison to his less-forgivable errors: the cynicism with which he reneged on Kyoto, the stupidity with which, based on dubious intelligence reports, he invaded Iraq, and, worst of all, the way he interpreted a miniscule electoral victory to allow the full-throttle imposition of neo-conservative policies and cabinet personalities. However, it must be added, had the eight years under Bush not been so desperate, Barack Obama may never have galvanized the support necessary to propel him into the Oval Office.

(These thoughts are all my own – well, at least those I don’t share with the the outgoing US President – and certainly don’t necessarily reflect those of my co-authors, Paul Matthews and Andrew Feindel.)