Although it was some stunning inside photos of cover girl Cate Blanchett that originally caught my eye while paging through my copy of the mag, what really got my blood to a fast boil was a devastatingly incisive oral history of President George W. Bush’s disastrous reign.
It comes to no surprise to anyone even faintly familiar with my byline that I loathe the Oval Office’s current occupant. When they one day lay me to rest, whoever’s saddled with the task of trying to find something good to say during the eulogy can at least point to the fact that I railed against this cowboy boot-wearin’ bastard from the start. Eight years ago, I climbed on a bus with a bunch of other lefties from Detroit and headed through the snow to D.C. to attend the “Shadow Inauguration” held to protest the swearing in of what we believed to be an illegitimate and dangerous president. But I don’t think any among the thousands gathered could have foreseen just how dangerous Bush the Inferior would become.
Now — except for the 30 percent of the population that’s so high on Jehovah juice they continue to support the born-again Bushter because, despite everything, they keep on believing that he’s their God’s anointed guy — we all know what a true travesty his years in the White House have been
You would certainly expect this kind of venom coming from me. But, thanks to VF journalists Cullen Murphy and Todd S. Purdum, we’re now able to get the perspective of several dozen of those who had an up-close view of this eight-year train wreck, insiders and almost-insiders willing to go on the record with insightful eyewitness accounts of what is certainly the worst presidency in U.S. history.
The stunning 28-page oral history contains remarkably candid observations from top advisers who held places of importance within the administration, congressmen, intelligence analysts, weapons inspectors, highly placed officials from other countries, high-ranking military people and many more.
Offered in bite-sized, mind-bending bits, the comments, one after another after another, hit like so many punches to the gut until you collapse to the mat on bended knees, stricken by the horror and overwhelming tragedy caused by this smirking, chimp-browed cretin.
The piece, titled “Farewell to All That,” begins at the time of the inauguration I’m proud to have protested, with Lawrence Wilkerson, onetime chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell saying about VP Dick Cheney: He became vice president well before George Bush picked him. And he began to manipulate things from that point on, knowing he was going to be able to convince this guy to pick him, knowing that he was then going to be able to wade into the vacuums that existed around George Bush — personality vacuum, character vacuum, details vacuum, experience vacuum.”
Every important low point, it seems, is covered. (For those who don’t subscribe to the magazine, you can read it online at vanityfair.com), Observers of the political scene will be familiar with most, if not all of them. But seeing them pile one on top of another, this dung heap of events emits an odor so sickening it makes you want to puke by the time you get to the finish.
Among the most poignant are comments from former intelligence officer and longtime novelist John Le Carré, who recalls spending two days in a German hotel suite interviewing a German-born Turkish resident arrested in Pakistan after 9/11, “sold by the Pakistanis to the Americans for $3,000, and tortured for five weeks and nearly killed at an interrogation center in Kandahar before being flown in chains to Cuba,” where he spent five years locked away in Guantanamo before mounting pressure forced the release of this man who was never charged with any crime because there was never a shred of evidence linking him to any terrorist activity.
From the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction to the debacle following Hurricane Katrina to the “Mission Accomplished” proclamation to Abu Ghraib to the scuttling of global warming science to the shredding of constitutional protections, the hits just keep on coming, until David Kuo, who served as deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, sums up the Bush II administration with the observation: “It’s kind of like the Tower of Babel. At a certain point in time, God smites hubris. You knew that right around the time people started saying there’s going to be a permanent Republican majority — that God kind of goes, No, I really don’t think so.”
As far as I’m concerned, it’s not very likely there’s any big Daddy in the Sky that had anything to do with this. We as a people allowed it to happen, and we need to accept that responsibility, and that everlasting shame. But at this point, I’d be willing to give thanks to any being, supreme or otherwise, that this all has come to an end
if only that were true. But it’s not over. Not by a long shot. We are going to be paying for this president’s mistakes and lies and ignorance and arrogance for a long, long time.
And even though there may be no great deity that judges us all, here’s my parting words to George Bush as he makes his exit from the White House with economic devastation and untold hardship trailing in his wake and blood smeared on his hands:
God damn you.