On April 25 -- Thursday evening -- American icon and humble hero George W. Bush took one small step for man, one slip-and-fall for humanity as he reentered a spotlight, until recently blissful to have been abandoned by him, for the dedication of his presidential library. Put aside for the moment that having an actual structure that houses things you read dedicated to him is like honoring Chris Christie with a gluten-free restaurant or naming a Bar Mitzvah after Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Hell, I half expected him to don his trusty flight suit and declare "all major combat operations over in Iraq,", you know just for the memories.
But really, he did not have to do anything of the sort. For it was perfect timing for the My Pet Goat Athenaeum to emerge from the steamy Sun Belt hydrofluorocarbons just as one disaster after another befell the country, a helpful reminder of the eight torturous (in more ways than one) years he and his corrupted West Texas ideology made the rest of the United States resemble, well, West, Texas.
From the explosion at the fertilizer plant due to flagrant flouting of environmental regulations to the attack in Boston, the rejection of commonsense gun safety to the square dance around sequestration, this was shaping up to be a Bush Legacy week whether he stayed home to paint nude portraits of Jeb or chose to step out and try to defend a presidency many Americans must be still convinced was just one long phantasm brought on by a bad batch of peyote.
Michael Lind points out in Made In Texas that we have had conservative presidents over the past century and southern presidents. We have not had the combination. And it is an important distinction. As Lind put it in an interview with BuzzFlash (2002), "His [Bush's] political values -- ranging from aggressive militarism in foreign policy to small-government ideology and fervent support for laissez-faire economics" have come to define much of our political culture in Washington -- hence last week.
First, we had the attack on the Boston Marathon two weeks ago, and just about everything involved had Bush's West Texas political culture written all over it. Because of the NRA, which "worked out of his White House," there is no way to track where gun powder was bought as there is with plastic explosives. Because... freedom! (And defense contractor profits!).
There was the fact that these two clowns allegedly committed these atrocities because of anger over Iraq -- for which I hope the younger brother (I refuse to give them attention by using their names) spends a nice, long, pain-enveloped life carving rocks into chess pieces at Shawshank. Ahh yes, Iraq. Remember that war? The one that George W Bush lied us into with tales of yellowcake and "curveball" that has now cost up to about $2 trillion?
It is because of this war, unpaid for tax cuts and Big Pharma boondoggles that we apparently have to eliminate Medicare, according to the Pied Piper of granny starving, Congressman and former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan. But let us eliminate, post haste, the part of our silly self-created "sequestration" -- flight delays! -- that causes inconveniences to wealthy members of the Congress on their way to the next Ladybank-single-malt-festooned, campaign contributor bribe-fests.
We were also recently treated to the West Texas answer to allowing weapons of war on our streets to blow apart toddlers in schools. Nothing. Unless you count Congress' finding ways to allow itself to insider trade again. Because... freedom!
Finally, there is the tragedy in West, Texas. A fertilizer plant explosion near Waco (just like the Crawford pseudo-ranch!) that engulfed the neighbourhood, due to an understaffed and barely functioning Chemical Safety Board (by Congressional design), a lack of common-sense zoning requirements and the no-follow-ups rule we like to impose on the Environmental Protection Agency when they find that a plant like say, this one, had no risk management plan in 2006. But hey, the plant self-reported (is that like self-deporting?) that it posed "no risk" of fire, and why would they lie?
You may remember that a certain convict-Congressman named Tom DeLay -- of West Texas -- compared the EPA to the "Gestapo," and current lunkhead Texas Governor Rick Perry attacks the very same EPA for its "misguided and job-killing policies", as opposed to his people-killing ones. And then there is, once again, George W Bush. The Decider decided as president that, as dictated by his West Texas ideology, he would assault the EPA by any means necessary, short of naming the former Arabian Horse Association guy to run it (he saved that for FEMA... phew!).
So, in a way, it was fitting to see the George W Bush library opening this past week. It is his West Texas world. We are just stuck living in it.
This syndicated column first appeared at Al Jazeera English