If I had to choose one phrase that sums up the Bush presidency, it would be 'Mission Accomplished'--the symbol of an administration that failed miserably at everything, then insisted that every blunder was a shining achievement. The result is a nation in tatters, a world on fire, a citizenry demoralized and afraid, and a President surrealistically unfazed by it all.
Everybody remembers May 1, 2003, when President Bush landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared victory in Iraq. Now, after 8-years of deadly and destructive blunders, Bush has issued a 50-page, 15.6 megabyte, color, glossy '100 Accomplishments' booklet about himself.
Bush's 'accomplishments' book is the most vulgar, dishonest parting gift ever bequeathed to the American public. There is not one sector of domestic or foreign life that improved during Bush' tenure, while many have been literally and figuratively destroyed. Our foreign policy is in flames, our economy is in the tank, and our government is trapped in a string of useless controversies fueled by right-wing media conglomerates.
In a recent interview about the 'Mission Accomplished' banner, the Bush administration even went to far as to spin the iconic spin. According to Dan Bartlett, the decision to put 'Mission Accomplished' behind Bush on the USS Lincoln was made by the Commander-in-Chief:
Bartlett said the fact that the president didn't "throw us under the bus" for the choice, despite the fact that he didn't have anything to do with the banner, illustrates "why he endears so much loyalty from people like myself and others who had worked for him."
Just to make sure we are all following along with Bartlett's dizzying argument: He is spinning the failure of the spin to spin the spin of the failure of the Iraq invasion. Not surprisingly, the end result of all that spin is Bartlett's pitch for what Bush accomplished in this whole 'Mission Accomplished' affair. Even in the failures within failures, Bush's loyalty to those who failed on his behalf is offered up as evidence of his 'accomplishment.'
After transforming the 'Mission Accomplished' fiasco into evidence of Bush's character achievements, Bartlett then went on to describe Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina as one of the administration's great accomplishments.
The problem with Bush's kind of politics can be summed up in one word: cynicism.
Bush's style of leadership was not something limited to him as a person. His presidency legitimized a whole cynical generation of government workers. Beyond Bartlett, Bush employed and inspired tens of thousands of people at all levels of government to embrace and act on the same basic view of public service. These people believe that no matter how bad a policy and no matter how many lives were desetroyed by a decision, their first priority is to spin the failure into 'accomplishment' in the name of loyalty to chief.
The result is something akin to a 'Mission Accomplished' generation.
When Bush leaves office on Tuesday, he will spend the rest of his life maintaining that all of his failures were in fact accomplishments (tarnished only by a hostile press), and hordes of Bush loyalists and their family members will join him in that Twilight Zone of cynicism and denial.
Laura Bush, Dana Perino, Dan Bartlet, Condi Rice: these are just the public faces of the house that 'Mission Accomplished' built. The rest of the 'Mission Accomplished' generation will fan out across the nation, believing deep in their hearts and forevermore that no leader was more perfect, more humble, and more "decisiver" for the country than George W. Bush.
Just as Reagan's loyalists built him into a myth of epic proportions, Bush's loyalists will likely to the same. Ten years from now, there will be a distasteful number of schools, streets, and airports named after the President who destroyed countless lives by deposing a dictator that members of his own administration had installed decades earlier, and who watched from an airplane window while poor people died in the streets of New Orleans.
What a strange ride the future holds for these people. Mission Accomplished, sweet prince. Mission accomplished.
(cross posted from Frameshop)