We have some fine political writers in Alabama, and Kyle Whitmire is one of the best. The Birmingham Weekly is consistently good, but some weeks just shine. Kyle’s essay on the disasters of the past six years should be required reading for anyone who’s still undecided about how to vote next Tuesday. I’ll excerpt here, but read the whole thing.
Aside from a few snide remarks here and there, I’ve refrained the last couple of years from doing any serious Bush-bashing. I figured the supply had met the demand. Apparently, I was wrong.
Republicans may lament that the president’s approval rating has slipped to less than a third of Americans, but it is equally inexplicable to me that so many still believe Dubya is doing a heck of a job. I want it on the record for posterity: I thought the man was an idiot from the get-go.
There was a time, years ago, when I thought Bush the junior would rightfully be a strong contender for the presidency. That was about 1999, when the he was still a relatively unknown governor from Texas. He looked like his dad, whom I’d respected, and some of his public pronouncements seemed respectably centrist.
But then a friend directed me to a profile, published in the now-defunct Talk magazine, where the president cussed more than Samuel Jackson and showed an unseemly nonchalance toward what we now call the sanctity of human life. The interviewer, Tucker Carlson, asked Bush what he thought the Texas killer Karla Faye Tucker would have said to him in her final hours on death row. The next president of the United States pursed his lips and whined a mock plea: “Please don’t kill me.”
He had but one life there in his hands, and regardless of anyone’s opinions of the death penalty, that burden should be met with intelligence and maturity. Instead, he showed the bravado of a frat row cowboy. In retrospect, that moment was a window into our future.
Indeed it was. Too bad more of us didn’t pay attention at the time. Instead, many of us listened to the spin and heard what we wanted to hear.
So how did we get into this mess? A friend said to me recently that Alabama should change its motto from “We dare defend our rights” to “Alabama: We will not be told.” If only such a creed could be limited to our state.
And what do we do now? Those of us who opposed Bush from the beginning, those who have come to their senses over the past six years, and those who still cling to the illusion that Bush is a good man who has our best interest at heart are all packed into the same boat, heading with all deliberate speed toward a waterfall. We don’t know if it will be a minor bump along the path of democracy or a catastrophic drop into chaos or dictatorship.
I’m sure some people are going to say that I hate America for even thinking any of this, but I’m not certain what America even means any more. In the long view of things, perhaps the Bush Administration has been a sort of IQ test. If you were among the few who doubted him early in his term, you pass. If you still have a “W the President” bumper sticker on your car, then you’re with stupid. It’s a cold comfort that history might prefer my point of view. But a smug sense of superiority is a sorry consolation prize, if the cost is everything else.