Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Manchurian president

For the last hour, cheers of joy have been erupting throughout Brooklyn. I hear fireworks in the distance. Our president-elect has begun to speak, and we are enjoying his speech--on Fox News, whose commentators have been struck dumb at the utter collapse of the Republican party tonight. Let us toast to the architect of its destruction. I speak not of Barack Obama but the current occupant of the White House, George W. Bush, who has overseen a dismantling of his brethren so thorough and complete he might be mistaken for an agent of the Democrats.

Unless you've been to the movies recently, you haven't seen much of the decider-in-chief. I basically stopped paying attention to him after the Katrina disaster three years ago. I laugh, then cringe, when David Letterman uses his latest malapropism as the punchline to his great moments in presidential history bit, following the profundities of a Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson. I did not, could not, vote for him. I had to learn to live with the constant embarrassment he represented, as if my country had a chronic gas condition I would rather not talk about. It was a long haul over the last eight years, and the notion of having to put up with four years of Bush-in-drag, Sarah Palin, was too much to bear. The party of Lincoln had lost its mind and the psychosis promised to go national. (John McCain, old, sputtering, a good American enfeebled by partisanship, would sooner rather than later have been a non-person in his own presidency, overrun by events and the radical rightists he invited, vampire-like, into the race, much as the spineless Bush ceded his authority to the dread Dick Cheney.)

But it didn't happen. It all came down to one word: Coattails. Bush left none. And in leaving none, he rendered his party irrelevant. Yes, the Fox fraternity will find its voice, and will likely coalesce around Palin, till even they realize she is a hopeless case, one whose every utterance empowers and mobilizes the opposition. How different it might have been had McCain picked Romney, a stable ticket that might have endured the economic meltdown. But Bush forced the alleged maverick into Palin's caribou embrace. With the party fraying badly over the ruinous Iraq campaign, a host of nagging domestic issues requiring innovation rather than platitudes, and the various presidential missteps, the "base" is basically the fearful, fear-mongering evangelicals, who see this multicultural country--one finally governed by a member of a minority, one that will be non-white in my infant daughter's lifetime--as one big Alaska, waiting for the rapture.

Change will not come quickly, or easily, Socially, the paleo-Palins stlll hold sway on divisive issues. Our president-elect has his hands tied by Bush's errors and the venality of his administration. We all do. But Bush's poor example served as a true catalyst for change. He says he is content to let history judge him, so let the record show that he paved the way for the historic moment that the entire world is rejoicing in, after the understandable dismay fellow nations felt over our conduct post-9/11. Thank you, President George W. Bush: Mission accomplished.

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