Each day it becomes clearer what a great national shame is the presidency of George W. Bush. Whether it's the illegal, incompetent, dishonest prosecution of the war in Iraq - where a member of the "freely elected government" we're so darned proud of just led a protest of thousands against U.S. presence and regularly incites, if not commits, violence against troops; where the most visible result of the "Surge" has been a suicide bombing inside parliament - or the silly defense of an Attorney General who promotes torture and lies (yes, it's documented: lies) to Congress, it is now undeniable that our country is being led by a soulless, self-adoring crook who cares nothing about average citizens, American history, or the rule of law.
But just when you think he can't go any lower, President Bush always finds a way to outdo himself. Today, in the wake of the incomprehensible slaughter of thirty-three students at Virginia Tech, the president sent out his spokeswoman to - first and foremost - defend the killer.
"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms," said Perino, in the first White House response, adding the utterly meaningless "but that all laws must be followed," thus nipping in the bud any crazy attempt to use this incident to have a discussion about gun rights in the United States.
Well, thank Heavens someone's looking out for the Second Amendment while everyone else is losing their heads.
I teach at a West Coast university which, like many, is somewhat self-contained, its physical loveliness giving a sense - perhaps a false sense - of security, of being separate from the dangers of everyday life. I'm certain that if even one of our students were shot on campus, the school would be gripped in anguish for weeks. If thirty-three students were killed, if our dorms and classrooms were suddenly rendered unsafe, the very fabric of this place would be ripped to shreds, the students and faculty thrown into a deep pit full of questions about our country, our laws, our culture, our way of life - all on top of an unbearable grief for friends, students, and colleagues.
And you, Mr. President, you want to come lecture us about gun rights?
Truly sickening. Maybe the president thought this kind of disgusting knee-jerk right-wing orthodoxy would go down well in Virginia, where gun culture has a strong and historical hold, where the "pry it out of my cold dead hands" line is still a sure crowd-pleaser. But I'm betting it won't. I'm betting that the parents and siblings and partners and teachers of those thirty-three students are appalled by this disgraceful excuse for a national figurehead, whose first instinct in the face of tragedy is - as it has always been - to cover his own political ass.
I'm sure we will hear from them eventually. But it may take a while, because, unlike President Bush, they've got some real and difficult human emotions to work through first. I am so sorry for them, and for everyone at Virginia Tech, for what has happened today, and for the fact that the president of their country is too self-absorbed to have really noticed.