George W. Bush gave his final press conference yesterday. Since he set the record for fewest press conferences since the arrival of television during his 8 year run as the Worst President Ever, any time King George deigned to talk to the free press that was reason enough to pay attention. But yesterday's performance may be remembered as one of the oddest public appearances by any U.S. President. In terms of sheer un-presidential-ness it might be right up there with Richard Nixon's rambling good bye to his staff. W sounded like just what he was: a man supremely unqualified to be president.
I've written before about how W accepts no blame for anything that's happened during his presidency. But yesterday, as if to answer critics who have decried his lack of a responsibility gene, W actually said there were some things he might do differently. Was it the use of torture? Blasting away at the Bill of Rights and Constitution? The horrendous and unneccessary loss of life in Iraq? 'Course not. No regrets about policy decisions. What he does regret is not having better public relations, or as he said yesterday: "Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake."
In W's world, everything he did was right. He just didn't do a good job with the marketing.
War in Iraq? Fine, except for one thing: "Clearly putting a "Mission Accomplished" on a aircraft carrier was a mistake."
Hurricane Katrina response? Brilliant, except maybe one thing: "I've thought long and hard about Katrina -- you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge."
But in all fairness, W also let on that he had a few disappointments: "There have been disappointments. Abu Ghraib obviously was a huge disappointment during the presidency. Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment."
A disappointment. The man actually said Abu Ghraib was a disappointment. As Tom Wolfe once observed, it gets harder and harder to write satire when real life is stranger than fiction.
I won't go into the details of the entire press conference; pundits and reporters have analyzed it fully, including Keith Olbermann. But here's one point I didn't hear anyone make: what we saw yesterday, that was the real George W. Bush. Karl Rove is long gone, his press secretary is looking for a job, all his handlers have moved out and moved on. With no one there to tell him what to do and what to say, the man who faced the cameras yesterday was the real man.
So I'd like to ask everyone who elected the guy as your leader, particularly those of you who voted for him twice, I'd like to ask you to watch the video of yesterday's press conference and then tell me something: Do you like what you saw? Are you proud you elected that guy? If the answer is no then take heed. Remember that you were sold a fake, a man who had no business being president. Remember what was done to manipulate you. From the tough-guy rancher in Crawford to the claims of compassionate conservatism to the stage-prop turkey he pretended to serve troops on Thanksgiving, it was all a fake, a show, a lie. And you, voter who pulled the leaver or punched the chad or put an x on a paper ballot next to the name George W. Bush, you bought it. You were manipulated. I fervently hope that makes you angry, and I hope you remember that anger.
In all of W's last press conference yesterday, I saw one moment of possibly unintentional but absolute truth. He compared his presidency to a performance: "When I get out of here, I'm getting off the stage. I believe there ought to be, you know, one person in the klieg lights at a time. I've had my time in the klieg lights."
For once I agree. W, it's high time you get off the stage. The final curtain is ready to fall on your sham of a presidency. For millions of Americans, it can't come soon enough.