Friday, May 22, 2009


While Dick Cheney, a man who never had (and never will have) Barack Obama's job (and who doesn't have any job at all anymore) has been elevated to the status of Obama's rival, the man who did have Obama's job, and who was (ostensibly) Obama's new rival's boss, also gave a speech yesterday -- and the speech did not get front-page headlines.

For obvious reasons:

ARTESIA, N.M. -- It was a humbling moment for the former commander in chief: President George W. Bush was walking former first dog Barney in his new Dallas neighborhood when it stopped in a neighbor's yard for relief.

"And there I was, former president of the United States of America, with a plastic bag on my hand," he told a group of graduating high school students in New Mexico on Thursday. "Life is returning back to normal."

The speaking appearance was at Artesia High School, near Roswell, New Mexico. Bush spoke at a ceremony for recipients of scholarship money from an oilman's foundation.

Yup -- while Obama and Cheney were talking about life and death and terrorism, Bush was talking about dog crap.

Then again, maybe that's appropriate. It's increasingly obvious from Cheney's public pronouncements that Bush wasn't really president when he was president.

(The nuanced version of that is that Bush wasn't really president for some of the time when he was president. On Keith Olbermann's show last night, Lawrence Wilkerson said of Cheney, "I think the speech he gave today indicated clearly to me who was the president of the United States from 2001 to 2005" -- not 2009, although he didn't say who he thought was president after '05. David Brooks says today that we had a "Bush-Cheney period" until about 2005, but then "Cheney lost to Bush" -- "Gradually, in fits and starts, a series of Bush administration officials -- including Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Jack Goldsmith and John Bellinger -- tried to rein in the excesses of the Bush-Cheney period." Presumably, though, that 2005 end date was just in certain areas of policy; Robert Draper's recent GQ article makes clear that, at Defense, Donald Rumsfeld pretty much did whatever the hell he wanted well into 2006, on issues both foreign and domestic.)

In any case, it occurs to me that certain Republicans undermined, and declared illegitimate, everyone we've elected president in the past generation. They abandoned Poppy Bush, particularly in the run-up to the '92 election. They fought mercilessly to delegitimize, disempower, and ultimately dislodge Clinton, although they fell short of that final goal. Then they undermined both winners in 2000 -- first they manipulated the electoral process to ensure a sleazy Bush victory, then Cheney seized the reins from Bush and ran the place. (In that case, the president's loss of power appears to have been voluntary.) And now they're trying to strangle the Obama presidency in its crib -- and I have very little confidence that anyone's going to get their hands off its neck in time.

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