President Bush walks away from the podium after addressing the nation for the last time. (Photo: Reuters)
I don't think there's a punch-line scheduled, is there?
- Monty Python
Two separate miracles were visited upon the Earth on Thursday.
In the afternoon, an Airbus filled with more than 150 people took off from La Guardia Airport in New York. Ten minutes later, it was floating down the Hudson River with its passengers standing on the wings and huddled against the arctic cold. It seems a flock of geese hit two of the engines like ballistic feather pillows, and suddenly pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger found himself at the stick of a multi-ton paperweight.
Somehow, Sullenberger managed to bring the plane down on the water like a stone skipped by God Herself, and finally landed it on the surface without damaging the fuselage. Harbor boats came boiling out of docks to aid in the rescue and every single living soul on that plane survived.
The second miracle happened later that evening, when George W. Bush went on television to deliver the last major address of his time in the White House. Like it says in Psalms, this is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Of course, of course, of course, it was a ridiculous speech. Preposterous. The worst one of all, and boy howdy, that is saying something. This, after all, was the man who gave us "Bring it on" and "Mission Accomplished," and who once was unable to think of any mistakes he might have made. Each of these was a legitimate phenomenon in every respect, to be sure, but the spectacle on Thursday night bent the definition of "absurd" into bold new shapes.
Let's take it from the top.
Fellow citizens: For eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your president. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence - a time set apart. Tonight, with a thankful heart, I have asked for a final opportunity to share some thoughts on the journey we have traveled together and the future of our nation.
Translation: I like turtles.
This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house - September 11, 2001.
For the record, he went through exactly 240 words before bringing up 9/11.
Over the past seven years, a new Department of Homeland Security [DHS] has been created. The military, the intelligence community and the FBI have been transformed. Our nation is equipped with new tools to monitor the terrorists' movements, freeze their finances and break up their plots. And with strong allies at our side, we have taken the fight to the terrorists and those who support them.
Where to begin?
The DHS is a hopelessly scrambled and hyper-politicized debacle. The military has been transformed into a shadow of its former self. The intelligence community is battered and discombobulated. The FBI works for a Justice Department that belongs in the script for a screwball comedy. The new tools include torture and indefinite detention, which don't work and are against the law. The only real ally we have left is Saudi Arabia, birthing bed of al-Qaeda-style Wahabbist terrorism. File this whole paragraph under "FAIL."
Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al-Qaeda and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.
Afghanistan is a disaster we are about to pour even more troops into. The Taliban is umbilically connected to officials in Pakistan and can roam freely across the border. Casualty rates among US soldiers have nearly doubled in the last two years, and the poppy fields are doing just fine, thank you. As for that last bit, it kind of fits perfectly; after all, what would a massive, catastrophic economic downturn be without lots of really good smack?
As for Iraq, well, enough has been written about that galloping calamity to blow the roof off the Library of Congress. Let's just say the "Arab democracy" he boasted of is being run by the same two groups that killed 241 American service members when they bombed the marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. These two groups, Dawa and SCIRI, by the by, are both part of the Iranian power structure. Essentially, Tehran now owns Iraq, and that's a good thing ... right?
This next bit might be the best part:
There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results.
The mind simply boggles.
I have confidence in the promise of America because I know the character of our people. This is a Nation that inspires immigrants to risk everything for the dream of freedom. This is a Nation where citizens show calm in times of danger and compassion in the face of suffering. We see examples of America's character all around us. And Laura and I have invited some of them to join us in the White House this evening.
Can you believe it? The man could not face his final audience with the American people on his own two feet, needing once again to use people as props to hold himself up and hide himself behind. He actually used the "Distinguished Guests" trick that has become a common occurrence at State of the Union addresses.
Bush had the gall to smile down on a man from New Orleans, who had heroically worked to dig out from his city-annihilating failures during Katrina. He had the gall to smile down on a soldier, who suffered the torments of Iraq duty because of him. He had the gall to smile down on a man whose son was killed in Iraq. He had the gall. It was astonishing.
And so, my fellow Americans, for the final time: Good night. May God bless this house and our next president. And may God bless you and our wonderful country.
Sentiment expressed in one form or another by almost every American at the end of this last sentence: Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.
It's over. It really is over.