The real legacy of Bush's presidency will not be the horrific events of 9-11 that united a nation or his preemptive doctrine and the reinvasion of Iraq that followed. Nor will it be his call to compassionate conservatism and the mobilization of the Christian Right for political gain.
If MoveOn's 4.2 million members are any indication, his most lasting contribution to the country he loves will be a progressive wave of activists who were compelled, and led by duty and conscience to embrace the political process.
And it's not just the record youth vote that took one giant step forward for democracy. Even John McCain had a mantra of change on his lips during the final throes of his bid for the presidency. Despite voting with his own party-in-chief 95% of the time.
"It's the economy, stupid."
I guess some sons don't learn the lessons of their fathers. The same recession that helped unseat George H.W. Bush in 1991, came back to bite the proverbial prince, except this time the fall was much much worse. Not even the shame of torture in America could dethrone the lies of an administration bent on expanding the power of the executive branch, toppling sovereign nations under the revisionist premise of spreading democracy, or sponsoring a secret government wiretap program which meant quite a bit more government (ahem, not less in your private lives.) And if that weren't enough change for the conservative in you, how about a return to deficit spending to the tune of $482 billion?
Need I remind us all that this is the same president who proposed gambling social security by privatizing it on Wall Street, which has now completely collapsed in the worst depression since the Great Crash of '29. If this is conservatism, it has certainly moved a smidgen from the right.
W, as we all know he is affectionately called, changed a lot more than we were promised in the campaign speeches. I will give Bush one credit though. He did not follow through on his promise to eliminate bureaucracy and make government smaller and more efficient. No big changes there! How about adding a whole new Department of Homeland Security just for starters?
Okay, okay, even the harshest critic has got to give the guy a break on that one because, well, the CIA and the FBI weren't talking to each other, right? Sort of like one of those family rifts where they were a bit estranged? And while that drama was playing out, someone missed that little office memo about "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
So, that one's a freebie. But I do feel a bit sorry for the guy as he bids his adieu. I like a happy ending as much as the next politico. I'd love to believe that he really did prevent another terrorist attack in the U.S during the following seven years in office. Except that the same piece of intelligence that warned us prior to 9-11 and was ignored also stated that Bin Laden "prepares operations years in advance and is not deterred by setbacks." Indeed, the Bush legacy will be fully written by the wisdom of time. I hope and pray W is right on this count. Oh God I do.
So what is the granddaughter of a sweet NRA-loving, Fox-watching family in Ohio to do? Throw away her flag pin and refuse to say the pledge of allegiance?
More like join the Internet revolution! You too can change your country with the click of a mouse. For only $19.95 a month (or whatever your Internet provider charges.)
A small pittance when you think of our first Commander in Chief of the Continental Army crossing the Delaware in freezing temperatures. I can snuggle in my blanket and click click click my way to Washington. Yes we can!
Who knew being a liberal was so easy? I don't even have to chain myself to my neighbor's fence with the McCain-Palin sign on it. I can write President Bush an email directly! And plead with him to keep his promise for peace, not war. Military might, not missionary muscle. And when that fails, I can send petitions to my senators and congressmen and women. I can ask my friends to sign too. And well, the next thing I know I'm emailing everyone in my address book — near strangers and family alike —to vote their conscience, to not waste their precious power to set things right. To vote for John Kerry!
Except he lost. And Bush was reelected to spend some capital, political and otherwise.
A thousand points of light is really more what happens when millions of unhappy people sit in front of their computer screens and do something different. Change things. Little ones at first. But soon those little changes become bigger victories.
Had I known then that W.'s failings would lead us to the first African-American president, the lives of innocent civilians and brave soldiers a small price for the advancement of mankind, Bush, a mere catalyst for the change to come. A reawakening of our republic to see we shall overcome!
Obama may have become the change we can believe in. But the change had already happened inside me.