Reflections on Bush’s Farewell Address

Throughout the speech, I could feel Bush’s sense of relief.  It was easy to picture him leaving the White House, walking outside, stretching his arms wide and taking the deepest breath of his life.

Bush’s speech shows an acute awareness of his lack of popularity.  Through most of the speech, he acknowledged that there were people that disagreed with him, but that he was certain of his beliefs.  At one point in the middle of the speech, there was a tip of the hat to conservatives, with mentions of faith-based programs, protection of “vulnerable human life” and the appointments of Supreme Court Justices Alito and Roberts.  After that, he went back to making the speech as broad as possible, including giving time to the stories of people that he found inspirational, including the creator of a post-Katrina New Orleans charter school, an ex-con that runs a faith-based program and a soldier.
Some thoughts of mine as the speech went on.
  • As much as I disagree with the idea that Bush stole the 2000 election, he wasn’t elected by the majority of people, so I find it a bit ironic that he cites Obama as someone that was.
  • Intriguing that the first time he addressed the American public from the White House was on September 11th, 2001.
  • The rosy picture of Afghanistan is a bit premature, given the fact that the Taliban isn’t eradicated and even controls areas close to Kabul, the capital.
  • As of now, his picture of Iraq is accurate.
  • There is something to be said for the fact that there hasn’t been a major terrorist attack since 2001.  And if you can blame him for any amount of decisions made under him, it is also reasonable to give Bush some amount of credit for the successes, as well.
  • Different countries have different ideas of freedom.  While there are many benefits, both political and humanitarian, by helping worldwide victims of HIV/AIDS and malaria, there is a danger in assuming that we know too much about what is best for those in other countries.
  • In regard to America not deserving to be a target of terrorism, you can approach it two ways.  From the left side of the argument, you can say that by meddling in places that we didn’t belong, that put us in the forefront.  On the other side, you can say that by doing what is right, promoting freedom abroad and living our high quality of life at home, we became a target for the hatred, jealousy and rage of others.
  • Bush makes the point that “murdering the innocent to advance an ideology” is “every time, everywhere” and that “freeing people from oppression and despair” is “eternally right”.  In the end, though, people that are injured or killed in wars are still hurt or dead.

I also hope that anyone who watched the address wasn’t cynical enough to lose the message of the 60-year-old doctor who joined the Navy Medical Corps after his son had died in service.

In the end, it seems like Bush was only phased in the way that he wanted to be, by the stories of others.  He made no indication that the opinions of others had changed the way he had seen himself of his presidency.  I don’t think anyone, from either side of the aisle, should be surprised about that.

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