The long goodbye

Published: Sunday, January 18, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.

You have to love the delicious irony of it. Let us savor the sweet symbolism.

Of that plane landing safely in the Hudson River. Not far from where the Twin Towers came down.

A miracle, everybody called it.

The heroic pilot who brought his wounded craft back to earth intact.

The passengers possessed of calm and courage. Solicitous of one another as they helped each other from the floundering aircraft to await rescue on wings awash in the icy river.

As though they were standing on water.

Small boats arriving in the nick of time.

No deaths. No serious injuries.

It was as though God was trying to tell us something.

It’s going to be OK, America. Where there’s life there’s hope.

See, it’s floating right there.

Right next to where so much and so many went up in flame and smoke seven years ago.

CNN covered the amazing story right up until the very second it was obliged to cut away.

To air George W. Bush’s farewell address.

The President didn’t mention the miracle on the Hudson.

It wasn’t in the script.

His handlers had already sprinkled their own selection of heroes amid the small crowd assembled in the East Room to render the appropriate display of adulation for the departing chief.

“Fellow citizens, for eight years it has been my pleasure to serve as your president,” he smirked.

I’ll give him this. As adieus go, his was short, if not necessarily sweet.

But this has been a very long goodbye. I don’t know about you, but it seemed like the longest eight years of my life.

Anyway, there are only a couple of days left. So I’m just going to come out and say it.

I don’t like W.

Call me a Bush hater if you want. I’ve been called worse.

Heck, somebody once called me a ’Nole. Now that really hurt.

And yeah, it’s personal.

I personally don’t like what Bush has done to my country.

Or, more precisely, what he hasn’t done for my country.

It’s not even because of Iraq. Listen, presidents have been blundering into foolish and unnecessary wars since the dawn of the Republic.

Ditto Bush’s assault on the Constitution. The Constitution always survives the excesses of tin-pot chief execs.

No, if you want to know why I don’t like Bush, consider the two whoppers he told during his short, sweet, farewell address.

Here’s the bigger one:

“You may not agree with some of the tough decisions I have made, but I hope you will agree that I was willing to make the tough decisions.”

Not even close, pal.

War is easy. Changing the way America lives in the face of hard new geopolitical and economic realities is tough.

And Bush didn’t even try.

Here’s the other whopper.

After 9-11, W. said, “most Americans were able to return to life as it had been before …But I never did.”

Oh, please.

It was business as usual in the D.C. swamp after 9-11. Tax cuts all around. The K Street lobbyists running amok. Deficit spending from here till the cows come home. The politics of pandering.

So what exactly changed?

Bush never got it. He demonstrated that when he insisted in his farewell address that the terrorism remains the “greatest threat” to America.

Terrorism isn’t so much a threat as a symptom. A symptom of our continuing addiction to Mideast oil. We’re terrorism’s paymasters. We pay them by the gallon. Never forget that most of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudis, not Iraqis.

Consider the opportunity W. squandered. He could have changed America’s destiny.

They said only Nixon, the old cold warrior, could have gone to China.

Likewise, Bush the oil man could have gone green.

Leveled with the country. Weened us away from fossil fuels. Launched a crash program in energy conservation and alternative fuel development. Imposed emission caps and a carbon tax to pay for it all.

Changed the way America lives. For America’s sake.

What’s that you say? If he had done all that the economy would be in ruins?

Look around, pal. It is.

Instead, Bush locked the scientists up in the basement. And he made the Interior Department a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Oil. And he pretended that if we would just drill here at home so we wouldn’t have to drill over there everything would be fine and dandy.

No, I didn’t think much of Bush’s goodbye to America. It was a lame, last ditch attempt to patch up the legacy thing.

But the day before, I went downtown to listen to Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan deliver her annual State of the City Address. And it made me ache for what might have been.

She said: “We continue to set ambitious energy efficiency goals — just one strategy the City of Gainesville is implementing to help us meet the international goals for carbon reduction set by the Kyoto protocols, which call for reducing carbon to below 1990 levels.

“Based on the current strategies, we will meet the Kyoto target by 2013.”

Oh yeah, and she bragged about the city’s innovative solar power initiatives.

“In early February, we are hosting a delegation from Germany that wishes to explore solar business and investment opportunities here in Gainesville.

What if a thousand American cities had followed Gainesville’s path, under the direction of a Bush Administration absolutely committed to a new energy paradigm? Where might we be today?

But Bush ran from Kyoto like a scared rabbit. It wasn’t in the script.

I have no idea what kind of a president Barack Obama will be. A good one, I hope.

But I have a sense that Mr. Potatohead could have sat in the White House these past eight years and gotten better results.

So call me a Bush basher. I can live with that.

Ron Cunningham is editorial page editor of The Sun. He can be reached at, or at 352-374-5075. Read his blog, Under The Sun, at

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