Admit it: You'll secretly miss him. Well, at least if you're among that very special portion of the population who still approves of George W. Bush's governance, even during this eighth year of America's most harrowing reality show.
Of course, the term "reality" is used loosely here, given the propensity for rhetorical embellishment, sometimes known as lying, that got us into this mess. As one top anonymous presidential aide, widely believed to be Karl Rove, told the New York Times, "reality-based communit[ies]" are being left in the dust as "we [the Bush administration] create our own reality."
It could have been different.
On Sept. 12, 2001, newspapers in both France and Italy ran editorials declaring that "we are all Americans." An inspired Bush wasted no time as he convinced America's longstanding allies that they are not, in fact, Americans after all. Faced with the opportunity to create a united front against actual terrorists, he instead used the tragedy as a diversionary excuse to implement the strategies of the Project for a New American Century, a neoconservative think tank whose ranks have included some of his most rabid advisers.
By the time you read this, a new day will be in sight. What follows is a countdown of each day between now and Jan. 20, inauguration day. That's 76 days, and 76 ways to say "Goodbye, George." A big thanks to Mother Jones' "Lie by Lie" Iraq war timeline (motherjones.com), which proved an invaluable resource as we put this together.
Just remember: The darkest hour is always just before the dawn (even though, technically, that's not true). Consider this countdown to the Bush Era's conclusion as the first of what hopefully will be many chances for the "reality-based" community to create its own reality.
6 "They mis-underestimated me." Few among Bush's Bentonville, Ark., audience on this day in 2000 could have imagined how much of a mis-understatement that would be. In the wake of a war based on false premises, a New Orleans "rescue" effort with genocidal overtones, the systematic unraveling of civil liberties and, most recently, the largest economic failure since the Great Depression, those who've lived through the past eight years have come to know better. Today, why not congratulate yourself for actually making it this far?
7 On this day in 2003, naked Abu Ghraib prisoners were stacked into a pyramid and forced to simulate fellatio, and to masturbate. The Bush administration shied from the word "torture" when addressing cases of prisoner abuse such as this. Today, remember that because of the perverse actions of certain military personnel during a war we shouldn't be in, our troops likely face worse treatment if captured.
8 Pick up a copy of Gene Stone's recently released book, The 12-Step Bush Recovery Program. With a subtitle of A Lifesaving Guide to Shaking Off the Last Eight Years, with Practical Advice on Relapse, Remission and Recounts, this 144-page handbook will pair nicely with a bottle of chardonnay or merlot.
9 On this date in 2005, the New York Times reported that the CIA inspector general had warned the agency a year before that some of its interrogation procedures actually might qualify as torture. Today, don't torture anyone. Doesn't that feel good?
10 Exactly seven years ago today, Bush addressed the United Nations at the organization's New York City headquarters, saying the "people of my country" would find the perpetrators of 9/11 and bring them to justice. Spend this day looking for Osama bin Laden. Leave no rock unturned.
11 Today we celebrate the men and women who gave their lives to defend our country. Instead of focusing on Bush, show appreciation for those who fought in our wars. There will be ceremonies around the city today, but the actual Colorado Springs Veterans Day Parade is Saturday, Nov. 8, starting at 10 a.m., going south on Tejon Street.
12 Spend the day calling everybody by the same nicknames Bush was so fond of giving colleagues and foreign dignitaries. Stroll into the office shouting "Heckuva job, Brownie" at everyone you see. Alternative favorites include Nellie, Poppy, Pootie-Poot, Quasimodo, Stretch and Turd Blossom. Reserve this last one for someone who can't get you fired.
13 One year ago today, Bush told a crowd in Indiana, "The decisions we make in Washington have a direct impact on the people in our country, obviously." To commemorate this wise comment, spend the entire day repeating another insightful phrase, this one courtesy of James Carville, 1992 campaign manager for President Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid."
14 On this day in 2005, Bush's approval rating reached its first all-time low of 37 percent. As of October 2008, it had dropped to 25 percent. Take a moment to cheer Bush on toward becoming the "best ever" at something. Only 3 more percentage points, and he'll tie the all-time lowest presidential approval rating: Harry Truman's 22 percent in February 1952.
15 On Nov. 15, 2000, the Florida recount still raged and we still didn't know if our next president would be Bush or Al Gore. Some commentators suggested the eventual winner would be hamstrung by the recount, preventing him from mounting an ambitious partisan agenda. Think about how wrong that turned out to be, and shudder.
16 This weekend would be the perfect time to see Crawford, Texas, for yourself. It's about 800 miles from Colorado Springs, and the one downtown street has the Crawford Country Style gift shop, where you can surely find great clearance deals on Bushy souvenirs such as "Mission Accomplished" coffee mugs or your very own Western White House shit-kicker cowboy boots (original price, $290).
17 Hard to believe it was just seven years ago when Laura Bush told the nation that terrorists were not only a threat to us here, but no fun to be around at home either. Take a moment to think about how nice it was to free Afghani women and children from the oppression of the Taliban. Now little Mohammed is free to fly a kite, without fear of retribution you know, so long as he isn't hit by a stray bullet.
18 Today, be nostalgic and revisit sorryeverybody.com, the Web site that popped up directly after Bush's re-election in 2004. The photo gallery of Americans offering apologies to the international community simply warms the cockles. Peruse it again to relive the sorrow, and ponder if there's anyone else in your life to whom you owe an apology.
19 Over eight years, Bush waged a war on science, letting personal belief and partisanship guide his policies on everything from stem-cell research to climate change. It may not feel like much, but watch the Discovery Channel today.
20 Like Sarah Palin, Bush had questionable foreign-policy experience, even though he couldn't see Cuba from Texas (unless you're talking about Cuba, Texas, a ghost town with a population of approximately zero). Still, on this day in 2004, even Bush admitted to some problems with the vision thing: "We thought we were protected forever from trade policy or terrorist attacks," he said, "because oceans protected us." Today, wonder why Aquaman and Namor the Submariner neglected his calls for assistance.
21 On this date in 2001, according to Bob Woodward's Plan of Attack: "President Bush, after a National Security Council meeting, takes Don Rumsfeld aside, collars him physically, and takes him into a little cubbyhole room and closes the door." Bush wanted to spur Rummy's Iraq war planning. But today, you can dream of what you would say to Rumsfeld if you could collar him physically and take him into a little cubbyhole room. Have fun!
22 Fly to Washington, D.C., and have a beer with the president. After all, the once-popular belief that he's the kind of guy you'd want to sit down and have a beer with was one of the primary qualities voters liked about him. Plus, there's nothing like hoisting a cold one in front of a dry drunk.
23 Read or rent Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. And remember, if Bush hadn't become president, Gore wouldn't have gotten us all talking about the emergency of global warming via PowerPoint. (You'll just have to overlook what Gore might have been able to do if he had moved into the Oval Office.)
24 Write thank-you notes to friends and family who voted for Bush. Tell them how much you've enjoyed losing international credibility over the past eight years, beyond watching the country slide into the shitter, economically and beyond. End letter with, "No, really. Thanks."
25 On this day in 2003, the Senate passed a Bush-backed Medicare bill that set up a prescription drug benefit for older Americans beginning in 2006, but also kept the government from negotiating lower prices for medications, a nice perk for the pharmaceutical companies. To commemorate, pop a pill or two. Generic, of course.
26 Examining a second wave of tax cuts during war time, Bush remarked to his economic advisers in 2002, "Haven't we already given money to rich people? This second tax cut's gonna do it again." Good point, Mr. President. All those who agree say, "Obama."
27 It's Thanksgiving. Six years to the day that Bush tapped Henry Kissinger to head up the 9/11 Commission. Two weeks later, the former secretary of state resigned amid questions about conflict of interest. Today, be thankful no one in the Bush administration carried conflicts of interest into their work. Especially Halliburton executive/U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
28 On this day in 2005, Bush said, "Those who enter the country illegally violate the law." Though no one would argue with that, scores of people remain concerned with our still-porous borders. Just for kicks, see if you can sneak under or over your neighbor's fence without him noticing. Then ponder what you'd do for the hope of living wages, were you lacking.
29 Now that we have seen the error of our ways, we can take this opportunity to educate and inform ourselves for political decisions coming in the future. Around Colorado Springs, many groups congregate to talk government. One suggestion would be the Freethinkers of Colorado Springs (freethinkerscs.com), and a quick Google search would yield other groups to consider.
30 Want to bring our troops home? Not so fast, Bush said in 2006, remarking, "This business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it whatsoever." Not in Iraq, and apparently not in his presidency. If you're of the persuasion, make sure you pray for our troops today.
1 Invite Canadian friends have to share in this fun. Four years ago today, swaggering after his re-election, Bush visited Canada and succeeded in offending his hosts by referring to the then-hot scare about mad-cow disease there, saying, "I proudly ate some Alberta beef last night ... (laughter) ... and I'm still standing."
2 On this date in 2002, Donald Rumsfeld signed a memo approving "counter-resistance techniques to aid in interrogation of detainees" at Guantanamo Bay. It was on this document that Rumsfeld wrote his now-infamous, "I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?" Today, revel in the awesome toughness of our former defense secretary.
3 A year ago today, an American National Intelligence Estimate declared Iran had shut down its controversial, military-run nuclear-weapons program in 2003 despite years of bluster from the Bush administration, insisting Iran was still working on projects that could take us to the brink of "World War III." Allow yourself to hope for less incendiary rhetoric in 2009.
4 Two years ago today (not so long ago), Sarah Palin took over as governor of Alaska, her ticket to fame in this election. She'd have had a much better chance of actually making it to Washington if not for the Bush legacy.
5 It's hard to know how many people were reassured when Bush said this in 2000 in the turbulent weeks before he was inaugurated: "Dick Cheney and I do not want this nation to be in a recession. We want anybody who can find work to be able to find work." Check in on the unemployment rate today.
6 Props to slate.com for identifying this bit of poetry from Rumsfeld at a Dec. 6, 2001, news briefing. Hart Seely titled it "Glass Box."
You know, it's the old glass box at the
At the gas station,
Where you're using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can't find it.
And it's all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
Some of you are probably too young to remember those
Those glass boxes,
But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.
7 On this day in 2006, a reporter asked Bush if he was in denial about Iraq. His response? "It's bad in Iraq. Does that help?" Spend your day in denial, too. Eat the biggest slice of chocolate cake you can find. Screw the gym. Skip your therapy appointment. And then let out a great big laugh, just like Bush.
8 On the 28th anniversary of John Lennon's death, listen to any rendition of his classic "Imagine," and try to imagine what kind of songs Lennon might have composed about the past eight years of W.
9 Today, read (or reread) Fortunate Son, the late author James Hatfield's highly controversial bio of Bush. Watch (or re-watch) Horns and Halos, the documentary on Hatfield and his publisher's efforts to bring the book to print. Ask yourself how far you'd go to expose ugly truths about someone.
10 "I couldn't imagine somebody like Osama bin Laden understanding the joy of Hanukkah." If we had to make an educated guess as to why Bush said this at the White House menorah lighting on Dec. 10, 2001, it probably was to frighten our Islamic voters. Sometimes you really don't know why he says some of the things he does. Maybe deep in his complex network of neurons and circuits he's thinking of nothing more than how itchy his knee is.
11 "How would I know about that?" That was the gist of a Bush statement a year ago today, about destruction of CIA torture tapes. In that spirit, tell your significant other that you have no idea how that porn got on your laptop.
12 On this date eight years ago, the Supreme Court chose Bush as your president. Don a black robe and go around acting like a dictator.
13 Shake your groove thing, bang on some bongos and drop by YouTube to revisit Dubya's African tribal dancing of 2007.
14 On this date in 2007, Bush addressed baseball's steroid scandal, saying in part, "I understand the impact that professional athletes can have on our nation's youth. And I just urge ... those in the public spotlight, particularly athletes, to understand that when they violate their bodies, they're sending a terrible signal to America's young." Today refrain from violating your body in any way.
15 Rarely is the question asked: What the hell was W smoking when he asserted the best way to "find these terrorists who hide in holes is to get people coming forth to describe the location of the hole, is to give clues and data"? To commemorate this 2003 presidential epiphany, go rent a copy of Groundhog Day.
16 Authors Erich Origen and Gan Golan still hope to get some mileage in Bush merchandising with the aptly timed Goodnight Bush, a parody of the children's classic Goodnight Moon, praised by both Laura and W. Buy it as a holiday gift to yourself; maybe it will ease you to sleep with its cheerful closing line: "Goodnight failures everywhere."
17 Let's all sing "Happy Birthday" to MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews (63), who should be in high gear with his Hardball shovel, throwing dirt on top of Bush's political grave.
18 On this date in 2002, Congress passed the No Child Left Behind Act. Today, look to the distant fiery sunset, raise a clenched fist and shout, "Are our children learning!?" Or "Is our children learning?" as Bush himself put it in 2000.
19 Six years ago today, Colin Powell stated to an apprehensive world that "Iraq can no longer be allowed to threaten its people and its region with weapons of mass destruction." Reflect on his endorsement of Obama and allow it to give you hope, that people can change.
20 Pass gas. (Seriously.) On this day in 2000, Bush quipped, "Natural gas is hemispheric. I like to call it hemispheric in nature because it is a product that we can find in our neighborhoods." And he said it without laughing.
21 Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, providing scant hours of sunshine for the good people of Maine and round-the-clock darkness for some Alaska residents. On this darkest of days, it might be a good time to reflect on the Bush administration's failure to take any meaningful step to fight global warming.
22 On this day in 2005, the expiration date for the several surveillance portions of the Patriot Act was extended to Feb. 3, 2006. Then on Feb. 2, 2006, it was again extended, this time to March 10. Remind yourself that something's not indefinite if it's only extended every day.
23 The Bush administration opened 300,000 acres of old-growth timber in Alaska's Tongass National Forest to logging on this date in 2003. In case you're unaware, that's the good stuff and kinda takes a while to rebound. Celebrate Ding Dong's decision by destroying something precious today so you can ponder the true value of nonrenewable commodities. Or just cut down the crabapple tree in your backyard.
24 You're looking for last-minute Christmas presents, and you don't want to fight the mall crowds. Just go to the Liberal Store, 218 W. Colorado Ave. (underneath the elevated street), where you can find great stocking-stuffers such as buttons saying "Impeach Bush, Torture Cheney," "Deception Accomplished" or "Just because he's a lame duck doesn't mean he can't still fuck up the world." To be safe, consider ordering your favorite items in advance at theliberalstore.com.
25 Merry Christmas to all. You deserve a day off! Santa will be sleeping in and it's likely Bush will be as well in Crawford today according to alternet.org, the "vacation president" has clocked in at least 466 days at his ranch during his eight years in office. Oh yeah, and don't forget to say one last happy birthday to Karl Rove, who really was born on Christmas in Denver.
26 Go see Oliver Stone's W., probably at the cheap-flicks Picture Show by now. Keep telling yourself, it's only a movie.
27 Adopt a shelter animal. The Bushes brought four pets into the White House over their eight years. Of course, most of them were pure-breds. And have their own Web sites: see whitehouse.gov/kids/pets.
28 Go to politicalhumor.about.com, and read a compilation of Bush's best (worst) quotes, including this chilling one from December 2000, a month before his first inauguration: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
29 If it hasn't already happened this year, watch for the annual presidential pardons. Last year around this time, in one of his more, uh, forgiving moments, Bush granted pardons to 29 convicts including, as the Associated Press reported, "carjackers, drug dealers, a moonshiner and an election-laws violator." Since his days are numbered, we can be expecting the final word on Bush's friends any time now. Scooter Libby? Dick Cheney and Karl Rove (so what if they haven't been indicted for anything yet)?
30 On Dec. 30, 2002, Mitch Daniels, director of the Office of Management and Budget, told the New York Times that the Iraq war would cost $50 billion to $60 billion. Of course, we've spent at least $8 billion per month in Iraq for the past few years. With that in mind, give yourself a pass on that home-improvement project for which you paid double your contractor's initial quote.
31 In the nearly 3,000 days he's been in office, President Bush has put a damper on many possible New Year's resolutions. Hoping for world peace? Keep right on waiting. Want a functional economy that benefits anyone other than the wealthiest Americans? Not yet. In any case, Bush's remaining days now amount only to about 5 percent of the coming year. So go ahead and allow yourself to dream big today ...
1 Hey Joe the Plumber, are you hiring someone to kick off the new year? Give yourself a break and don't bother checking references. During the first week of 2001, Bush appointed Joe Allbaugh, a campaign aide from Texas, as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And, really, if a guy could run FEMA without any previous experience in disaster management, heck, your new assistant should be able to pass the copy machine test with flying colors.
2 There are 17 days between now and the inauguration, making it a good time to write haiku about the suffering of the past eight years. (If you're rule-oriented, the 17 syllables of a haiku divide up in three lines, 5-7-5.)
how bad will he be?
who could have predicted this?
now springtime, we hope
3 In an attempt to rally the troops six years ago, Bush told our men and women in uniform, "The Iraqi regime is a threat to any American and to threats who are friends of America." Today, take a moment to consider the possibility that America has an axis of evil friends.
4 Everything you need to know, you learned in kindergarten. Just ask the president. Commenting last year on his contributions to the Middle East peace process, he said, "I can press when there needs to be pressed; I can hold hands when there needs to be hold hands." Have graham crackers and apple juice, and reflect.
5 Today, remember it's nice to make friends, especially if it inappropriately benefits you politically. On this day in 2004, Cheney and Justice Antonin Scalia went duck hunting mere weeks after the Supreme Court agreed to hear a case about the vice president's energy task force records. (In a show of true gratitude, Cheney kept his gun pointed at the ducks.)
6 This is tentatively scheduled as the day of the first session of the 111th Congress. Tune in to C-SPAN and catch the gloating from Dems counting the hours, minutes and seconds until the Bush-Cheney farewell. Who knows, Rep. Dennis Kucinich might make one final push for impeachment.
7 Today, visit politicalhumor.about.com/library/images/blbushlordrings.htm. Have a good belly laugh over the Lord of the Rings parody with Bush wearing the ring of power.
8 On the one-year anniversary of the signing of the No Child Left Behind Act, the president decided to impress a room of educators with his own, superior, grasp of the English language, telling them, "One year ago today, the time for excuse-making has come to an end." Today, remember, you graduated from grade school and you don't have to take shit from anyone.
9 As the country geared up for war in Iraq, the Homeland Security Department targeted another frightening enemy: would-be union organizers. Six years ago today, Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration banned 56,000 employees from organizing. Pause to consider the breathtaking scope of the threats to our nation's economic well-being.
10 On Jan. 10, 2003, the Bush administration issued guidelines that could exempt up to 20 million acres of wetlands and streams from protection under the Clean Water Act. Hmmm ... good time to buy a new Brita filter.
11 It's appropriate to have a moment of silence today for the people of Iraq. On this day in 1991, Congress authorized the first President Bush to attack Saddam Hussein's regime, which had invaded Kuwait. But George H.W. Bush's decision not to take Baghdad and topple Saddam certainly inspired his son's pre-emptive war in 2003.
12 On this day in 2008, while addressing U.S. troops at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Bush said: "There is no doubt in my mind when history was written, the final page will say: Victory was achieved by the United States of America for the good of the world." Um-hum. Today, write your own story with a "happily ever after" ending.
13 On today's date in 2003, a State Department intelligence analyst argued that Iraq's uranium purchase agreement the one at the heart of Bush's WMDs argument "was probably a hoax." Keep your own personal antennae up by visiting hoaxbusters.org.
14 In 2001, Bush tried to put fears about California energy problems to rest with the following zinger: "The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants." See how many times you can use the word "power" in one sentence.
15 "Our Constitution makes it clear that people of all races must be treated equally under the law," said the president on this day in 2003 while explaining his administration's battle against the University of Michigan's affirmative action program. Bush made no mention of the strings pulled in order to secure his own Yale admission, let alone the disproportionate number of blacks and poor people in prisons. Or the fact that Trent Lott, just one month earlier, publicly expressed his regret over the failure of Strom Thurmond's segregationist bid for the presidency. Check out Dennis Prager's recent argument that equality is not an American value (youtube.com/watch?v=Ck-B30UlVH4) to get some perspective on what seems to be the right wing's actual agenda.
16 On this day, in 1991, President George H.W. Bush unleashed Operation Desert Storm. The Gulf War ended a little over a month later. A little over a month. Over. Done with. Take a moment to estimate how long we've been in Iraq this time. Go ahead. Take your time.
17 If you don't laugh, you might cry. Choose the former. Increase your endorphins. Exercise your diaphragm. Scoff at stress. Tell your favorite Bush joke. One-liners are easy to remember. Try: "They call him 'W' ... so he can spell it." Three days and counting.
18 "You are not the boss of me," sang They Might Be Giants in the theme song to the Malcolm in the Middle series, which first aired on Jan. 9, 2000. A year later, a Geneva Convention-defying W wanted "everybody to hear loud and clear that I'm going to be the president of everybody." Celebrate the long-awaited departure by playing They Might Be Giants' song on YouTube while singing along.
19 One day to go! You can make it! Do four lines of coke, booze it up, fail miserably at something, then declare, "Mission accomplished!"
20 If you're a Democrat, chill the champagne. If you're a Republican, haul out the whiskey. Watch and imbibe gleefully or glumly as the day begins with Barack and Michelle Obama going to the White House and meeting with George W and Laura. And stay tuned as the Bushes watch Barack Obama and Joe Biden take their oaths of office.