Okay, not only did I watch Bush's final press conference but I watched in its entirety. All 46 minutes and 42 seconds of it. I was hoping it would make me nostalgic or sympathetic to him but no. He's so contradictory - telling the press that he "respects what you do" after actively shutting them out for the last 8 years.
George was his usual defensive, petulant self with very few regrets. Instigating an entire war by invading a country that had nothing to do with 9-11? Nope, that one doesn't cross his mind. Ignoring the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina until it became a national tragedy and a worldwide embarrassment? Nope, that's not what he regrets. It's PR blunders ("Mission Accomplished") and campaign missteps. ("I should've campaigned on immigration reform instead of social security in 2004.")
Still, he seems to be a tad haunted by Katrina, despite jamming his finger into the podium declaring otherwise. (When his eye narrow and get beadier than usual, a Dubya tantrum is imminent.) More than the Iraq war, it seem to be the topic that knocks him off balance.
In a move that nearly gave me whiplash, he jumped from angrily defending the Federal response to Katrina to turning all squishy over the historical significance of Obama's election. He even admitted to being affected by media reports - something he has vehemently denied:
"Look, I was affected by the TV ... When I saw people saying, 'I never thought I would see the day that a black person would be elected President' and a lot of people had tears streaming down their cheeks when they said it ... I consider myself fortunate to have a front row seat to what is going to be an historic moment for the country."
It's as if he was trying to speak directly to Kanye West and assure him that he really, really does like black people.
My favorite quotes, many are contenders for Understatement of the Century:
"Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake."
"Not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment. I don't know if you want to call those mistakes or not but ... things didn't go according to plan, let's put it that way."
Also, I love him calling pilots "helicopter drivers."
Anyway, as my friend, Mat, said recently: "Pfffft. I have no hate left. I ran out of it around 2005, just when all the people that voted for him started to wake up."
Agreed. Just when I'd run out of steam to argue with my usual, "The Emperor has no clothes! I'm tellin' ya!", I started not to care as much. Then, most of the W fans woke up and a second shift came in with fresh anger.
Which reminds me, you must read this brief article in Vanity Fair ("My Dinners with Dubya") by a regular guy who happened to be a close friend of Bush's daughter, Barbara. He visited the White House often during W's presidency and his account of becoming 'friends' with the president is freaky and jarring:
"Barbara’s sister, Jenna, severs the tension by asking her father how many words he screwed up in that speech. I nervously sip my beer and add that I am a horrible speller. Everyone laughs. We’re just a normal family eating chicken potpie, poking fun, blaming farts on the dog. In the White House." You must read to the very end - it's a doozy.