Thursday, March 15, 2012

#23 George W. Bush

When I first started brainstorming names for my Lenten 40 project, George W. Bush was one of the very first that made it to my list. I haven't written about him until now, mainly because I just did not know where to start. There are so many facets of his presidency, and of the caliber of the man himself, worthy of acknowledgement.

As much fun as it would be, (and it definitely would be), I will resist doing a side-by-side comparison of President Bush with the current president. No, I'm not going to say "Bush was great because the current president is a disaster." After all, that's not why I respect and admire and have compassion for him. I respect and admire him on his own merits, and I've had this opinion long before the current president surfaced (who will be gone in 310 days, God willing.)

I remember well the American election in 2000, the one that seemingly did not end! George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were running against Al Gore and Joe Lieberman - the Gore-Lieberman team who later, because of the unending appeals, were known as "Sore-Loserman". Bush and Cheney were finally declared the victors, and all was right with the world. Chances were good that there were not going to be any more semen-stained dresses sashaying out of the Oval Office for at least four more years. Turned out to be eight stellar years of presidential, scandal-free behavior. What a time it was!

On January 20th, 2001, George W. Bush took office, surrounding himself with a team of smart, wise, capable and patriotic people who were going to take good care of the country that, for all intents and purposes, leads the free world.

From left: Secretary of State Colin Powell, Vice President Dick Cheney, the president, National-Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House chief of staff Andrew Card, C.I.A. director George Tenet (seated), and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Almost right out of the ballot box, he withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, a United Nations-based formula to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, aimed at protecting the world from the fantasy of global warming (...another post, another time...). Even Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol last year, citing the devastating financial penalties it would have to incur due to being unable to meet its unrealistic emissions reduction goals. Kyoto is not worth the paper it's written on, same for the United Nations. George W. Bush knew this, and was not going to be bullied into committing to something not appropriate for his country, and not good for the environment, in the long run.

So, he's off to a flying start!

I was delighted Bush won the election, and felt that America was in good hands. Admittedly, I wasn't too caught up in a lot of the day to day politics; his social services policy, environmental policy, health and education policies. There were issues of interest, to be sure, but I wasn't glued to the TV, waiting for his every pronouncement...

...until that sunny morning in September, 2001, that changed the world forever.

President Bush was in Florida that morning. Andy Card, his Chief of Staff, advised him of the attacks while Bush was reading to schoolchildren.

Shortly after, Bush left Florida on Air Force One, by that time one of the very few aircraft still flying in North American airspace.

 Air traffic control radar on 9/11, before the attacks.

Air traffic control radar on 9/11, after the attacks.

As a precautionary, diversionary measure, Air Force One flew to a number of locations across the United States that day, away from Washington, DC. President Bush, however, knew that he had to speak to the American people and the rest of the world that night, and was determined to do it from the Oval Office. And such a speech it was:

"We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts, and those who harbor them." Bravo, Mr. President. Go get 'em.

George W. Bush's presidential election campaign focused mainly on his domestic agenda. That focus changed, however, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. It became, for a while anyway, all about foreign policy; how to deal with an enemy who preferred terrorism and death to peaceful resolution. Our man had his work cut out for him.

But, before it even got to that point, he had to help his country up off its knees.

On September 14th, 2001, President Bush visited the Lower Manhattan site of the World Trade Center devastation.

(Note - the National Geographic version of this clip has been removed from YouTube, hence the need to use this less-than-perfect-quality, but still amazing, clip instead.)

How anyone can watch this video, and walk away thinking the hateful things that have been thought and said about this man, is incomprehensible to me. He was eloquent, sincere, unwavering and mission-oriented, with a love of country and a sense of justice second to none. A stirring and shining example of a Commander in Chief.

When he climbed up on top of the wreckage of that fire truck, and addressed the Ground Zero workers, to me this was a seminal moment in what was to become known as "The War on Terror". It is an image that still has the power to move me, to this day.

In a September 20th, 2001 speech to a joint session of Congress, he issued an ultimatum to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden was operating, to "hand over the terrorists, or... share their fate."

The chambermaids at Guantanamo Bay started fluffing prayer mats and dusting Korans. They were about to get busy.

I somehow doubt that this fellow would have any moral objections whatsoever to waterboarding terror suspects, to gain intelligence needed to thwart further attacks. Neither do I, but thankfully, I don't need the ink to prove it.

As a baseball fan, specifically a New York Yankees fan, there is no way of telling the President Bush story without remembering the first pitch at Yankee Stadium following 9/11. The date was September 25th, 2001, and New York Yankee fans were ready!

This is a clip from a video called "Nine Innings From Ground Zero". It's not often that baseball makes me shed a tear, but this certainly does:

It was now time for healing, and that's what the country started to do.

Further to his legacy of being the September 11th president, George W. Bush established brave and necessary policies for the protection of the United States, in terms of both foreign threats and domestic. Some of the big hits, for which I applaud him:

He did more for the cause of HIV / AIDS relief in Africa and around the world than any other president. In 2003, he outlined a 5-year global strategy, the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - making available $15 billion for the provision of antiretroviral treatment for more than 3.2 million men, women and children worldwide. How horribly ironic that Elton John, with his AIDS foundation, wished this man dead rather than for him win re-election.  

The USA PATRIOT Act - The 10-letter acronym - Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001. In 2011, the current president approved a four-year extension of this Act, which had been blasted, unfairly, as being intrusive into the daily lives of average Americans. I, on the other hand, credit it with having prevented any other terrorist act on US soil since September 11, 2001. So, apparently, does the current president.

Keeping Guantanamo Bay open in the face of mounting criticism by those who, I suppose, just don't get it!!! I can't resist pointing out that, as "evil" as Gitmo is supposed to be, it is still operating, despite its closure being a campaign promise of the current president. Even he gets it, grudgingly though it may be...

He supported using adult stem cells for medical research, but vetoed the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act which would have approved the use of stem cells obtained by the destruction of an embryo.

The No Child Left Behind Act, based on the premise that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills. States must give these assessments to all students at select grade levels in order to receive federal school funding. What a radical idea - set education standards, evaluate student progress, and make the schools answerable for poor education performance!!

The man was right, and smart, and insightful, and was proud of his Christian faith. He was a moral and inspired leader, who got the United States, and in great measure the rest of the God-fearing world, through a very dark period in history.

Anyone who says otherwise was and is being blindly led by the leftist mainstream media, who were more focused on how Bush pronounced "nuclear" than they were over the fact that the current president stated that he wanted to visit "all 57 states". There are only 50 US states. There are, however, 57 Islamic states. Draw your own conclusions...

I wasn't going to do that, but I JUST COULDN'T RESIST.

Here is a video I found on YouTube, not my creation, but that of another devoted admirer of George W. Bush. The song is "Anyway" by Martina McBride. The images are a touching tribute to a man who did his best and more for America, and made the world a safer place.

Finally, I wanted to end this post on a lighter, happier note, so I was delighted when I found this clip of the 2006 White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, and President Bush's address to the gathering, along with impersonator Steve Bridges (who, according to the YouTube note below the video, died on March 4, just 11 days ago). It is a measure of the man that despite everything, he was confident enough in who he was and his mission in life to be able laugh at himself. I hope you enjoy this video clip as much as I have. (Rest in peace, Steve Bridges...)

God bless America, and God bless you, George W. Bush.


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