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Zoethe

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Reflections on our place in history [Nov. 8th, 2006|02:18 pm]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |hopefulhopeful]

The Dems have regained some control over the political process.

Donald Rumsfeld is resigning.

This seems like as good a time as any to say this:

George W. Bush is not a bad man.

This is not to say that he is a good president. Far from it. He has bankrupted the government with artificial tax cuts to the rich, financed by writing bad checks against the future. He has promulgated a war without any understanding of the politics necessary to achieve victory. He has allowed self-righteousness to get in the way of diplomacy, resulting in, among other things, the promulgation of North Korea's nuclear testing. He has impeded our civil liberties without actually increasing our safety, fostered religious divisiveness and intolerance, and failed to take the lead in dealing with any environmental issues.

But he is not a bad man.

George W. Bush is a simple man, a man of faith and enthusiasm. As Governor of TExas, he was actually a centrist.

Unfortunately, George is a man who is so in love with simplicity and enthusiasm that he allowed himself to be surrounded by people who would tell him what he wanted to hear. They were not a neutral bunch, these men. They were people with agendas, and they were more than willing to curry in George any leanings toward intolerance and divisiveness that they could muster.

They are the bad men. George is, for the most part, just a puzzled fellow.

He's an affable enough fellow, and well-suited volunteer work. His post-presidential activities will probably be admirable.

He will be remembered as one of the worst presidents of all time. A man who abandoned true conservatism with his "don't tax and spend anyway" philosophy, his intrusiveness into the private lives of citizens, and his badly botched war.

But don't villify him as evil. He is a man whose own natural temperament was easily swayed to radicalism within an isolated White House. Had he been surrounded by advisers other than his father's cronies, his might have been a very different presidency.

It's best to remain humble ourselves, to remember that it has only been two short years since he won a second presidential term, in spite of how badly the first term had gone, because the Democrats had nothing to offer other than "we aren't him." I'm not convinced yet that the Dems have developed much more of a message in the intervening two years, and that this election was not so much won as lost - the people reached the limits of their tolerance, rather than embracing a new message.

The message cannot simply be "Bush was Bad. Rumsfeld was BAD! We're not them!" It requires substance, and direction, and progress. And it requires rising above villification and dancing on the graves of this dying administration.

There is a power vacuum just now. We can fill it with behavior just as bad as that which we excoriate in its passing, or we can try and do better.

Start by recognizing that, in the end, the head of them was just a well meaning but misguided man.
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From: nasagrl
2006-11-08 07:22 pm (UTC)
Huzzah
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[User Picture]From: mishamish
2006-11-08 07:26 pm (UTC)
I think the best description I ever heard of him was a joke where and old guy called him a "Fence Turtle." In the joke, when asked what a Fence Turtle was, the old guy explained it was when you're driving down the road and see a turtle that someone has balanced on top of a fence post.

He doesn't know how he got up there, he doesn't know what to do now that he's up there, and you just wish someone would go along and help the poor thing get down.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 07:57 pm (UTC)
Yeah, pretty much.
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[User Picture]From: myskat
2006-11-08 07:27 pm (UTC)
don't know enough about him to comment, but it seems you do so i thank you. I am very guarded about the election results, there is little to guide me to say that democrats, just by name, are any better. I'm very much a libertarian ad am quite apprehensive that folks will rest back on the victory and decide all will be fine now. Only time will tell.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 07:58 pm (UTC)
It terrifies me.
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[User Picture]From: darthfox
2006-11-08 07:30 pm (UTC)
I've been saying since -- shoot, since I voted for McCain in the Virginia Republican primary in 2000 -- that Bush is a sincere and probably very nice guy who has no business being in charge. The Oval Office is no place for being earnest at the expense of being shrewd. If you're not bright enough to realize you're being played like a two-dollar banjo, or not savvy enough to care, you do not belong at the helm of anything bigger than an outrigger canoe.

That said, you're right that the newly-elected Democrats need to demonstrate at least some, if not a great deal, of the class they've been hollering about the Republicans lacking for the past twelve years. I'm also the only person I know at the moment who's not rubbing her hands in glee at the thought that now, at last, there might be a chance to impeach this easily-led knucklehead who remains our president.
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[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2006-11-08 07:45 pm (UTC)
I've been saying since -- shoot, since I voted for McCain in the Virginia Republican primary in 2000 -- that Bush is a sincere and probably very nice guy who has no business being in charge.

Hell, during the 2000 primaries, there were many Republicans who were saying that the wrong Bush was running.
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[User Picture]From: mess_iah
2006-11-08 07:34 pm (UTC)
While he may not be as bad of a man as his advisors, I do not think he should be held guiltless. Even a man of stunning ignorance and poor mental faculties, which he may be, must have some idea of the goals of his advisors. I do not believe he is only a wind-up president, going where his masters point him.

Surely, if he had had different advisors, he would have acted different, but he had some influence in choosing those advisors, and he chose to go with their policies. Even if none of the evil actions he has taken were originally his idea, theye are still his actions, and thus his responsibilty.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:00 pm (UTC)
True, but the point even more for me is that we don't waste opportunity by spending our time in useless villification.
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[User Picture]From: clodia_risa
2006-11-08 07:35 pm (UTC)
*thumbs up*
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[User Picture]From: mightydoll
2006-11-08 07:36 pm (UTC)
First off: how do you know what he's like as a person?

Secondly, what makes a person evil, if not their actions?
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:03 pm (UTC)
I certainly don't know personally, but I've read enough written about him by people who are his political opponents and who find him to be personally very affable to believe that this is probably the case.

Second, I believe that intent is an important component in the defining of evil. I believe, for example, that Karl Rove is evil, because he went out of his was to foster hostility. I believe that Rumsfeld is evil because he has carried out this entire war effort for his own benefit and that of his cronies. I believe that Bush, frankly, is too gullible and easily led to be evil. I think he means well.
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From: bonerici
2006-11-08 07:37 pm (UTC)
Bullying is essentially cowardly. The bully hides his or her own inadequacies, while making out that other people are at fault. The bully may see the other person as more capable, successful, popular or attractive than they are. The targets of bullying are usually above-average performers, much more efficient and better at what they do than the bully. This reason stands head and shoulders above all others for why certain people are targeted.

In Alexandria Pelosi's film "Journeys with George" (yes Alexandria is Nancy's republican daughter), W's bullying is clear and onmi-present, if you do something he doesn't like, for instance, one time Alexandria asked George a political question, you are shut out cold shouldered, called names, intimidated, he thumps you on the chest with his finger, he bullies you. Until of course you do exactly what he wants. Ever since 2000, George has been in a bubble, so this film is the last time you can see his true nature.

I think we all know what happens when you stand up to a bully. Yesterday, all of America stood up to the Bully-in-Chief called W. He's stupid, he's a bully, he lives in a bubble. Bush thinks he's a nice guy, but he's a low down school yard bully more than anything else.

If you haven't seen "Journeys with George" put it on your list.
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[User Picture]From: kmg_365
2006-11-08 07:47 pm (UTC)
if you do something he doesn't like, for instance, one time Alexandria asked George a political question, you are shut out cold shouldered, called names, intimidated, he thumps you on the chest with his finger, he bullies you.

Yeah, it was pretty over the top when Clinton did that to Wallace on Fox News Sunday.

Oh...wait...you were talking about Bush. My bad. :-)
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[User Picture]From: leanerbean
2006-11-08 07:39 pm (UTC)
Does it really matter if he was evil or just weak and spineless? It is rhetorical and pointless conjecture either way. The end results of his character - be it "evil" or "catastophically weak and inept" - are the same.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:06 pm (UTC)
Oh, the end results are dreadful. I just don't want to see us wasting our efforts gloating over his comeuppance to the detriment of actual progress.
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[User Picture]From: roniliquidity
2006-11-08 07:43 pm (UTC)
I disagree that doesn't make him a bad person. He's not a naiive country bumpkin who didn't know any better. At the very least he selected a group of advisors whose jobs are to insulate him so he doesn't have to worry about the consequences of his actions. He chose to give power to disreputable people and is pointedly not concerning himself with what happens. On a smaller scale, if I hired a team of lawyers, bookkeepers and personal assistants and let them screw over my friends, family, landlord and whomeever else I encounter while leaving me blithely unaware of what people were doing in my name, I would still be a bad person. Amusingly though, this makes it sound like George W. Bush is the Paris Hilton of politics.

I don't think a lack of a cohesive message is quite the same as "We're not that guy", and most of what I've heard about the Democratic Party fits the former. As I've said elsewhere, I'm pretty ok with people doing the best job they can and making what they feel are the right calls at the time than trying to shape their actions to a specific party wide agenda. I just wish "Do the Right Thing" was a viable platform.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:09 pm (UTC)
I don't mean to completely absolve him of guilt. My bigger point is finding our feet and moving forward. And while a monolithic voice is not necessary, some voice is essential if the Dems are going to stay in power.
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[User Picture]From: funwithrage
2006-11-08 07:44 pm (UTC)
I suppose this, in some way, depends on what you define as "bad." In my own worldview, W's sort of moral and intellectual laziness is getting up there. No, he didn't quite understand what was going on, but he didn't seem to make much of an effort, either--and, as an adult, I think he *is* accountable for that.


I don't consider all Republicans, or the entire Republican platform, evil, and I don't think Bush is nearly as bad as Cheney and Rumsfeld. On the other hand..."not as bad" doesn't mean "not bad at all."
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:10 pm (UTC)
He is not absolved. But he is also not Satan, and keeping perspective is important for forward motion, rather than just gloating.
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[User Picture]From: barelyproper
2006-11-08 07:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you for saying this.

Many of us need to hear it.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:13 pm (UTC)
True. There is not enough room in an LJ entry to cover all the nuances. He sees too much in black and white, wants too many easy answers, and that included torture to get answers.
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[User Picture]From: jeanniemac
2006-11-08 07:49 pm (UTC)
You are correct. George Bush is not an evil man. He is, however, a catistrophically stupid man, elected by a majority of equally stupid people, who now seemed to have radicallly changed their minds. Usually, people can be stupid and non-threatening, but Mr. Bush's stupidity has cost thousands of American lives, countless Iraqi lives, and the stability of an entire region of the world, on top of what it has done domestically. This is no small thing to live down.

I am glad that the Democrats have suceeded in gaining some political mommentum. But I am very sorry that so many moderate Republicans had to loose their jobs to gain that majority. Now we are left with alot of real loonies in power for the GOP and that, frankly, scares me. These are people who will continue to lead the President around by his nose, lie to him and convince him that their dictates are the only way to go, there by stalling the legislative process. I just hope that the Democrats can come up with a good plan for the 2008 elections, because I highly doubt that anything is going to get done in the next 2 years.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:14 pm (UTC)
Most of the time, government getting nothing done is actually a good thing.

Unfortunately, we have to get ourselves through this catastrophic war....
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:16 pm (UTC)
I think that's pretty much what I was saying.

("I came to bury Caesar, not to praise him...")
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[User Picture]From: fragiletender
2006-11-08 07:58 pm (UTC)
Being a 'useful idiot' is not sufficient excuse for the things he's done. And that assumes that he is as stupid and naively bumbling as he makes out and the jury's out on that one.
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[User Picture]From: usmu
2006-11-08 08:01 pm (UTC)
Bush will be labeled as one of the worst presidents ever because he was. He was not capable of seeing that he had surrounded himself with yesmen and for that reason alone he deserves that title. He signed into law things that no-one with the moral convictions that he claims would ever consider and for that he should be vilified. Even if he was misguided he was a willing participant. And Ich habe es nicht gewust (I didn't know) never has been, nor ever will be, a valid excuse.

Having said that: if the democrats are reasonable people, and for the most part I think they are, they won't do the same things. But that doesn't mean they have to play nice either. And they better not, because, however much you might dislike it, that's not how a two party system works.
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[User Picture]From: rollick
2006-11-08 08:13 pm (UTC)
His post-presidential activities will probably be admirable.

You had me until this. His pre-presidential activities, as a sheltered owner of several failed businesses — the failure of which he was not held responsible for — and a "military man" who was not required to fulfill the duties he was registered for all speak to a life of privilege and laziness, isolation from responsibility and consequences. The amount of "vacation time" he's logged while on the job — 370 days in six years at last count! — back that up. His statements on welfare, his reaction to Katrina (which still hasn't significantly improved), and his career-long disassocition with the poor of the country to me all indicate that he's never had any connection with the underprivileged, and he couldn't care less.

I just don't see him out there building Habitat For Humanity houses with Carter, or even continuing literacy programs with his mom. I'm assuming he'll hit the touring and ghostwritten-book circuit with so many other done-with politicians, maybe get himself on the board of one of the many firms he's enriched while in office. But I don't expect him to start working to help the people now.

I agree that he's not Satan, that there are worse people than him in office, that many of his advisers are more corrupt than him by far, and that booting him is not going to fix the planet. But I do think he's a rich-boy scion who's largely divorced from 90 percent of the world, and that he plays up the good-ol-boy aw-shucks character (hey, Clinton did too) to once again prevent people from trying to force him to take responsiblity for what he's done.

I will not accept that he's "well-meaning" unless your definition of "well-meaning" is limited to "dedicated to the success and happiness of the relatively small inner circle of people who have protected and sheltered him his entire life, and oblivious to or apathetic about the rest of America, who aren't real to him in any meaningful way."
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:20 pm (UTC)
just don't see him out there building Habitat For Humanity houses with Carter, or even continuing literacy programs with his mom.

Okay, I as being generous.

I will not accept that he's "well-meaning" unless your definition of "well-meaning" is limited to "dedicated to the success and happiness of the relatively small inner circle of people who have protected and sheltered him his entire life, and oblivious to or apathetic about the rest of America, who aren't real to him in any meaningful way."

That's probably about right.
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[User Picture]From: sacramentalist
2006-11-08 08:18 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but defending him as a "good ol' boy" is just as bad as voting for him because he's a "good ol' boy".

He's much smarter than he is given credit.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 08:21 pm (UTC)
He's much smarter than he is given credit.

I can't even wrap my head around that notion.
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[User Picture]From: gypsydove
2006-11-08 08:25 pm (UTC)
I am hoping that W will learn from this, after all what is life for but to learn. Yes, I admit I voted for him. I thought he was the lesser of the two evils. Plus, with my Dad being Army, and most of my friends being in the military, I thought (erronously so) that W would be good for the Military. I have learned. I have learned many things these presidential years. I am more involved with elections now, I research more things.

I voted mostly Democratic, because they support more of what I stand for.

As for your post, yes I agree he was lead to believe certian things and depended on people who only wanted glory... however, at some point he has to take responsiblity for his actions/dis actions. He is not his Father... he is a different man entirely. I think that was overlooked by most people when they voted...

And now when elections are on everyone's mind, I think (I hope) most do the research...do the reading and decide on the politics of the person, instead of the party.
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[User Picture]From: mamaursula
2006-11-08 08:29 pm (UTC)
Lesser of two evils

I agree, it's why I voted for him. I wish there had been a better choice, I feel like the American people are being abused in all of this.
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[User Picture]From: mamaursula
2006-11-08 08:27 pm (UTC)
I think it is sad that our political scene has come to this. I am reminded of Jimmy Carter when I think of W. Jimmy Carter was placed in a bad situation and things went very badly during his administration (heck, even gasoline prices were through the roof) and by all accounts Mr. Carter is a very kind, caring man of faith as well. He's gone on to win the Noble Prize.

I imagine we'll one day see something good come from Shrub, I hope that he can overcome the mess that he's in now. I wonder what part Bush the Elder plays in this, since many of the Younger's advisory council came from him. It's too bad they didn't serve him better.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 11:46 pm (UTC)
Carter's legacy is "bad president, good man." He redeemed himself with his actions out of office. I do wonder if W will do the same.
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[User Picture]From: 28bytes
2006-11-08 08:40 pm (UTC)
I think that's a really admirable way of looking at it.

There's a substantial contingent of people on the right who have an eagerness to play the victim even though they have an incredible amount of power (see "War on Christmas"). Allowing that Bush is human while advancing alternative ideas for America (rather than excessively "kicking him while he's down") seems a lot more productive and likely to retain supporters, and less likely to trigger this bizarre victimhood mentality that could lead to a backlash. IMO.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 11:47 pm (UTC)
Definitely much of the motivation for my writing it. I agree with you.
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[User Picture]From: worlds_unseen
2006-11-08 08:59 pm (UTC)
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."-Edmund Burke

Bush isn't a smart guy, but he is a clever one. It's not like he sits there and doesn't comprehend the meaning of words like 'torture' and 'civil liberties' and 'political obfuscation'. Alright, maybe he doesn't know the meaning of obfuscation, but it's not that he doesn't understand the policies he's enacting, it's that he simply doesn't care about the details as long as it gets him results. If he thinks torture is the quickest way to get the information he needs to prove he was right in starting the Iraq War, he'll sign off on it. If he thinks grey-area wiretapping will do it faster, he's game. If he needs to rally the core of his voters, he'll find a hot button issue like say, gay marriage, and use it to stir up support, simply because it’s easier than pushing a real policy that would require him to work. The only thing he works hard at is trying to prove that he meant something other than what he said. People are convinced he’s stupid because he’s constantly trying to rephrase his ideas on the issues, which portrays an image of a president who doesn't know what he's doing. To that, I say that he might not know the definition of obfuscation, but he’s pretty damn good at it. He knows damn well what he's doing, he's just too lazy to be bothered with finding a more acceptable way of doing what he wants.

Is Bush evil? No, not really. Is he unprincipled, careless, lazy and focused on achieving his goals no matter what? That's a different story. Oh, and I suspect that any charity work he does post-term will be a token effort at best. Well, unless he can find some way to use it to his advantage.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 11:50 pm (UTC)
Is he unprincipled, careless, lazy and focused on achieving his goals no matter what?

I do think that he's been talked into believing a lot of crap because of his desire to isolate himself from problems, but there is a certain sincerity to his beliefs, as warped as they are.

Now that his teeth have been pulled, I think we will find him pretty pathetic.
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[User Picture]From: going_not_gone
2006-11-08 09:02 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, but this has a ring of "Hitler liked dogs!" to me. Bush was handed a huge responsibility, took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and then stood by, nodding and smiling, at the helm of a catastrophically inept and criminally corrupt administration. Given the damage that's been done to this country, economically and politically, over the past six years, not to mention the damage overseas, I'm disinclined to cut him even a little bit of slack. He may not be evil, and he's certainly not the only one to blame, but he deserves a goodly share of blame for the state we're in. And I don't see him as "a simple man of faith and enthusiasm." I see him as a spoiled brat who got power he didn't earn, and was happy to bully those weaker than himself, who was willing to use and manipulate those of genuine faith when it suited him, and who had no compunction about breaking every promise he ever made. I cannot summon up even the slightest respect for him.

I do agree that the Democrats need a stronger platform than "Not Bush!" and that the next two years are crucial. I am encouraged by the words of our new Speaker, Nancy Pelosi: "Democrats intend to lead the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history." But I think Bush and his cadre need to be called to account.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2006-11-08 11:52 pm (UTC)
But I think Bush and his cadre need to be called to account.

I think they need to be stopped, and as much of their damage undone as possible. But I don't want to see us wasting our time and energy on revenge.
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[User Picture]From: tonights
2006-11-08 09:03 pm (UTC)
It is very difficult for me to not villify this man. I believe discrimination is evil in one of its purest forms, and he is all of that. He hates the idea of gay marriage, he doesn't believe in birth control or abortion. He's a sexist, a classist and quite probably a racist. He thinks "the jury is out on evolution." He excuses and encourages torture and war. He got off his ass to use his first veto on a stem cell bill that would have helped millions of people. I find him an evil, stupid little man and the vast majority of his actions to be ignorant, hurtful, or yes, evil.

This is not to say that the people he's surrounded with aren't also evil, because they are. Many of them are evil in a more purely spiteful, greedy way. But I don't buy his "good ol' boy" image. He's stupid, but it's oftentimes not bumbling stupid, it's that mean, piggy sort of stupid. He's a wretch of a president and I hope he'll be remembered as such.

That said, I agree with you wholeheartedly about the Democrats. And I can even to an extent agree that Bush has been, at times, "well-meaning." But...there comes a point when I just can't put everything down to simple stupidity and feel like there must be an element of that piggy evil in there.
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