Ok – I admit I nabbed the clever title from a party a friend is throwing for inauguration weekend in DC. Still I hoped to watch Bush’s last grand stand with a spirit of jubilation. I really really wanted to hear boos from the audience Apollo Theater style and have the Sandman drag him off with a long cane to hoots and catcalls.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, the press gently chided Bush with subtle questions about “mistakes” and “disappointments”. Spineless wimps. Get a bunch of bloggers in there — that would have been a spirited discussion. Bush would have blown a freakin red-faced gasket had he been forced to answer non-softball questions. Instead of celebration, I became increasingly bitter. The bile in my throat rose more than once, especially when Katrina came up. Yet despite the still relatively chummy and deferential spirit, Bush bristled at even the softest of proddings and seemed highly defensive during the entire thing, always seeking to blame others for his now-legendary failures which include but are not limited to:

  • Failure to prevent the worst foreign attack on American soil (9/11)
  • Failure to capture Osama bin Laden, our country’s worst enemy
  • Failure to defeat Al Qaeda in either Afghanistan nor Iraq and in fact succeeding in making them stronger than ever
  • Failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq
  • Failure to prevent Great Depression 2.0 – in fact success in ensuring through failure of oversight and disastrous spending and monetary policies that this would inevitably happen
  • Failure to prevent the worst humanitarian catastrophe in American history despite ample warning (Katrina)
  • Failure to rebuild the Gulf Coast despite promises to do so
  • Failure to stop climate change (refusal to sign Kyoto or cooperate with international bodies for 8 long years)
  • Failure to prevent the international collapse of our nation’s moral reputation especially in the Muslim world

Bush is quick to point to his record on African relief as an area of success and I’m inclined to agree on that point alone. Yet, only April Ryan of American Urban Radio — my heroine sister, go head girlfriend — and seemingly the only black person in the entire room dared to push back – effectively – on Bush’s excuses. Here’s the key exchanges and the video is above. April created some for real black history in that moment. First, I’ll post the original response and then Ryan’s followup question with Bush’s testy, defensive answer.

Bush’s last press conference (emphasis Jill’s):

Look, I have often said that history will look back and determine that which could have been done better or, you know, mistakes I made.

Clearly, putting a “mission accomplished” on a (sic) aircraft carrier was a mistake. It sent the wrong message. We were trying to say something differently, but, nevertheless, it conveyed a different message.

Obviously, some of my rhetoric has been a mistake.

I’ve thought long and hard about Katrina; you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge.

The problem with that and — is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission.

And then your questions, I suspect, would have been, “How could you possibly have flown Air Force One into Baton Rouge, and police officers that were needed to expedite traffic out of New Orleans were taken off the task to look after you?”

I believe that running the Social Security idea right after the ’04 elections was a mistake. I should have — should have argued for immigration reform.

And the reason why is is that — you know, one of the lessons I learned as governor of Texas, by the way, is legislative branches tend to be risk-averse. In other words, sometimes legislatures have the tendency to ask, “Why should I take on a hard task when the crisis is not eminent (sic)?” And the crisis was not imminent for Social Security as far as many members of Congress were concerned.

As an aside, one thing I proved is that you can actually campaign on the issue and get elected. In other words, I don’t believe talking about Social Security is the third rail of American politics. As a matter of fact, think that in the future not talking about how you intend to fix Social Security is going to be the third rail of American politics.

And the — one thing about the presidency is that you can make — only make decisions, you know, on the information at hand.

You don’t — you don’t get to have information after you’ve made the decision. That’s not the way it works. And you’re — you stand by your decisions and you do your best to explain why you made the decisions you made.

There have been disappointments.

Abu Ghraib, obviously, was a huge disappointment, during the presidency.

You know, not having weapons of mass destruction was a significant disappointment.

I don’t know if you want to call those mistakes or not, but they were — things didn’t go according to plan, let’s put it that way.

BTW, I think he’s right that Social Security will become increasingly important as an issue in coming elections. His solution – to privatize Soc Sec – would have impoverished millions of Americans and hit minorities, who are more dependent on Soc Sec – very hard. Much later in the press conference, April Ryan speaks for all black people when she asked:

April? Yes, ma’am?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

BUSH: Yes.

You were sound asleep back there, so I decided…

(LAUGHTER)– (haha – kinda racist — black people are lazy and stoopid! hahaha – jill)

QUESTION: No, I wasn’t. There was a whole clear row before me. I thought you were going to go there.

But either way, thanks for the surprise. (April was very dignified. – jill)

Mr. President, on New Orleans, you basically talked about — a moment ago about the photo opportunity. But let’s talk about what you could have done to change the situation for the city of New Orleans to be further along in reconstruction than where it is now.

QUESTION: And also, when you came, or began to run for the Oval Office about nine years ago or so, the James Byrd dragging death was residue on your campaign.

And now, at this time, 2009, we have the first black president.

Could you tell us what you have seen, on the issues of race as you see it?

Aw snap. Ryan called Bush out on his bogus focus on his failed photo opp rather than um, actually helping people in the storm’s aftermath. Let’s not forget that it took 5 days for help to reach the Astrodome. People died waiting for food, water, medical care. Years after 9/11, ambulances, polices and other rescue first responders from other regions still couldn’t communicate with each other on radios. Ugh. Here’s Bush’s pathetic response:

BUSH: Sure, thanks. First of all, we did get the $121 billion, more or less, passed, and there — it’s now being spent. Secondly, the school system is improving dramatically. Thirdly, people are beginning to move back into homes.

This storm was a devastating storm that required a lot of energy, a lot of focus and a lot of resources to get New Orleans up and running.

And has the reconstruction been perfect? No.

Have things happened fairly quickly? Absolutely.

And is there more to be done, you bet there is.

APRIL’S FOLLOWUP QUESTION: What more needs to be done? (Love it – she didn’t back down at all – jill)

BUSH: Well, more people need to get in their houses. More people need to, you know, have their own home there. (eyes rolling out of my head – what a genius this guy. 3 years after Katrina, people still aren’t back in their homes?! – jill)

But — but the — the systems are in place to continue the reconstruction in New Orleans. You know, people said, “Well, the federal response was slow.”

Don’t tell me the federal response was slow when there was 30,000 people pulled off roofs right after the storm passed.

You know, I remember going to see those helicopter drivers, Coast Guard drivers, to thank them for their courageous efforts to rescue people off roofs — 30,000 people were pulled off roofs right after the storm moved through. That’s a pretty quick response.

Could things have been done better? Absolutely. Absolutely.

But when I hear people say the federal response was slow, then what are they going to say to those chopper drivers or the 30,000 that got pulled off the roofs?

Barf. Anyway, the only highlight of the press conference for me in a series of lowlights was what Bush said next:

The other part of the — look, I was affected by the TV after — after the elections. 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.

And so, I am — I am — consider myself fortunate to have a front row seat on what is going to be an historic moment for the country.

President-elect Obama’s election does speak volumes about how far this country has come when it comes to racial relations. But there’s still work to do.

There’s always going to be work to do to deal with people’s hearts. So I’m looking forward to it. Really am. I think it’s going to be — it’s going to be an amazing — amazing moment.

I couldn’t agree more.

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