For a wounded President locked in a lethal downward spiral ever since his reelection, it was the cruelest week of all.Among their many other dubious achievements, Bush and his inner circle will be remembered as the administration that elevated denial to high art. I am especially impressed by the quote I emphasized, in which Bush essentially gives himself permission to live out the rest of his life believing that he's a brilliant visionary and not the most petty, destructive and toxic president this country has ever had. He can now go to his grave believing that he is simply a misunderstood genius who will be vindicated by distant history.
In 72 hours last week, a bipartisan commission harshly repudiated Bush's Iraq policy. Incoming Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told senators the U.S. isn't winning the war. Then a British journalist snarkily asked at a White House press conference if Bush weren't "in denial" about Iraq.
For good measure, a new poll found only 27% of Americans back his Iraq policy, a new low. And a moderate GOP senator termed the policy "absurd" and possibly criminal.
Yet Bush is described by another recent visitor as still resolutely defiant, convinced history will ultimately vindicate him.
"I'll be dead when they get it right," he said during an Oval Office meeting last week.
Outside Republican sources report that except for isolated pockets of realism, the West Wing bunker hasn't yet absorbed Bush's diminished power.
"The White House is totally constipated," a former aide complained. "There's not enough adult leadership, and the 30-year-olds still think it's 2000 and they're riding high."
One White House assistant insisted to a friend last week that the election was merely a repudiation of Bush's execution, not his policies.
"They don't get it," a GOP mandarin snapped. "The Iraq report was their brass ring to pivot and salvage the last two years, and they didn't grab it."
This alone makes me hope for an afterlife, and that Bush's punishment for his crimes will be to watch from below as history reveals the true measure of his awfulness, and he becomes universally regarded as the gold standard case study of How Not To Be President. To watch helplessly as his image morphs from heroic-but-flawed Decider to Nixonesque cartoon villain and buffoon. Of course, all this watching would be in his spare time, when he's not busy "entertaining" the vengeful shades of his many victims.