"Last American combat troops leave Iraq. I think President George W. Bush deserves some credit for victory."
-- John McCain, via his overworked Twitter feed
Yes, he deserves credit the same way BP deserves credit for essentially being forced to clean up the mess it made. If it hadn't fucked things up so royally in the first place, there would be no need for the effort put into making things right. You don't get to claim victory when the colossal screw-up you created finally limps into history. Backward logic at its finest.
On the plus side, at least McCain didn't figure out a way to turn this into an opportunity to flirt with Snooki.
You know something, now that I think about it: taking credit for something you're supposed to have done -- where have I heard that before?
"The President Is Near" (Originally Published, 1.16.09)
A disclaimer: What I'm about to say will probably offend the hell out of some of you. It only makes sense given that the source material I'm drawing from was considered so offensive by so many. I guess you'll have to let me know whether I get right up to the precipice without going over on this one -- or if I've finally just thrown myself off the cliff.
One of Chris Rock's most infamous bits postulates that there's a distinct difference between "black people" and "niggers." According to Rock, one of the qualities that makes the latter stand out as such an embarrassment to the former is that "niggers" will often loudly take credit and ask for affirmation for something mundane that they were supposed to do anyway -- they'll, for example, boast about taking care of their kids when any normal, well-adjusted adult, black or white, would understand that such a responsibility is a given and therefore not worthy of a pat on the back.
I don't think I need to elaborate on why this was the first thing that came to mind as I watched last night's "Farewell Address" from President Bush. We've become used to seeing Bush delusionally deny his mistakes and outright failures, and God knows we've seen him drag ass when he should've been on the ball. But last night, as Bush proudly proclaimed that whether or not you agreed with his decisions you have to admit that he did, in fact, make some decisions, it hit me like a sledgehammer the number of times over the past eight years that he's expected credit and acclaim for doing the bare minimum his job requires. The sheer volume of instances in which he tried to pass off the merely mediocre as something spectacular.
When you think about it, it's maddeningly ironic that someone who really has done so little while in office -- who's made almost no serious effort and typically tries to get away with working as few hours as he can -- managed to screw up the country as monumentally as he did. Bush is regularly in bed before 10pm, regardless of what might be on his agenda or could be in need of his attention; he's taken more vacation time than just about any president in recent memory; he's intellectually incurious in ways that would embarrass a 6th grader. And yet, he touts all of this -- this 9-to-5 ethos -- as proof that he's doing what needs to be done, as if working on a Saturday and skipping a lunch or two qualifies as going above and beyond the call of duty.
If you believe Chris Rock's definition of the word, then Barack Obama cleaning up the messes left behind by George W. Bush is just another example of a strong, intelligent African-American having to undo the damage done by -- well, you get the picture.
Obama may be the first black president of the United States, but I think it's pretty clear what Bush was.
(Update: Looking back on this quickie piece, no one should assume that I don't have issues with a few of the things that Barack Obama has and hasn't done since taking office. But make no mistake: the man still towers head and shoulders above Bush.)