Code, nerd culture and humor from Greg Knauss.

As the Bush Administration lurches towards its place on the ash-heap of history, it’s time to start experimenting with candidates for the single idea that will represent the entire eight-year ordeal in the public’s mind. Out of all the thousands of days, and hundreds of thousands of decisions, and millions of mistakes, one single reference point will rise above all the others to become short-hand for George W. Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office. No, it’s not really fair, and yes, it will inevitably omit the vast majority of the disasters that this administration produced, like some big disaster-producing machine. But everybody who has held the office receives it as judgment. For instance, the presidents during my lifetime:

  • Johnson: Viet Nam
  • Nixon: Watergate
  • Ford: Chevy Chase
  • Carter: Inept
  • Reagan: Cold War
  • Bush: [N/A]
  • Clinton: Blow-job

Oh, sure, these labels are all overly-simplistic. That’s why they work. The above ignores Johnson’s civil rights efforts and Nixon’s detente with China and if history were kinder it might call Carter “over-matched” instead of “inept.” Reagan gets “Cold War” instead of “deficits” or “amiable simpleton” because he’s been far-bested the last two by the position’s current occupant.

George H. W. Bush doesn’t get a word because I’m not really convinced that he ever actually had an administration — do you remember anything from that time? Sure, the Gulf War, but that didn’t actually amount to much. Oh, and, “Read my lips.” But having “Lips” associated with a president is reserved for Clinton.

And so we arrive to today, and discover a problem. The George W. Bush administration is so misguided, so befuddled, so awful that there’s simply too much to choose from. The slow-motion car accident that has accompanied the opening of the 21st Century doesn’t lend itself to quick or easy summary. There are literally dozens of accidents, screw-ups and outright disasters — both intentional and not — that define the scope and breadth of the Administration’s accomplishments. How can anybody easily pick from a list that includes:

  • Iraq (inclusive of sub-disasters WMDs, the Quagmire, Abu Graib, Walter Reed)
  • Katrina (inclusive of sub-disaster Cronyism)
  • 9/11 (inclusive of sub-disasters Domestic Spying, Death of Habeus Cropus, Guantanamo Bay, Tora Bora)
  • Corruption (inclusive of sub-disasters Abramoff, Libby, Foggo, DeLay, Cunningham, Ney, Foley, Gannon)
  • The Economy (inclusive of sub-disasters Deficits, Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis, the Dollar, Recession [pending])
  • Various Intentional Policies (inclusive of sub-disasters Kyoto, ABM Treaty, Energy Meetings, Global Warming, Tax Cuts)
  • The Politicization of Everything (inclusive of sub-disasters Justice Department, Valerie Plame, Various EPA/NIH/etc. Reports, Executive Privilege, Signing Statements, Terri Schiavo, Freedom Fries)
  • The Abandonment of Science (inclusive of sub-disasters Stem Cells, “Faith-Based” Funding)
  • General Clownishness (inclusive of sub-disasters Malapropisms, the Pretzel, Facial Shotgunning)

And many, many more.

Clearly, there’s no easy way to pick which single disaster will epitomize the Bush Administration. There are simply too many candidates.

Therefore, the only reasonable thing to do is to turn the equation around: Instead of picking a single event to define the Bush Administration, the Bush Administration should be used to define the events, and all similar events generally. Instead of any one idea becoming short-hand for Bush, the word “Bush” becomes short-hand for all that he as accomplished, a synonym for an epic, all-encompassing, near-mythical series of screw-up, mistakes and incompetencies.

It can also be used as an expletive.

Hi there! My name's GREG KNAUSS and I like to make things.

Some of those things are software (like Romantimatic and Buzz Clock), Web sites (like the Webby-nominated Metababy and The American People) and stories (for Web sites like Suck and Fray, print magazines like Worth and Macworld, and books like "Things I Learned About My Dad" and "Rainy Day Fun and Games for Toddler and Total Bastard").

My e-mail address is greg@eod.com. I'd love to hear from you!

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