In the Chinese calendar, 2008 was the Year of the Rat. In our country it was the Last Year of the Twit. Many things happened during the year except in the White House where nothing at all happened.
The presidential campaign that seemed to have gone on forever finally came to a close with the astonishing election of a man who, as he pointed out in a speech, would not have been served at a lunch counter in the capital city only a few decades ago. There was a sense of optimism everywhere — well, almost everywhere — as the nation watched the sure-footed young president make the opening moves of his historic administration. The contrast with his feckless predecessor was hard to miss, even if you didn’t agree with everything he was trying to do. At least he was doing something! And there was very little chance we were going to ‘misunderestimate’ him.
What was hard to measure was how much of this awakening spirit owed to the great promise of this graceful and articulate new leader or to the realization that we were Twitless at last. One could almost hear Martin Luther King’s voice soaring over the Mall: Twitless at last. Twitless at last. Thank God Almighty, we are Twitless at last!
Of course there are always more twits and creeps-in-waiting: crooks, fools, mountebanks, and self-seekers eager to put their incompetence, arrogance and stupidity to work for the good of the country. Rodents like Cheney and Rumsfeld are bound to emerge from the sewers of the business world slavering for their piece of the power pie.
So far, it does not seem that any of these vermin have made it into high positions in the new government. Although it does give pause that our new Secretary of the Treasury ‘didn’t notice’ that he was short by $35,000 in income taxes. This ‘oversight’ might be less troublesome in a cabinet member who wasn’t in charge of the country’s money, but let’s not rain on the parade.
Anyone is an improvement on Henry Paulson, who, with an assist from Congress, handed out billions to banks without bothering to ask what they were going to do with the money. And guess what? They took the money and went on vacations to plush resorts, they rewarded themselves for their excellent work with big bonuses, they redecorated their offices, and they ordered up a nice new corporate jet or two. What? You expect these highly talented financial guys to ride on ordinary commercial airplanes?
Speaking of corporate jets, one of the enduring images of 2008 is that of the Three Blind Mice from Detroit, the heads of GM, Ford and Chrysler, begging Congress to give them billions to shore up their mismanaged companies. As if to demonstrate that there is no limit to an American automaker’s hubris, the Mice traveled to Washington by three separate corporate jets at a cost of God knows how many tens of thousands of dollars. It was a matter of security, one of them said. When they returned to Washington a few weeks later, they drove. What fast learners these fellows are!
And so it remains to be seen if the country as we knew it, and kind of liked it, will survive 2008, the final, dismal year in the Reign of the Twit. True to form, the Twit spent the final days of his administration trying to convince himself that he had been an honorable and effective president. His method was to get himself interviewed by compliant TV persons — Larry King Live, for instance
When the Twit and his unfortunate consort appeared on Larry King Live’s show, the intrepid electronic journalist asked Dubya about the charges that his administration had used torture on suspected terrorists at Guantanamo and other even more sinister places. “We don’t use torture,” Twit responded, and that was the end of that. This might have been more persuasive if his vice president only days earlier had not bragged about how effective torture had been in protecting the country from the bad guys. Cheney, of course, never includes himself as one of the bad guys.
In various lame-duck statements the outgoing president said that he had accomplished a lot, always careful to avoid specifics lest his opponents get wind of what he had been up to. And so the year ended, with the White House obscured by a putrid fog of self-justification. And in the distance, the faint beginnings of a rising chorus: Twitless at last. Twitless at last. Thank God Almighty, we are Twitless last.