Ryan Chartrand

The countdown clocks on every liberal Web site are happily shedding their final hours as George W. Bush prepares to walk out of the Oval Office for the last time as president. On Monday Bush held his last press conference, and for the first time since we met him he showed a reflective side that was almost endearing.

I remember Bush’s first press conference after the election in 2004 when he was asked if he had made any mistakes in the first half of his presidency. He couldn’t name one mistake. (I had a list of 10 mistakes before the question was even finished).

However, when confronted Monday regarding his decisions as president, Bush seemed very concerned about the uncertain legacy he will leave behind.

He was defensive when he spoke about the economy – the final stain on our memories of him. He also attempted to explain his disconnect with reality during Hurricane Katrina, and he labeled not finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a mere “disappointment.”

When asked why he thought his critics hold so much animosity toward him, his answer was surprisingly introspective. He said that he always had to do what he felt was right because “if you don’t, then I don’t see how you can live with yourself. I don’t see how I can get back home in Texas and look in the mirror and be proud of what I see if I allowed the loud voices, the loud critics, to prevent me from doing what I thought was necessary to protect this country.”

Even though the critics he ignored turned out to be correct, Bush conveyed something I think none of us on the left thought he had in him: self-awareness. I wonder if, when he gets back to his Texas ranch, Bush will sit down to write a reflection on his time in office and ponder how his presidency ended in such disarray.

As I reflected on the arc of his presidency, I couldn’t help thinking that the demise of Bush’s public life has been very tragic. He made a series of flawed decisions: tax cuts for the rich, failing to fund the No Child Left Behind, misinforming the public about WMDs in Iraq, legitimizing torture as an interrogation procedure and deregulating business, to name a few.

But while these were all decisions Bush no doubt saw as tough choices he had to make for the welfare of the country, they were also decisions that caused America to resolutely turn its back on him and led to the ultimate ruin of his own political party.

I hope that when Bush settles into retirement in Texas and truly has the opportunity to reflect on his time in the White House that he is, in fact, able to look in the mirror and be proud of the (few) good things he accomplished, like working with Bono to increase America’s aid to Africa.

However, I think my voice is in chorus with the rest of the world and the majority of the United States when I say that I am so glad this nightmare is over. From the bottom of my heart, I wish the entire Bush family to lead quiet, private, long lives confined to Florida and Texas, while the rest of us move on. Truly.

Barack Obama said last Thursday in a speech at George Mason University, “Throughout America’s history, there have been some years that simply rolled into the next without much notice or fanfare. And then there are the years that come along once in a generation, the kind that mark a clean break from a troubled past and set a new course for our nation. This is one of those years.”

This is the dawning of the age of intelligence. Nothing is going to change overnight and Obama is not the answer to all of our problems, but we are moving into a moment in American history entirely open to our interpretation and innovation. Our leaders will set a new course for America, with fresh ideas and cohesive policies. And we should all look at this new year, this “clean break from a troubled past,” with an open mind.

Next Tuesday will be an incredibly historic day. We will all witness the first African-American take the oath for the most powerful position in the world just one day after we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. The timing is remarkable. I don’t think it can be overstated.

Stephanie England is an English junior and a Mustang Daily political columnist.

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