Hail to the chief 

As we approach the July 4 holiday and its fireworks shows, parades and cookouts, there’s one extra reason to celebrate this year, something that should make all Americans rejoice: Barring some sort of coup, George W. Bush will be president for only six more months.

Although it’s not as good as saying he only has three months left in office, or 15 days, this is still just about the best news the country could receive right now. Our long national nightmare is just about over and, no matter who wins the election in November, Bush’s replacement is bound to be better.

Mind you, the country has barely survived these eight long years of lawlessness, corruption and terror. Mr. Bush has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams in nearly destroying the United States and its institutions.

The middle class is nearly gone now, drowned in an ocean of debt, foreclosures, unemployment and inflation. To the rest of the world, our reputation is that of a belligerent, untruthful nation eager to start wars wherever it can. To radical terrorists, Mr. Bush has been their best friend and an invaluable recruiting tool.

Eight years ago, before he assumed office in a fraudulent election, gasoline was $1.40 a gallon, there was a projected $1 trillion budget surplus and the World Trade Centers stood tall over the New York skyline. Saddam Hussein was a ruthless dictator who was hemmed in and no threat to his neighbors.

Now there are record budget deficits, gas is closing in on $5 per gallon, the Trade Centers are empty holes in Manhattan and we’re being promised another 100 years of pointless war in Iraq, a war in which the only victors will be the armaments companies, shady contractors and torture-happy security firms hired by Mr. Bush and his friends.

It’s hard to see how Mr. Bush could have done much worse, unless he’d dynamited the Statue of Liberty, detained Santa Claus at Guantanamo Bay and executed every cute puppy in the country.

And, as has been pointed out many times before, the surprising thing about his 28 percent approval rating — one that, by the way, makes him even more unpopular than Nixon during the darkest days of Watergate — is that it is as high as it is.

Who makes up this 28 percent? Oil millionaires, casket manufacturers and the insane? That counts for 5 percent at best. Throw in the 15 percent of people who have no jobs but tune in to Rush Limbaugh every afternoon to hear him rail about lazy, unemployed people, and you still don’t have 28 percent.

One thing you can give the president credit for is his honesty. He promised us unrelenting war, pestilence and the destruction of our economy. He pledged to keep the Iraq war going at any cost, to continue to antagonize other nations and to give rich people anything they wanted.

And he did just that. Far from being deceitful on those issues, he was painfully blunt. He pledged to turn the world into a ball of fire and has nearly succeeded. He promised a full employment act for torturers and defense contractors, and he has delivered. In that sense, he has been the most truthful president we’ve ever seen. He set about to destroy the country and has almost done so.

His one, and only, policy success has been in Africa, where he has done great work in trying to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, in establishing anti-poverty programs and in trying to spread democracy as fervently as he has tried to stifle it here. History will judge him kindly on those issues. But it’s hard to point to many, or any, other success stories.

Providing assistance to Africa was not only the right thing to do, it was the morally correct and most Christian way to handle the many crises there. But in just about every other area, Bush’s policies of war, misery and neglect could be described as the opposite. He may not be the Antichrist, but he’s been building the saddles and tending the stables for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

It’s hard to fathom why Bush has maintained such support among evangelical Christians unless a disproportionate percentage of them want to see the Rapture occur during their lifetimes. It’s the only possible explanation.

So this July 4, as we celebrate the birth of our country, set off some fireworks and hoist a beer in tribute to George Walker Bush, a man who came from Texas to stir things up in Washington and did just that.

In just six months he’ll be gone and we can begin the long cleanup that happens after every catastrophic disaster.

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