Thursday, July 7, 2016

Quote of the day: And Kicking off George Bush's sorta sad week

(Updated below)

Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.

- That's the first sentence of the preface to Jean Edward Smith’s biography of George W. Bush. After this, one supposes, Smith really settles down to rendering a judgment on Bush's presidency. (Hat-tip to Thomas Mallon's review in The New Yorker.)

Smith's line is also being added to my collection of great opening sentences (non-fiction division).

Poor Dubya hasn't been having a very good week, has he? Smith's bio came out on Monday the 4th. Then, on Wednesday, the day Bush turned 70 – a day when more reflective people than Dubya (which is to say, almost anyone) might want to pause and consider how they've spent their time on this old world – the Chilcot Report dropped, providing a withering assessment of the British role in the Iraq War (pdf).

The Chilcot Report mainly takes the actions of the Blair government to task, leaving to the US the task of producing a similar official accounting of the mendacity, incompetence, and barefaced illegality by the Bush Administration before, during, and after the war. (Not gonna happen, I'm afraid.)

I should note that the Report has a pretty pedestrian first sentence: "We were appointed to consider the UK’s policy on Iraq from 2001 to 2009, and to identify lessons for the future." Less of a Jane Austen, as these things go, more of a Richard Nixon. So it wasn't placed in competition with other worthy opening lines. But you don't have to read far into the executive summary to get to the zingers – and they seem all the more harsh to my American ear by their understatedness.

(Update:  And here's the last sentence of Smith's biography. Serves me right for waiting until the book comes to my local library:

Whether George W. Bush was the worst president in American history will be long debated, but his decision to invade Iraq is easily the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.”

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