Tag Archives: iraq

President Bush Delivers Farewell Speech – Jan 15

President Bush delivered his farewell address Jan 15, 2009. Regardless of one’s party affiliation and political likes and dislikes, a Presidential farewell provides an interesting perspective into the legacy by which a President hopes to be remembered. And this is why I found President Bush’s address so shocking. He begins by acknowledging the truly astonishing nature of the transition:

Five days from now, the world will witness the vitality of American democracy. In a tradition dating back to our founding, the presidency will pass to a successor chosen by you, the American people. Standing on the steps of the Capitol will be a man whose history reflects the enduring promise of our land. This is a moment of hope and pride for our whole nation. And I join all Americans in offering best wishes to President-elect Obama, his wife Michelle, and their two beautiful girls.

Then, he narrows in to the single event that shaped both his speech and his entire presidency:

This evening, my thoughts return to the first night I addressed you from this house — September the 11th, 2001.

Some insight into the administration’s view of US intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq:

Afghanistan has gone from a nation where the Taliban harbored al-Qaida and stoned women in the streets to a young democracy that is fighting terror and encouraging girls to go to school. Iraq has gone from a brutal dictatorship and a sworn enemy of America to an Arab democracy at the heart of the Middle East and a friend of the United States.

Bush contributes 7 years with no terrorist attacks to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, transformation of the military and intelligence community, and taking “the fight to terrorists and those who support them”:

There is legitimate debate about many of these decisions. But there can be little debate about the results. America has gone more than seven years without another terrorist attack on our soil.

Now, a return to the ideological struggle between good and evil:

The battles waged by our troops are part of a broader struggle between two dramatically different systems. Under one, a small band of fanatics demands total obedience to an oppressive ideology, condemns women to subservience and marks unbelievers for murder. The other system is based on the conviction that freedom is the universal gift of Almighty God, and that liberty and justice light the path to peace.

I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.

9/11 laid such a heavy burden on this administration that Bush only gives a single paragraph to the other major events of his administration: expansion of Medicare prescription drug benefits, No Child Left Behind (which he doesn’t mention by name), lower taxes, promotion of faith-based programs, and providing assistance to persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Let’s spend a minute on that last one. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is largely considered to be the most successful international aid program the US has enacted and recieves strong bipartisan support. PEPFAR provided $50 billion over 5 years to fund anti-retrovirals and contraceptive distribution networks, as well as educational programs (usually abstinence based, although this is changing). PEPFAR has had a slew of problems, but is still one of the largest sources of funding for AIDS relief. Yet, President Bush hardly even mentions it.

But more than anything, I am struck by the divisiveness of his language. President Bush entered office vowing to be a “uniter not a divider”, yet he left with extremely low approval ratings and negative perceptions of the US worldwide. Drawing sharp lines between black and white, good and evil, may be useful to him in his personal life, but divisions such as these can have harmful and polarizing effects in politics. Unity is not achieved by publicly labeling outsiders. If a group identifies themselves by their opposition to you, calling them evil strengthens their identity and opens you up to scrutiny (consider Bush and the torture at Guantanamo).

While discussing this issue with a friend of mine, he said something quite insightful: “Great men in history have created divisiveness and offense without exception.  They simply know that their ultimate goals are more important than public acceptance…Great men may create terrible controversy, but at least they have the appropriate methodology and results to back it up.” Therefore, division isn’t the problem, it creating division without support, without evidence, without proper methodology.

Politics is labeled the art of compromise for a reason. Political philosopher Jean Bethke Elshtain states: “But compromise is not a mediocre way to do politics; it is an adventure, the only way to do democratic politics.” Certainly, this argument is a simplification, but I look forward to the departure of divisive ideology from the White House.

(Read the full text of President Bush’s farewell address here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nation/bal-bushtext0115,0,3697667.story)

(Read more of my friend’s blog at http://nateahern.blogspot.com/)

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More Quotes About Obama from Around the World

More amazing quotes (some hopeful, others frightening) about President-Elect Barrack Obama from around the world, including some from the United Nations, Cuba, Nicaragua, Liberia, Iraq, and Afghanistan:

“This is, I believe, an historic opportunity…I am confident that we can look forward to an era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism. If ever there were a time for the world to join together, it is now: the global financial crisis; the crisis of climate change; the challenge of fulfilling our promises on the Millennium Development Goals, made more difficult by the twin crises of food and energy prices.” -Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary-Genreal, Nov 5 2008, Daily Briefing

“I wish Godspeed to the man who was my former opponent and will be my president. And I call on all Americans, as I have often in this campaign, to not despair of our present difficulties, but to believe, always, in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here. Americans never quit. We never surrender. We never hide from history. We make history.” -Senator John McCain, conceding presidency to Obama night of Nov 5 (full text)

“We believe this is the decision of American voters. We respect their will. But there are many upcoming challenges. We don’t think there will be change in policy overnight. There won’t be quick disengagement here. A great deal is at stake here.” -Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi Foreign Minister

“As any successful CEO will tell you, leadership, vision and motivation has far more impact on results than any tax cut or increase.” -Mark Cuban, American billionaire entreprenuer, from Blog Maverick

“If Obama takes some action to ease the embargo, it would be welcomed and of course it would be of help, but we’re prepared for conditions to remain the same.” -Cuba’s Foreign Investment Minister Marta Lomas

“Really it’s a miracle that the United States for the first time in its history has a black president who has shown he is willing to dialogue with Latin American countries and is open to reviewing free trade agreements.” -Nicaraugan President Daniel Ortega

“This is a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya. The victory of Senator Obama is our own victory because of his roots here in Kenya. As a country, we are full of pride for his success.” -Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

“All Africans now know that if you persevere, all things are possible.” -Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first woman elected to head an African country

“The election of Senator Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States has taken the American people and the rest of the world with them into a new era – an era where race, colour and ethnicity, I hope, will also disappear… in politics in the rest of the world.” -Hamid Karzai, Afghan President

For more quotes, including some from Obama’s speech, check out my previous blog entry: Obama’s Victory Speech & Notable Quotes.