Hockey legend Gordie Howe spins a great yarn about being a pall bearer for Jack Adams. The long-time Detroit Red Wings GM died in 1968 after a reign of success that was predicated on a reign of terror. Adams was known for his tight-fisted approach to money and his draconian nature when it came to dealing with players.
Adams repeatedly told Howe he was the highest paid player in the league until Howe found out there were three guys on the team making more than he did. He also traded away Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay for attempting to form the NHL players union in the 1950s. Journalists often noted that Adams would walk around with train tickets sticking out of his shirt pocket, a clear indication that if you weren’t playing up to his standards, you were likely to be sent out of town on a rail. The stories of this variety were endless.
Howe was in a limousine heading to the cemetery when some of the other pall bearers, hockey players all, started telling the perfunctory “isn’t it a shame he’s gone” stories you would expect at a funeral. Finally, one player piped up:
“I played for him and he was a miserable son of a bitch,” the man noted. “Now, he’s a dead, miserable son of a bitch.”
I thought about that as I was gearing up for George W. Bush’s speech last night. After an eight-year reign as our leader, he walks away from a country decimated byunemployment, economic failure, social unrest anddiminished world status.He set records with his disapproval ratings and yet his speech had the tone of an extended spoken-word version of“My Way.”
For the most part, people seem pretty much happy to get on with life without him. Still, I keep seeing analysislike thistalking about how he wasn’t wrong on everything or columns like this sayingwe need a broader viewbefore we can say for sure how he will be judged.
True, he wasn’t wrong on everything. In an eight-year span, you can’t be wrong about everything, or else you would have ended up catatonic after eating 53 pounds of fudge and chasing it with a glass of Drain-O on a dare. You would have gotten run over at least 90 times by speeding D.C. cabs after uttering the phrase, “C’mon, we can make it before the light changes.” You would have taken a leak on the third rail at the D.C. Metro and lit yourself up like a Christmas tree trying to disprove that electricity can flow upward. You would have been dead many times over after trying many stupid, stupid things, prefacing them with, “Well, if this doesn’t kill me, nothing will…” Not being wrong about everything is not the standard I’m looking for in the leader of my country.
False, you can judge him right now. How much broader of a view on him do we need to get? We’re worse off as a nation than at any point since the Great Depression. I remember spending late nights with my grandmother who would tell me stories of the Depression. There wasn’t anything Great about it. Handout programs that broke their spirit and hand-me-down shoes that nearly crippled her. Lost money due to lost banks and lost homes due to lost jobs. It was their worst nightmare realized, the one where you’re falling and you don’t know when or if you’ll ever hit the bottom. Sound familiar? I can’t imagine anyone in 40 years looking back and coming up with a positive spin on this, at least not one that someone will buy having lived through it.
It would be great to borrow Ford’s line here about our long national nightmare being over. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Although we’ve finally taken the keys away from our country’s worst drunk driver, we’re nowhere near done with the wreckage he hath wrought. It will likely take decades to get this fixed and that presupposes we as a country don’t do something stupid in 2012-2020 elections.
Only two logical reasons exist for pulling out the “Bush’s legacy might not be that bad” column. The first reason is that the people writing are like the folks who arefilling time before a bad Super Bowl It’s very clear one team is going to bludgeon the other to death, but column inches must be filled and whipping out a “time will tell” column gives the writer the chance to say, “I was the only one who believed” if something truly ridiculous happens.
The second, and more reasonable, reason for this is that people see the end of the road and much like they do during a funeral, they feel the need to say something nice about the deceased. It’s decent and humane, but it’s far more than he gave to us over the past eight years.
He was a miserable son of a bitch. Now, he’s a departing miserable son of a bitch.
Now, let’s bury this administration and move on.