Worst Ever

For some time there’s been a kind of running tally as to whether or not George W. Bush is the Worst President Ever. Other candidates have been put forward—Buchanan, Fillmore, and Polk among them. My own worst of list contains Andrew Jackson—iconic as he may be, his feud with the United States Bank catalyzed decades of regional inflation, bankruptcy, recession, and enabled the continuation of Southern slave-holding policies that might have faded as economically unviable under some kind of national debt management.

Here is an article running down Bush’s record and arguing for his position as Worst Ever.

I find it hard to argue with. I’m not inclined to, for one thing, but when you think back, Clinton’s presidency feels like some kind of Golden Age now.

I have a theory about why Clinton was so hated among those who still support Dubya. I think it has to do with a streak of isolationism bred deep in the bones of Americans. Clinton made deals, sat down and talked to people—“foreigners”—and generally acted as a neighbor to other countries. It’s a mixed record, sure, but our status and respect in the world was pretty high then.

Some Americans see this as not quite but almost treasonous. All this nonsense about illegal immigrants—and for some it extends to legal immigrants—goes to a sense that we should isolate ourselves, preserve what we have from the ravages of foreign investment, foreign entanglements, foreign anything. It’s okay to occasionally buy a Volkswagen or a Toyota, but General Motors should still be the number one car company on the globe. America won the Cold War and ought to be the only nation to hold the title of Superpower. But we ought no use it the way Clinton did.

Bush not only carried the big stick but he used it. Even Teddy Roosevelt understood that the power of the Big Stick was in its unstated threat, that using it actually diminished it’s might. And what did Bush use it on?

Well, he—or at least his administration—is a bully. He beats up on those he sees as a threat and stalking the schoolyard with a mad-on is his idea of a foreign policy.

But it reflects his supporters, who really are afraid of “ferriners.” His supporters are mad at Bush just now because, well, dammit, he got us involved with them anyway, with this mess in Iraq.

Well. I don’t know if he’s the worst we ever had. But it certainly isn’t going to be difficult for someone to do better.

Anniversaries

This is another repost from a long-ago Distal Muse.  But I’m adding a bit to it.  Yesterday was Donna’s birthday.

Anyone who knows me, knows that Donna is the love of my life.  There really is no other way to describe it.  Ours was a slowly-built relationship, a curious and unlikely collaboration that resulted in…well, we’ve been together for 28 years.  I think that should say enough.  She has supported my efforts, enjoyed the results, and more often has been the sole source of smiles in an otherwise grim time.  She’s my best friend, among other things.

One of the things she wanted was a dog.  We’d been living in apartments, of course, and both of us worked full time—me more than full time, with the writing taking up a good deal of “spare” time—and I was reluctant to bring an animal that needed care and attention into that.  But when we decided to buy a house, that was on the list of things I promised we’d get.

It was not the easiest thing in the world.  Neither of us was really prepared for all that it entailed and we made mistakes and lost sleep and—

See, we both of us take responsibility seriously.  We neither of us are the kind of people who would buy a dog, put in the yard, and pay attention to it only when it needed food, like many people seem to do.  However it would play out, the fact was that the dog would part of the family.

What follows is the post I wrote four years ago to commemorate the passing of our first dog, Kory.  So, without further preamble…

May 4th, 2004. At 5:20 PM we let go of a good friend. It was time.  Kory was an eleven year old shepherd-beagle mix, who normally weighed in at 55 lbs.
Donna always joked that she was shepherd, beagle, cat, and kangaroo. When younger, her jumping ability was astonishing. From a standstill she could reach our shoulder height
easily.

This section is about important encounters in my life as a writer.  I have to include Kory because of how richly she enhanced our lives.  We rescued her from the Humane Society. We think she was the runt of a litter–certain habits she got over only slowly (and some not at all) suggested abuse at an early age. If so, someone had been uncommonly
cruel, because she was less than three months old when we adopted her.

She picked us. Anyone who has ever gone through this process knows what I mean. There was simply no denying that she was going home with us. After a rocky start and a lot of sleep deprivation, Kory settled in to become a fabulous companion. Gentle, attentive, and a comprehension of English that astonished us to the last hour of her
life.

The best time for me personally was 1995 to 97. I had a chance to take those two years off from a regular day-job and try to be a writer. Kory kept me company all day. I write in the morning. She would come down after Donna left for work and lie under my desk until
lunch time. Then we’d go for a walk, eat, take a nap, clean house. She supervised.

She was sad when I had to return to the day-job grind. But she adapted. We trained her to walk off the leash. She waited at every intersection till we gave the word to cross the street. She was friendly to strangers, disinterested in other dogs, and always on the
lookout for squirrels and rabbits to chase. She never caught one, and I’m not sure she was really interested in catching them–she just liked to chase them.

Last year she stopped eating and starting losing weight. After a couple of visits to vets, we learned that she had a thyroid tumor. It had metastisized already, so there was no point in operative. We thought we had a few months at most. But we figured out how to get her to eat again, and she lasted till the date above. A whole extra year.  But in the last month, she took a turn for the worse. No energy, greater weight loss. She was not having a good time.

We were with her till she was gone.

Kory liked the idea of me being a full time writer. She encouraged it. She made us laugh. She took care of us. She was family.  She ís part of our history, the substance of what makes us who we are. She will be missed. She will always be with us.

Yes, we eventually got a second dog.  I’ll put up the post about her later.  But I wanted to put this one back up and to say that we now think back on Kory with only a touch of sadness.  The stories make us laugh.  She was a fine member of the family.

Despite the timing of her death, on Donna’s birthday, we had a good day yesterday and will continue to have good anniversaries.  Things end.  Even memory fades.  But the way things impact you linger.  Kory left us better people.  And that’s a hell of a nice birthday gift.