Part of me is dreading the departure of President Bush, although I personally think he was a miserable president. The invasion of Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, the “black” prisons around the world and the torture techniques employed by the Central Intelligence Agency are all evidence, to me, of his administration’s ineptitude.

I can counter my own arguments with positive examples, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the creation of the United States African Command, which finally gave the continent the attention it deserves. But I think most people will agree that Bush’s legacy is generally viewed negatively.

Here is what troubles me about his departure. Bush oversaw eight years of indulgence in the American dream – low interest rates, a recovering economy, a strong executive uniting a government focused on national security. And I honestly think that, deep down inside, away from the public opinion polls, Americans loved Bush for giving them easy access to that dream.

When the international community cried foul after the invasion of Iraq, America screamed back insults to the “international system” and the incompetent United Nations. When boots touched down in Afghanistan and the Taliban fell temporarily, Americans stood a bit taller. Hatred for Saddam Hussein was burned into the pupils of Americans of all ages with the fires of the two towers.

I don’t think many believe that America invaded Iraq to promote democracy or human rights. The Marines shot up Baghdad to kick ass and America ate it up. European disapproval of the systematic torture of American citizens, under-18 prisoners and innocent bystanders fell on deaf ears. “Hey, they’re terrorists. They don’t deserve better,” was the response from confident Republicans and Democrats insecure about their “hard on terror” credentials.

As much as I detest the Bush administration, it didn’t fail America. Bush was re-elected in 2004 by the most voters in American history. He was a president we could have a beer with while sitting on the porch and watching the world burn. His anti-intellectualism was endearing and everyone loved his snubs of the “Washington consensus.”

Bush didn’t drop the ball on America during his presidency. He held up a mirror and showed America exactly what it was – corrupt, greedy and predicated on historic military strength. Nothing that has failed in the Bush administration was introduced by the Bush administration. It just did a poor job of executing common policy.

What scares me about Bush leaving is that it gives America an excuse to disconnect itself from its mistakes. As the truth of America’s egregious crimes in Iraq is slowly revealed in exit interviews, the blame game will begin. Bush will serve the role all presidents play after their terms are over. He’ll quietly retire to his ranch, allowing Obama to take the limelight.

What will America do? Easy – blame the guy who won’t talk back. New allegations will start to come out about how mistakes were made but ignored, how the White House purposely misled Congress, how torture techniques were widely used throughout the war on terror. President Obama will tell us a new time has come and that we need not feel guilty for decisions made in the fog of war; he’ll soothe America’s inner consciousness. Americans will storm and shout about how they “didn’t know” and how, had they known, they would never have agreed to go along with the administration’s decisions.

But we did know.

Over the past eight years, America has shown its true colors. It democratically elected a president and a Congress that both violated the Constitution. Then America democratically re-elected the same president. American officials tortured human beings living in the legal purgatory of “enemy combatant” status. But in the three elections from 2002 to 2006, America did not bother to elect a Congress that would stop it. Now, Bush’s legacy has become the perfect scapegoat for our failings as a society. As much as I hate Bush, I wish he could stick around for a few more months and make us realize the true state of our “more perfect union.”

Eamon Nolan is a senior in the School of Foreign Service. He can be reached at Memoirs of a Traveler appears every other Monday on

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