You have to go deep. You have to scrape and dig and plow, hunt and dive and sigh and even then it might take so long and cost so much invaluable energy and ultimately prove to be so damn near impossible, you will wonder if it's even worth it and why the hell I am even trying because, well, sweet Jesus knows he doesn't deserve it in the first place.
But if you're so inclined, if the temperature of your temperament is just so, if that fourth glass of $10 recession-defying wine is making you feel unusually generous, maybe, just maybe you can muster a bit of sympathy for George W. Bush.
Possible? Insane? Blasphemous? Damn straight.
But with Bush -- the worst-regarded, least popular, most ethically offensive president most of us will ever know -- things are just little bit different. His is that most peculiar and disquieting of exit portraits, a slumpy little guy initially thought to be a middling and relatively harmless puppet, suddenly thrust into history's limelight by the most dire of events, who then squandered every drop of global goodwill and violated most every international law and whored away the very soul of the nation with far more dazzling, efficient success than anyone could have ever imagined.
The upshot is as painful as it is undeniable: Dubya is, whether we like it or not, one of the most extraordinary and influential presidents of all time. Imagine.
Sad but true. And most certainly not in the good way. What that little prick has influenced will be with us for a loooong time, damn his eyes.
Bush as the family man. Bush as the master of friendly interpersonal relations. Bush as the dorky wise-crackin' fishing buddy. Bush as the war-weary, wizened, slightly deluded visionary whose vision just so happened to be horribly wrong in every possible way, but who nevertheless truly believed he was doing right by his confused and angry God, and probably still does, and doesn't that make him some sort of sad and tragic figure in our sad and tragic history?
Well, no, it doesn't. Pathetic? Yes. Pitiable? Maybe. But tragic? That implies honor gone wrong, integrity soured by unforeseen traumas, noble intent and spiritual purity ruined by dark forces beyond his control. Not a chance. Bush might not be the cleverest dolt in the playground, but he is far from ignorant of the dishonest, crony-laden, criminal slant of nearly every decision his administration has ever made.
To my mind, even the softest portrait of W merely raises the larger question, perhaps not to be fully answered for many years: How could such a mediocre and unimaginative human cause so much damage? How could this frat house daddy's-boy dullard so perfectly undermine America's fundamental identity and disfigure every major department of government and bring the nation to its knees? Indeed, unpacking that one may take awhile.
There is, after all, no escaping history. There is no escaping the hard reality of our gutted and mangled nation, how the past eight years are simply some of the most dismal and corrupt in our nation's history, a modern take on the Dark Ages. And there is also no escaping the sense that we barely got out of it alive.
But you know what? Maybe there will eventually be a tiny bit of room for empathy for George W. Bush, for feeling a tiny bit sorry for the guy for being so inept and so deeply loathed and for never really understanding the scope of the damage he was doing, or who was really pulling the strings.
Yeah, maybe about the same time I start feeling sorry for Hitler.
There's more. If "forgiveness is a virtue", I guess I'm not going to be very virtuous about that miserable, evil little weakling son of a bitch. I want to piss on his grave. Or on his face.