"For 15 minutes, America turned its gaze from the guy who landed the plane in the river to the guy who landed the country in the ditch," joked Jimmy Kimmel — adding that “White House decorators are busy right now peeling the glow-in-the-dark stars off the ceiling in the presidential bedroom.”
Back in Texas, George Bush told a crowd Tuesday that "when I get home tonight and look in the mirror, I'm not going to regret what I see — except maybe some gray hair." But many Americans reacted differently to the Bush presidency, observing the end of his eight-year term with some anger, some humor — and a lot of all-American creativity.
1. Calls for Arrest
At the President's last appearance, the L.A. Times reported, crowds responded with anger. "Just as demonstrators clogged the barricades to protest his court-mediated victory in the 2000 election, so the disenchanted lined Pennsylvania Avenue on Tuesday to express their dismay..."
On the drive to Capitol Hill, the current and future presidents passed protesters carrying signs reading "Arrest Bush." When Bush entered the grandstand with the band playing "Hail to the Chief" for the last time, the crowd below began singing a different refrain: "Hey, Hey, Good-bye."
One man waved his shoe.
And finally, when Bush's helicopter lifted off from the east front of the Capitol, cheers rose from the crowd and throng stretching down the National Mall.
The Times noted that while Bush is famous for being thick-skinned, "as the morning wore on, his smile appeared to grow more strained..."
2. Signing Off
Some pranksters went even further. Down a two-mile stretch of San Francisco, they changed all the street signs identifying Bush Street to...Obama Street. "The entire street was covered end to end," one of the pranksters told us — adding that the media mistakenly thought they'd missed a few intersections becuase "locals were actually taking them down the next morning as souvenirs!"
Tuesday's prank reminded one area watcher of an even harsher prank eight years ago. "When Bush was first elected all the BUSH street signs were changed to say PUPPET." But one newspaper noted San Francisco voters had rejected the ultimate prank — a city measure that would've renamed a sewage treatment plant after former President Bush.
3. The Onion Gets It Right
The Onion had run a prophetic headline back in January of 2001, mocking President Bush with a fake quote. "Our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over." Monday blogger Teresa Hayden collected every Bush-related story from The Onion — nearly 400 of them — arguing that "Other histories of the Bush years will doubtless be more factual, but none will ever be truer."
The Onion kept tweaking the president throughout his eight-year presidency. There's Bush "horrified to learn Presidential salary," and later, "U.S. Takes Out Debt Consolidation Loan." But many of the headlines focus on the war in Iraq.
Bush Won't Stop Asking Cheney If We Can Invade Yet
Bush Thought War Would Be Over By Now
Bush Subconsciously Sizes Up Spain For Invasion
Bush Asks Congress For $30 Billion To Help Fight War On Criticism
Rumsfeld Only One Who Can Change Toner In White House Printer
"[I]n this moment before a changing world overwrites our memories of the era," the blogger writes, "let us pause to salute our constant companion of those years..."
4. Heckling CNN
Oakland's Parkway theatre announced they'd broadcast a feed from CNN on their movie screens Tuesday, including Bush's final departure and Obama's swearing-in. By 7 a.m., nearly 400 people had formed a massive line outside the theatre, and many had to be turned away. Extra chairs were set up in the theatre's aisles, and the huge liberal crowd booed the Republicans as they appeared on the screen — Dick Cheney, Dan Quayle — and later heckled Bush's departure. And as the former president finally stepped onto a helicopter to fly away from the capitol, one heckler suggested an alternate flight plan.
"Send him to Guantanamo!"
Also watching were 5,000 schoolchildren at a community center in Harlem. "It hurt my ears. That's how crazy it got," reported NPR's Robert Smith. But as Bush ceded his presidency to Obama, "Some didn't seem to catch the finer points of presidential transitions," NRP reports. "...about five minutes into Obama's speech, the attention of the younger kids started to drift.
"They threw paper at each other and used their American flags as swords."
5. The Last "Great Moment"
David Letterman assembled a final four-minute montage of Bush's greatest goofs, celebrating the end of a recurring feature on the late-night comedy show: "Great Moments in Presidential Speeches."
"[W]e have to unload what was a tremendous rich heavy-laden vein of comedy for us," Letterman told his audience nostalgically. For over four minutes, the gaffes keep coming, and towards the end, they get even weirder. There's the thrown shoe, the dropped dog — and the infamous moment when Bush's speech was accompanied by a continually-yawning boy in a red baseball cap.
6. Jenna's Last Ride
Jenna Bush and her twin sister Barbara were more famous for partying than for public service — but they observed the transition with a letter left behind for President Obama's daughters. They remembered when their father's father was sworn in — "being seven, we didn't quite understand the gravity of the position our Grandfather was committing to" — but much of their letter seems like it was ghost-written by a Republican spinmeister. ("Our Dad, who read to us nightly...is our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV.") And instead of writing "Eight years go by so fast," the catty Bush twins wrote to the daughters of Obama that "Four years goes by so fast..."
7. Battle of the Presidential Speeches
The site SpeechWars.com created a special exhibit including Bush's own inaugural addresses in 2001 and 2005 — along with those of every president that preceded him. "See how often US presidents have said certain words in their inaugural addresses," the site promised — and it ultimately uncovered two forbidden words which Bush and his predecessors had never spoken in any of the 56 pervious inaugural addresses — but which Barack Obama did.
"Non-believers" and "Muslims."
But Bush's first inauguration speech from 2001 is still shouting out from Google's cache, reminding web surfers how Dubya promised to reform social security — and to "confront weapons of mass destruction." And blogger Andrew Sullivan remembered a Saturday Night Live sketch at the same time which presciently predicted that President Bush would eventually tell the American people that "we had that war thing happen." In the skit, Bush hold up a map showing the Atlantic ocean flooding Louisiana (with the flooding continuing all the way up to Minnesota...) Unfortunately, according to the skit's "glimpse of our future," this alternate reality would be even worse because Vice President Dick Cheney is involved in a hunting accident — where he's killed by President Bush.
8. Perverts Say Goodbye
At a rowdy San Francisco Event called "Bye Bye Bush," San Francisco writer Thomas Roche debuted a new 34-page "gonzo sci-fi cryptozoological horror" story involving evil fish, the Bigfoot monster, and the mayor of a small town in Alaska (and her husband Todd). "I was asked repeatedly to write some political smut," Roche explains, "for a Sarah Palin porn site, for an election reading, and finally for an inauguration-themed reading..."
A half dozen local writers read their short fiction as part of the "Perverts Put Out" series, but Roche came up with a "gonzo Lovecraftian science fiction horror story" in which several Alaska tourists and some unsuspecting environmentalists wander into the dark and mysterious backwoods, and confront — no, no, it's too horrible to describe. "Fairly creepy sexual description..." Roche warns at the top of the story. "Not intended for readers under 18."
"I read an extremely abbreviated version of this story in a room full of weird sexual deviants, and people seemed to like it."
9. Free the White House
"Here's a small and nerdy measure of the huge change in the executive branch," wrote blogger Jason Kottke. The White House's web site had more than 2400 restrictions for search engines — preventing web-crawling spiders from accessing entire directories, photo essays, and the text of certain speeches.
Geeks argued about whether this represented a moving break from the past — or simply an artifact of web coding. But one thing's clear — George W. Bush won't be leaving any more policy statements on the site.
In Texas Tuesday, George Bush joked that his wife Laura "was excited about me mowing the lawn and taking out the trash — it's my new domestic agenda."
10. Losing Facebook
In the last year of Bush's presidency, a Facebook group rose to over 1,000,000 members. The name of the group? "I bet I can find 1,000,000 people who dislike George Bush!"
But now many members are commemorating Bush's departure with a final Facebook ritual. Over 190,858 messages appeared on its Facebook "wall," with many now announcing that it's time to move on.
well it was a good run, but its finally over. Later guys...
I still hate George Bush... but he's gone so I don't see the point in having this crowd up my groups now.
"im leaving this group to move on from this era"
"NOW I CAN LEAVE THIS GROUP IT IS IRRELEVANT"
But as George W. Bush finally left office, there was a new group was already springing up on Facebook clamoring for the new president to enact a more liberal policy. Its name? "5 million strong to petition Obama to legalize weed."
It currently has just 3409 members.
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