I can’t tell you how many times, in the many years I’ve been writing columns for online sites, I’ve received emails, or more recently, read follow-up comments from readers of those columns that were nothing more than small-minded prattle. Too often, too many commentaries don’t even deserve the time it took to read them.
But this phenomenon of picking at the most meager of things is not inherent only to random comment posters at websites. It happens to all of us from time to time. We feel this need to poke at a specific aspect of an issue or a matter at hand. Even elected officials do this; in fact, even the most senior of aides and officials to the president do this.
Enter Andy Card, former Chief of Staff to George W. Bush.
As many of us are undoubtedly aware, about a week and a half ago, a picture of President Barack Obama sitting behind his desk in the Oval Office while making a phone call to Middle Eastern leaders surfaced. It was a fine picture depicting a moment of work for the new president.
And that’s all it was. Until Andy Card decided that it was the perfect opportunity to disparage the new president. I do not profess to know why Card felt the “jones” to knock President Obama. And for simply not wearing a jacket in the Oval Office. My best guess would be because Card was bitter over the way his own boss had become so utterly diminished from his own time in the Oval Office.
Maybe Card felt that Bush had been unnecessarily disrespected during his time as president (a matter that can definitely be debated), and just had to show a little disrespect to the new president as a way to wash the bitterness out of his mouth.
Like I said, normally, this would be one of those teensy matters that just end up on the afternoon’s trash heap. However, Card’s unwarranted interjection here is more than just a passing insult. Card actually took time to dispraise Obama. Not only that, but the words he chose, the way Card specifically framed the issue of the jacket and respect, really troubled me.
In an recent interview with “Inside Edition,” Card said, “there should be a dress code of respect….I wish that [Obama] would wear a suit coat and tie.” First of all, how does a jacket equal respect for the Oval Office? If Bill Clinton wore a jacket to work every day (which he didn’t), but carried out an affair with an intern while wearing that jacket, does the jacket hold a higher meaning than the affair? If so, then why did Newt Gingrich and the Republican Congress throw a hissy fit and engineer an impeachment?
If Richard Nixon wore a jacket every day while at the office, but ordered illegal break-ins and justified it by saying, “it’s not illegal if the president does it,” does his jacket somehow overrule him of his extreme egomania?
This is absolutely mind numbing to me. How Andy Card can actually mutter those words and believe them in unfathomable. This is the same kind of shallow, cheap stunt that has come to be emblematic of the Bush White House. If Bush wore a flag lapel pin, that automatically meant he loves America. If he took a photo with three soldiers, it automatically meant he loved the troops. If he wore a jacket to work, he must be a great leader and proven president…
Meanwhile, this nation is reeling from the skyrocketing debt his administration either accrued for us by fighting a costly war while cutting taxes at the same time, or ignored the deteriorating economic conditions of altogether.
Meanwhile, soldiers are sent to the front lines unprepared, without necessary armor; and veterans’ hospitals at home crumble without his knowledge.
Meanwhile, he took the largest surplus to the largest deficit in his eight years, and divided this nation more than any president since probably James Buchanan.
I’d love for Andy Card to explain how Bush’s pin, Bush’s photo op with soldiers and especially Bush’s jacket is any sign of respect for the American people or the Oval Office given all the mishaps and disasters that occured, not just on his watch, but as a result of Bush’s watch.
But Card could not leave well enough alone. Apparently, being overly shallow and gimmicky isn’t enough for the departed chief of staff. Card then threw out the “freedom and democracy” card that has also come to represent the narrow mindedness of Bush’s tenure.
Card just had to needle the new Democratic president a little more. He continued with, “The Oval Office symbolizes…the Constitution, the hopes and dreams, and I’m going to say democracy…I expect him to send the message that people who are going to be in the Oval Office should treat the office with the respect that it has earned over history.”
Perhaps Card needs to put down the tall glass of Texas Kool-Aid and step out of his bubble. If Card is going to throw that caveat out there, he first needs to be in touch with reality—the harsh reality of his own boss, W. If the Oval Office stands for the Constitution, and the Constitution is so important, than how does a mere jacket show the level of respect that is appropriate? And if the Constitution is so important, then why did the administration he worked for labor so hard to lessen and weaken the Constitution by stripping away civil rights and liberties from its own citizens?
Ask most Americans today. Ask nearly 95% of the world. They’ll tell you, with one unified voice, that Bush has done more to skirt or trample the American Constitution than any jacketless president will ever be able to do.
And where was the deep concern for the history of respect that office has earned when Bush was in office okaying what essentially amounted to the distribution of lies as a way to justify a war that Bush had already made up his mind to fight?
Where was the acute consideration for the history of respect when he went back on his word to thoroughly punish anyone who leaked Valerie Plame’s name by commuting the sentence of his good friend and “good man” Scooter Libby?
Where is the reverence for history of respect when Bush just stopped working on November 5th, and dumped two wars and a decimated economy on the laps of the next president, and flies off into the waiting arms of his new home in a ritzy Dallas suburb?
Where was the apotheosis for the history of respect that office has earned through time when Bush ran up the credit charges into the trillions for a selective war and left the inflating debt to the next two generation of Americans behind him?
Really, Mr. Card? Wear a jacket in the Oval Office and all that is washed away? Where is the magic river with the holy torrents that cleanse so thoroughly? I know Bush is a born-again Christian and he truly believes in redemptive forgiveness. But come on. This absolution you seek for you and your boss even pushes the limits of Biblical redemption, doesn’t it?
It’s one thing to hurl criticism at others; we all do this. But it’s a whole other thing to level such paltry and basement reproaches without being fully cognizant of one’s own place in history and reality. The only place where wearing a jacket outweighs high crimes low competency as a symbol of respect is in Card’s own mind.
And frankly, it scares me to consider how much real estate is really up in that cavernous hole.
As if all of this weren’t enough, Card speaks about Obama as if the current president is the first, or the only president to ever grace the Oval Office without a suit jacket. Or better yet, as if Card’s boss held the line of morality and decency beyond all others.
Let me address Mr. Card directly.
Mr. Card, I offer you some visual, tangible, factual evidence (which is more than your administration offered the American people on so many levels) to the contrary:
Here is George Tenet, the former CIA director who fell on the sword for Bush over Bush’s false “yellow cake uranium” claim that scared Americans into accepting a war with Iraq. And for his “selfless act” of protecting the president at all costs, Tenet was awarded a Congressional Medal of Freedom. By? None other than George W. Bush himself. So, a man who clearly disrespected the Oval Office by not wearing a jacket, gets a medal of freedom?
Andy Card, what sayeth thee now?
Andy Card, recognize this guy:
Oh wait, here is your boss, himself, in the Oval Office without a jacket.
Andy Card, what sayeth thee now?
Lastly, take a look at this one:
That’s Ronald Reagan, the great Republican God, the savior of conservatism, the messiah (if I can borrow a republican insult) of the 80’s, the defender of all things moral and just…the man that all Republicans still harken to…
Andy Card, what sayeth thee now?
A big man, a real man, would acknowledge his wrongs and apologize. But let’s be honest. I’ve been alive and at least half conscious in the last eight years. I know that nobody in the administration you worked for was ever wrong. I know nobody ever apologized. I know nobody there ever cared for a niggling thing called accountability.
I’ll try not to hold my breath waiting for you to do the right thing.
You can prove me wrong, or you can—once again—prove yourself to be Bush-league.
Jason is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association
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