It's hard to believe, but it's true. After eight years and dozens of these columns critical of the president, Bush finally is leaving office Tuesday.
How does it feel to have endured two terms of George W. Bush? I don't think that's a question you want to ask too many people right now. I have felt sorriest for, or angriest at, those who voted for him twice, not that anyone in this state could have made a difference in our ``democratic'' elections.
It provides me no consolation to know that I recognized early on that Bush was not the kind of man our nation needed in the White House. It makes you feel sort of powerless to realize that first the voters and then Bush decision-makers in Washington didn't listen to my advice.
Right after the 2000 election, I wrote in shock that Bush would lower the bar of the presidency and I blamed the electorate for being taken in by his naiveté. But I wasn't entirely correct, because he lost the popular vote by half a million votes.
We all remember what happened next: Florida, the Supreme Court, inauguration and the start of our long march back down the hill of social and political progress.
But everybody deserves a honeymoon, and Bush got his. By May 2001, however, it was becoming clear that we had a bunch of warmongers running the country. On May 19, with the president prepared to scrap a major 1972 arms-control agreement and build an anti-missile shield (Star Wars II), I wrote:
``Somehow, the madness has to be stopped before this new obsession with chest-beating "" represented by a new nastiness, threats of nuclear attacks and celestial rocket launchers "" sends the world's insecure leaders (and there are many besides George W. Bush) racing to the brink of war.''
Obviously, we didn't stop the madness, and then 9/11 sent it to levels we previously had thought unimaginable. But first we had the righteousness of, and attracted the compassion for, a nation wronged. Unfortunately, the administration blew it.
In early 2002, the State of the Union address by President Bush ``turned the halls of Congress that night into a disturbing war party,'' I wrote on Feb. 12:
``How the world has changed in five months! After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the United States had the sympathies of most of the world and support for a just retaliation. Now, as the president fans the flames of a wider war, nation after nation is quitting the team.''
It was clear then that Bush was turning his attention toward Iraq and away from the real issues that were affecting the American people, such as health care, energy, an aging population and the environment.
Long before the March 2003 Iraq invasion, I wrote that ``we apparently have fallen for the president's rhetoric of evil' to the point that we can calmly include the option of invading another country in our everyday discussions "" without an emotional hair falling out of place.''
Despite Bush's delusions of easy victory in Iraq, the war went on and on and the fatalities piled up. And as evidence mounted that the administration had either lied or been ignorant about the factual justification for the invasion, popular support began to decline.
But somehow, he was elected a second time in 2004, and even got more votes than his opponent. So the war continued abroad and nothing continued at home, except for the excesses spurred by the Patriot Act.
Little did we know that by 2005 and 2006, the seeds of the current economic collapse had been planted and our president was well on his way to leaving the country in complete shambles before walking out of the White House on Inauguration Day.
Some readers may think I'll have an identity crisis or some other psychic episode because I won't have Bush to occupy my attention. Attacks on his administration's policies did account for about a third of these columns over the past eight years. And I've taken my share of abuse in response.
But it's a tribute to the greatness of this country that I could have criticized Bush and his cronies so harshly over the last several years and still be here writing today, regardless of who was in the White House.
That's the important point: regardless of who's in the White House. As Barack Obama takes office next week, he's inheriting a disaster, and the economy will delay implementation of the agenda that got him elected.
He does, however, deserves the honeymoon all new presidents are accorded. That said, some of his personnel choices are disappointing because they don't seem to represent the change we really need.
We'll be watching.
Cary Brunswick is managing editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at (607) 432-1000, ext. 217, or firstname.lastname@example.org.