The Bush Commencement Speech: Hypocrisy in Greenville (Updated)

There is, I think, nothing more maddening for me than to watch or listen to or even hear about one of this president’s moralistic speeches, the ones wherein he  counsels everyone to “be true to American values”. I didn’t have to watch it or hear it but he just did another one, a commencement speech at Furman University in Greenville, SC, in which this defender of torture, this moralist who publicly admits he’s willing to let sick kids die if it means protecting insurance company profits, this ex-addict who abused booze and did so much coke he couldn’t remember if he’d done any, lectured the graduating class on living a “culture of responsibility” and told them “they would never find fulfillment in ‘alcohol, drugs or promiscuity.'” Easy for him to say. He’s had his already. Decades of it.

The hypocrisy at Furman must have been hip-deed on the ground, like wading through a basement after the sewer pipe bursts.

“A culture of responsibility means serving others,” Mr. Bush said. “To all of you, my call is to make service to others a way of life. Wherever you live, whatever you do, find a way to give back to your communities.”

To understand this clap-trap, we need a Bush Interpretator. I offer my services. I will explain the above quote by defining key words that don’t quite mean the same thing to Mr Bush that they do to you and me.

For instance, when we say the word “community”, we generally mean our community – the town we live in, the county, the state, perhaps the region. When Mr Bush says the word “community” what we know from his actions he really means to say is “business community”. For example, eRobin wrote about his intention to veto a Medicare Bill that he says protects doctors and patients “at the expense of private insurance companies.” Can’t have that in BushAmerica.

Then there is that lovely word “others”. If we are to decide who he means when he says “others” we have to look at who he has chosen to serve, and in that case the overwhemling answer would have to be “corporations” because Mr Bush has spent his entire presidency working to make things easier for them. He hasn’t lifted a finger to help anyone else. Of the weak and disenfranchised, from poor, sick kids to the refugees from Katrina to the elderly to the unemployed, he has been unavailable at best and actively hostile at worst. One of the biggest and most fervent of his crusades was the one to abolish the Social Security system and force everyone to win their retirement money through the slot-machine-type lottery of the stock market.

Therefore, if we are to take Mr Bush at his word defined by his actions, his translated comment would have to read:

“A culture of responsibility means serving corporations,” Mr. Bush said. “To all of you, my call is to make service to corporations a way of life. Wherever you live, whatever you do, find a way to give back to your business communities.”

Of course, I’m not the only one who sees through the Bush mask. The students and faculty of Furman itself were less than thrilled at his decision to pontificate at them.

[E]ven here, in a reliably Republican state, the president’s visit prompted protests by students and faculty members, who complained in recent weeks about his selection as a graduation speaker. The event at which he spoke on Saturday evening was open only to ticket holders.

More than 200 Furman professors and students signed a statement criticizing Bush administration policies and the Iraq war.

“Under ordinary circumstances, it would be an honor for Furman University to be visited by the president of the United States,” the statement said. “However, these are not ordinary circumstances.”

The statement said the Iraq war had “severely damaged our government’s ethical and moral credibility at home and abroad.”


Mr. Bush…ignored about 15 faculty members who stood silently, wearing T-shirts that bore the words, “We Object.”

I bet. That’s what he usually does. What surprises me is that the 15 were allowed into the event in the first place. He usually protects himself from dissenters by having them blocked from attending and the ones wearing critical t-shirts are normally arrested.

But the most hypocritical moment in a hyper-hypocritical speech has to be this one:

 Mr. Bush said[,] “There is no shame in recognizing your failings or getting help if you need it. The tragedy comes when we fail to take responsibility for our weaknesses and surrender to them.”

(emphasis added)

This would be poignant if there was a scintilla of a suggestion that he was looking back on his own disastrous tenure with an inkling of understanding, but of course there wasn’t because he isn’t. At the end of his abominable presidency he is as certain that everybody else on the planet but him is wrong as he was at the beginning. He may actually believe, this president who has successfully ducked taking responsibility for any of his actions practically from the day he was born, that his avoidance of it is the apex of responsibility, that his blind stubborness represents the height of true strength.

Although I have to admit that in the Most Hypocritical Statement Sweepstakes, this one would give the previous one a run for its money:

Mr. Bush said: “Our country needs corporate responsibility as well as personal responsibility. So my call to those of you entering the business world is to be honest with your shareholders, be truthful with your customers and give back to the communities in which you live.”

One is forced to wonder what he could possibly mean by that, this man who has spent the last 7 years actively helping corporations avoid responsibility for their actions, lie to their shareholders, rip off their customers, and steal resources from every single community in which they’re located. How does one square this statement with the reality of his refusal to allow the SEC to investigate his buddy Ken Lay for 2 years? Or with his turning over of virtually every once-watchdog govt agency to lobbyists and corporate lawyers who come from the very industries those agencies are supposed to police? Or with the fact that his Justice Dept has investigated fewer cases of corporate malfeasance than any JD since the Teapot Dome scandal?

One can’t. They aren’t squarable. One is forced to the conclusion that this man who has escaped accountability for everything his entire life fully expects to continue escaping for whatever remains of it. Or else he is so incredibly dense that he actually believes white is black, down is up, and bad is good simply because he says so and the sycophants he has surrounded himself with echo it as loud as they can. “Mr President, you’re a genius. Of course you’re right, Mr President. Yes, Mr President.”

Bush White House: Sycophants-R-Us.

There is so little self-awareness in Bush that one simply can’t reasonably suspect that he isn’t what he patently is: a spoiled brat who has no more concept of the real world than a mushroom. Yet people pay to hear him speak riddles and hypocrisies and lies in a mangled English that is the best he can manage, this so-called Yale graduate.


UPDATE: (6/5/08) One rather astounding section of Bush’s speech escaped the notice of the fawning NYT reporter but not the sharp ears of Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Scot Lehigh: George W Bush warned the students about…going into debt.

I couldn’t make this stuff up.

But here’s what took the commencement cake: Bush’s warning to graduates to avoid amassing too much debt.

“You can strengthen our country by showing fiscal discipline in your lives,” he said. “It may sound funny coming from a visitor from Washington, D.C., but it’s important to your futures and the future of our country.”

Although that quote suggests the president has some inkling that he’s an unlikely messenger on this topic, it didn’t keep him from offering this counsel: “My advice to you is not to dig a financial hole that you can’t get out of. Live within your means.”


Having inherited a budget in surplus and a declining national debt, this president pushed through a series of tax cuts and presided over spending increases that have left us awash in red ink.

Publicly held federal debt has gone from $3.4 trillion when Bush took office to $5.3 trillion. Add in the trillions owed to government accounts like the Social Security Trust Fund, and our total national debt is now $9.4 trillion, up from $5.6 trillion in 2000. That’s more than $30,000 for every American citizen. Meanwhile, since 2001, long-term unfunded liabilities and commitments have ballooned from about $20 trillion to more than $50 trillion.

“We have gone from a point where we had current and projected budget surpluses to where we have large and growing deficits,” says former comptroller general David Walker, who led the Government Accountability Office from late 1998 until March of this year. “And we have gone from a point where we were projected to pay off all the federal debt and have fiscal sustainability for 40-plus years to a point where we have large and mounting debt burdens and the simulation model that is used by GAO to project fiscal sustainability crashes in about 40 years.”

ZERO self-awareness factor, ZERO irony quotient.

2 responses to “The Bush Commencement Speech: Hypocrisy in Greenville (Updated)

  1. I think any word that captures BushCo’s complete lack of self-awareness is the best way to describe him. (what would that word be, by the way?) It describes him in all situations. Of course, “evil” describes him in nearly all situations but if you say that, people get uncomfortable with the reality – because we had the chance to rebel peacefully against him and we did not and that makes us evil too.

  2. (what would that word be, by the way?)

    polymorphously perverse?

    we had the chance to rebel peacefully against him and we did not and that makes us evil too.

    That’s a frighteningly important point. We are, aren’t we? We were so set on…what? Not rocking the boat? Protecting ourselves from phantom terrorists? Protecting our egos?…that we left the SOB in office and refused to impeach him despite numerous crimes against both the country and the Constitution.

    Maybe evil is the right word.

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