washingtonpost.com
Exit Bush and Cheney

By Dan Froomkin
2:33 PM ET, 01/21/2009
Maura Reynolds writes in the Los Angeles Times: "The choreography was smooth, the smiles were gracious, but all the same, George W. Bush's exit from Washington still carried a measure of pain. . . .

"[W]hen Bush's helicopter lifted off from the east front of the Capitol, cheers rose from the crowd below and from the throng stretched down the Mall."

Reynolds assessed Bush's mood thusly: "Bush is famously thick-skinned. But as the morning wore on, his smile appeared to grow more strained."

Dan Eggen and Carrie A. Johnson write in The Washington Post that after leaving office, Bush "traveled first to his boyhood home town of Midland, Tex., where an estimated 20,000 supporters gathered in Centennial Plaza for a welcome-home rally similar to a goodbye celebration on the same spot eight years earlier."

Vice President Cheney, who reportedly injured his back while moving, attended the inaugural in a wheelchair.

Marie Cocco blogs for washingtonpost.com: "My favorite negative image from the inaugural was Cheney looking for all the world like Lionel Barrymore as Mr. Potter in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' Guess you could say that Potterville has turned back into Bedford Falls."

Slate's Christopher Beam crashed Sunday night's goodbye party for White House aides. Bush visited for five minutes.

"'This is objectively the finest group of people ever to serve our country,' he said. 'Not to serve me, not to serve the Republican Party, but the United States of America.'

"'I am glad we made this journey,' he went on. Then he engaged in a little reminiscence. 'Remember the time in 2003 when Bartlett came to work all hung over?' Laughs. 'Nothing ever changes.'

"He continued: 'We never shruck--'

"'Shirked!' someone yelled.

"'Shirked,' Bush corrected, smiling. 'You might have shirked; I shrucked. I mean we took the deals head on.'"

Surprising pretty much everyone in Washington, Bush left office without issuing a single last-minute pardon. He took only one action: commuting the sentences of two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions in 2006 for shooting a Mexican drug dealer outraged opponents of illegal immigration.

Salon's Alex Koppelman reacts: "In this 2007 article, I examined the two agents' case and explored how the right had transformed them from two men who'd been involved in an unjustified shooting, and covered it up, into heroes who feared for their lives as they were doing their jobs."

Meanwhile, legal action to secure Cheney's vice presidential documents went right up to the wire. R. Jeffrey Smith writes for The Washington Post about a federal judge's order on Monday, rejecting the claim that Cheney intended to illegally discard some of his official records.

As Smith writes: "One of the plaintiffs, Stanley I. Kutler, an emeritus professor of history and law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said he remains worried that 'when the Archives goes to open Cheney's papers, they are going to find empty boxes.'"

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