George W. Bush

Remembering the G.W. Bush Years: Whatever Became of Scooter Libby, the Arab Street, and William Hung?

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In 2007, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, became the only Bush Administration official convicted from out-of-control U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's Valerie Plame fishing trip. Though his sentence was commuted by President Bush, Libby did not receive a full pardon and remains convicted of four felonies, all of them related to statements he made during an investigation that produced no serious indictments, let alone convictions. Having had a large portion of his life ruined by the perjury trap [pdf] is a distinction Libby shares with a diverse mix of Americans, among them Martha Stewart and Roger Clemens.

The aughts: A freer, more open time when even William Hung could get girls high-kicking for him.

Beyond "Scooter is no name for a grown man," I have no feelings about Libby, but Fitzgerald went on to be hailed as a "heroic figure" for prosecuting former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on 24 counts, all but only one of which (another perjury trap) ended in acquittals a conviction. Fitzgerald does seem to have succeeded in bankrupting Blago, who will be represented by public defenders in his second trial. And he is still out there denouncing alleged hopheads and chiselers from his well-photographed lectern.

So it was good to see Libby turn up recently as a guest of Monica Crowley, refusing to whine about his downfall and politely offering that the current president is no more in touch with reality than was the previous one. In fairness, Libby should only be brought in as an expert on Vice President Joe Biden, or more specifically the vice president's chief of staff. ("Scooter, what can a man of Ron Klain's caliber be thinking at a time like this?")

Another Bush era relic, the "Arab Street," turned out to be less robust. This term of Friedmanian punditry briefly lent respectability to the idea that you can get the measure of various populations, who are famously disunited on all topics except the perfidy of the Jews, through State Department regurgitation alone. After springing into life following the 9/11 attacks as a phrase used by Thomas Friedman himself, the Arab Street quickly grew protective scare quotes, and soon thereafter fell into vaguely shame-filled disuse.

But here's a surprise: The one place you can still hear the term "Arab street" used without irony is in English-language reporting from al Jazeera. Here's a recent example. And here's a whole TV show that calls itself The Arab Street, checking in with Beirut bellyachers during the Pope's 2009 visit:

Note that even here the documentarians—strictly non-anti-Semitic truthtellers for peace and truth, no doubt—cannot resist lying about Israeli atrocities. At about the 56-second mark, after a title card reading "Lebanon—bombed by Israel in 2006 during war with Hizbollah," the next and only footage you see is of the Beirut Holiday Inn, which was gutted in March 1976, during a battle between Lebanese Christian militia and a largely Muslim coalition consisting of Lebanese and their more than sisterly Palestinian brothers. No Israelis were involved in this battle that was waged six years before Israel's 1982 invasion and 30 years before its 2006 invasion. The building's appearance has not changed substantially since the 1970s. 

Finally, William Hung famously struck out in a 2004 American Idol audition with an affectless cover of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" but at the same time won America's hearts with his can-do spirit. The William Hung website is still live, but William's last listed performance was at a 2008 River Bats game in St. Cloud, Minnesota.

And with that I think we can say the ghosts of the Bush era have finally been laid to rest.