WASHINGTON—President George W. Bush was unusually reflective in the final weeks of his administration, taking time during speeches and press conferences to look back on key decisions, expound on his legacy, and tout his role in paving the way for the nation's first African-American president by serving eight years as its first openly gay president.
"I'm inspired by our great country's willingness to look past the color of a man's skin—or, in my case, his overt homosexuality—and elect him based on his ability to lead," Bush told reporters following his meeting with president-elect Barack Obama on Nov. 10. "I've always been proud of my homosexuality, and I am so proud of the United States."
Bush added, "Thank you, America, for taking a chance on an openly gay man from Texas: tight jeans, cowboy hats, and all."
Recalling how he worried during his first campaign that voters were not ready to put a gay man in the White House, Bush said he was "shocked and overjoyed" to win in 2000, and could not have done it without homosexual adviser Karl Rove, his strong base of closeted gay ultra-conservative supporters on the Christian right, and his "best friend" Laura.
"While I tried to be commander in chief first and a homosexual man second, I knew that everything I did would be judged through the lens of 'America's first gay president,'" Bush said during an interview with ABC's Charles Gibson broadcast Dec. 1. "Looking back, my personal need to prove my manhood definitely influenced my actions. The arrogant swagger, invading Iraq, my ruthless support of the death penalty—heck, even setting back gay rights 25 years—all of it seems so silly now."
Former press secretary Ari Fleischer agreed, saying that Bush carefully cultivated his image as a masculine, simple-minded, heterosexual male in order to combat his insecurities about appearing weak before the international community.
"Believe me, sister, he overcompensated with a capital 'compensated,'" Fleischer said. "But when the cameras stopped rolling and the podium was put away, he was just fabulous. We had a fabulous, fabulous time."
While many will argue for generations about Bush's political impact, all seem to agree that his presidency at last proved to a once-disenfranchised group that anything is possible.
"I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime," said David Nevin, a 58-year-old homosexual living in New York. "And I probably won't again because he was a terrible fucking president who ruined it for all of us."
Added Nevin, "What a bitch."