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The Independent/UK

Leaving the White House: 386 days To Go (and Counting)

Those looking forward to George Bush's last day in office can cheer themselves up with a calendar that helpfully counts down to the day of departure. It has become a best-seller, part of an industry dedicated to marking the historic date

Rupert Cornwell

For the millions of Americans who are ticking off the days until deliverance, it is the perfect present - a 2008 calendar countdown until George Bush leaves the White House, its every page adorned with a quote from the President who has mangled not only the country's image, but also the English language, as no other in the history of the Republic. 1231 02

Novelty calendars are always a staple of the holiday season, but this one is a best-seller. The Bush Out of Office Countdown, it is called, January 2008 Through the Bitter End. Priced at $11.99 (£6) it includes some of the verbal gems that have adorned the past seven years. "They're edgy and a way to mark the days, so it's a perfect tie-in," a spokesman for the distributors Calendars. com says. "The intensity of dislike [for Bush] is driving these sales."

Predictably in the land of the free its not just calendar makers cashing in on Bush jnr's unpopularity. Digital counters, ribbons and obviously badges complete your countdown options.

Indeed, no other president has been subjected to such treatment - but then almost none as been as unpopular for so long. Not Ronald Reagan, not Jimmy Carter, not Bill Clinton, nor even George Bush Snr, whose verbal idiosyncracies were celebrated in their time. But where the father specialized in dotty malapropisms (and was not unloved for it), the son goes for ungrammatical gobbledygook.

"You've also got to measure in order to begin to effect change that's just more - when there's more than talk, there's just actual - a paradigm shift," he opined for instance in 2003. Go figure. But it'll cheer you up as you turn the page to Tuesday, 1 July 2008 (just 203 days to go).

At another moment, he excoriates terrorists who strike "at the whim of a hat". At yet another, he promises his country a "foreign-handed foreign policy. Or, when he was discussing the difficulty of being commander-in-chief, "Make no mistake about it, I under stand how tough it is, I talk to families who die."

But, just occasionally, there comes an unintended little nugget of the truth. "You know," he told the CBS interviewer Katie Couric, "one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." Did he ever wonder why?

However, the last entry for the slightly stretched 2008 diary - for Tuesday, 20 January 2009 when his successor will be inaugurated - perhaps best sums up the preceding eight years of incoherence. Thus the 43rd President of the United States at a 2004 campaign event in Oregon: "I hope you leave here and walk out and say, 'What did he say?'"

For the compilers of these calendars, finding sufficient content was never a challenge. More difficult, surely, was choosing which of President Bush's multiple manglings stood out above the rest. Couldn't they, for instance, have found room for the following, uttered during a trip to Indiana in November about the hazards of heeding pollsters on Iraq: "If you've got somebody in harm's way, you want the President being - making advice, not - be given advice by the military."

And, a few weeks earlier, he said this at his ranch in Texas: "I don't particularly like it when people put words in my mouth, either, by the way, unless I say it." Other people's words in his mouth might often have come out better, but never mind.

Eventually, 21 January 2009 will arrive and the Bush haters will be made bereft of the calendars that will have pepped up their spirits each morning for nearly 13 months and of their favorite target for bile and ridicule. The "Impeach Bush" signs and decals will have to come off their window panes and be peeled off their car bumpers.

And no longer will they have the bitter joy of watching their leader stand at the podium outside the White House and pronounce "nuclear" in a way that only he knows how. (Isn't there a speech coach somewhere who could have taught him the correct way to say it?)

It is just possible that some folks out there - the political comics for certain - might actually miss the guy.

© 2007 The Independent

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