Friday, December 7, 2018

Bush 41 No Saint

This last week there has been deserved praise for a President who exemplified what it means to be presidential. He even made sure that the least presidential President in recent history, or perhaps all our history, had to sit in the front row and draw the inevitable conclusion that no one would be saying those words at his funeral.

But now that he's in the ground, I want to remind those who may have forgotten or never have known that he was not such a great man in the eyes of many for good reasons. I'm of the opinion that no President escapes the office with clean hands (I don't know, maybe Carter? I imagine we'll soon have to confront his legacy). Many lefties criticize Obama for his drone program that resulted in civilian deaths and think he was much too soft on Wall Street execs during the Great Recession. I won't get into what the conservatives will say about him! But Bush 41 was no saint. The test of a president, I think, is not how polite they are or how much they love their families, you expect anyone who is elected President to clear that bar (and Trump trips on it....), it's how they impact the lives of Americans and people around the world.

Bush became President with dog whistles he used to appeal to the same racist underbelly of America that Trump speaks to with a bullhorn and his Twitter feed. The "Willie Horton" ad showing a threatening image of a black man was not just an ad accusing Dukakis (outsider? funny name? maybe not a true American?) of being weak on crime because as governor he oversaw a common prison furlough program that failed to prevent a rape and murder, he railed about it at every campaign stop, making  "Willie Horton (into) Dukakis's running mate," as his campaign manager, Lee Atwater boasted.

People with AIDS and their loved ones got no help from '41. He told them they ought to change their "lifestyle." He brutally pursued the war on drugs that Reagan had begun, putting nothing into helping addicts, doubling spending on "more prisons, more jails, more courts, more prosecutors,"  He vetoed civil rights legislation. He encouraged Iraqi Shiites to rebel, and failed to come to their aid when Sadaam Hussein butchered them. He pardoned his Secretary of Defense on the eve of a trial that might have implicated him in criminal acts as Vice President. But he passed the Americans with Disability Act and navigated the end of the Cold War skillfully, which could have ended in hot wars. He deserves his ranking somewhere in the middle of best to worst Presidents of the U.S.

You can't blame the father on the sins of the son, but does anyone think G.W. Bush would have ever been elected if he hadn't been H.W.'s son? Their legacies are inexorably tied together. 41 brags that he left 43 alone to make his own decisions. I think all of us probably agree that we wish he'd been more forceful in warning him off his invasion of Iraq. Perhaps W would have listened to the father he now claims to have had such respect for if he had forthrightly confronted him with what everyone knows were his unspoken beliefs in the foolhardiness of that adventure that has shaped the Middle East in ways W's little brain could not imagine.