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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Humble H.W.

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President George H.W. Bush, who died Friday, never liked the “L” word — legacy. His son former president George W. Bush said in a “60 Minutes” interview Sunday that his father thought “it was kind of self-serving. . . . And the other thing is, is that there’s — if you really think about it the notion of your contributions to the country will never be fully known until there’s a passage of time.” Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post: George H.W. Bush and the “L Word.”

It is perfectly appropriate to appraise the legacy of a deceased president in a forthright manner—warts and all. And yet, those on the left who defy the supposed stricture not to speak ill of the dead, with all the glee and subtlety of a 5-year-old playing with his own excrement, miss something even more important: It is intellectually lazy and morally callous to reduce any person to a malicious caricature—whether they are dead or alive.

This is true of many portrayals of Bush’s substantive political legacy. Yes, he was at times troublingly complicit with the Republican Party’s most extreme. But this does not erase the fact that he prioritized outreach to minority communities from the start of his career; that he defended a reasonably liberal immigration policy as president; or that he oversaw the peaceful collapse of the Soviet Union.  “Debatable Lives: The legacies of figures like George H.W. Bush are too complex for simple partisan narratives.” by Yascha Mounk in Slate

The media is acting as if the only news in the world worth covering is the death of Pres. George H.W. Bush. While the television media should cover the ceremonies surrounding his death, and the accomplishments of his life there is other news in the world. This is the television media as it exists. It gives the people what they think the majority of them want, for example non-stop coverage of the California wildfires and endless loops of the same footage from a mass shooting.

Now we are hearing about how humble and self-effacing Bush 41 was. I have no argument there, though I hardly think this should be treated as singularly unique in a recent president considering Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama certainly fit this description.

The comparisons with Trump are inevitable although commentators with a few exceptions are avoiding politicizing this.

No matter, we should celebrate the life of Bush 41.

“He touched so many people, he had empathy for so many people, he was really very giving, he never really took,” says presidential historian John Meacham  on MSNBC. Of course in the tradition of never speaking ill of the dead unless they are as bad as Stalin (my parents saved the newspaper), there’s no mention of how he signed onto Ronald Reagan’s pro-life and anti LGBT agenda (to his credit he eventually changed his mind about this) when he ran for vice president, and nothing about his not roundly disavowing the Willie Horton ad. Bush 41 can be lauded for trying to get the GOP more racially inclusive, however he did the nation a disservice in nominating Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. He also nominated Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff over more experienced military commanders.

Absent from most of the coverage is what Bush 41 actually accomplished as president and before (from Business Insider)

When Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Bush responded on behalf of the U.S. with Operation Desert Storm.

Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, known as START l, on July 31, 1991.

In 1989, Bush deployed Operation Just Cause in Panama to overthrow the nation’s dictator, Manuel Noriega.

He signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990.

He also signed amendments to the Clean Air Act in 1990.

Before becoming president he publicly requested President Nixon to resign following the Watergate Scandal in 1974.

Those of use who follow the news closely on television on MSNBC count on their stable of pundits and experts to offer insight into national politics. What’s on this morning? It’s live coverage of the Bush family arriving at Texas funeral home. MSNBC is going to show the motorcade for the 45 minutes it will take to get to the airport.

If H.W. was so humble why didn’t he specify that his life would be celebrated in a low-key way? He could have instructed that be laid to rest without national fanfare so the country could mourn him quickly and get back to paying attention to what’s really important to the survival of our democracy.

If he’d died during the height of World War II would he have wanted the media to act as if the most important news was his death?

The most important issue facing us today is whether Donald Trump will be allowed to subvert the Constitution and turn the United States into as close to a dictatorship as possible under our form of government.

While Donald Trump looses in all the comparisons between him and H.W. when it comes to factors like temperament and empathy, he wins big because the media should be devoting time to covering both his autocratic agenda and his embarrassing behavior. Were it not for the feverish coverage of H.W. we’d be seeing more of the video clip of him wandering off the stage in Argentina demonstrating that the president may not be all there in the noggin.

Much more signficantly we’d be seeing more reporting on how Mueller’s bloodhounds are circling the Trump business enterprise, for example stories like this in ABC News: “Top House Intel committee Democrat says Trump and his business were ‘compromised’.” “It means that the president, whether he won or lost, was hoping to make money from Russia, was seeking at the same time to enlist the support of the Kremlin to make that money” Adam Schiff is quoted.

In order to find out what is actually going on in the world we have to check out the headlines in the New York Times:

Intercepts Solidify C.I.A. Assessment That Saudi Prince Ordered Khashoggi Killing

Israeli Software Helped Saudis Spy on Khashoggi, Lawsuit Says

In the Blink of an Eye, a Hunt for Oil Threatens Pristine Alaska

Comey Reaches Agreement With Republicans to Testify Behind Closed Doors

Lawmakers Discuss Deal to Push Back Shutdown Deadline While Mourning Bush

‘Yellow Vests’ Riot in Paris, but Their Anger Is Rooted Deep in France

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that the nation is exhausted with Trump and yearns for the nostalgia of what Peter Baker calls “a kinder gentler nation” but in his OpEd he adds a question mark “A Kinder , Gentler,Nation? Maybe for a Few Days.”

Peter Baker gets the last word:

Today, it often seems, there are no apologies when political figures go to war. Mr. Trump does not believe in “kinder and gentler” politics, but governs through blunt force and Twitter barbs. His opponents are “weak & dishonest,” “wacky,” “crazy,” “goofy,” “mentally deranged,” “psycho,” “sleazy” and “corrupt” “losers.” His opponents do not think much of him either, calling him many of the same names and others like “fascist.”

How different it seems from the days when Mr. Bush shocked the political system by calling Bill Clinton a “bozo.” He later made up for it by virtually adopting Mr. Clinton as another son.

The nostalgia for a bygone era misses the fact that politics has never been truly genteel in the United States, where lawmakers once beat each other with canes on the floor of the Capitol. But it has been more restrained in its rivalries and more open to cooperation than it is now.

The raw and visceral nature of today’s politics, amplified by a fragmented and increasingly side-taking news media and even more so by a free-for-all social media, feels so antithetical to Mr. Bush’s approach that it was inevitable to be a theme of the conversations once he died.

UPDATE DEC 4th From Slate

Why Do Political Journalists Think It’s Their Job to Portray George H.W. Bush as America’s Benign, Saintly Grandpa? By


George H.W. Bush? The George H.W. Bush? The one who denounced the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed public segregation, as a “radical” bill that was passed to “protect 14 percent of the people” at the expense of the white majority? The one who unilaterally ended a federal investigation into the rich tapestry of illegal arms sales and perjury committed by his associates in the Reagan administration by issuing six pardons just before he left office? Yes, that one!

Obviously, those incidents don’t demonstrate “honor” and “dignity.” But that’s also not to say that H.W. Bush was a purely partisan scumbag or a lifelong white supremacist. He supported the cause of civil rights in other contexts, demonstrated nonpartisan political courage on occasion, and was generally committed to a style of public comportment and practical governance that doesn’t exist in today’s GOP. Like almost every public figure and person, he did some things that were obviously good, some things that were obviously bad, and many things whose merits are seen differently by different people.

What I just wrote is, really, a banal observation about human nature that only qualifies as a contrarian claim in the context of a Beltway-TV-pundit consensus that analyzes American history at the level of a toddlers’ picture book about the first Thanksgiving. The political past, in this milieu, is exclusively a place in which one learns inspiring lessons in a state of reverence……


Copyright © 2018 Capitol Hill Blue



1 thought on “Humble H.W.”

  1. Yikes! Despite its a funeral, it’s nice to have a break from Mueller, et al. the media has emotions running so high. There are those who believe Trump will be impeached. Well. Not likely. And he won’t resign. McConnell will not let impeachment go anywhere. It’s to much to hope McConnell or the rest of the lot will grow a conscience or a spine.

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