Too early to rehabilitate George W.

Absence might make the heart grow fonder but the recent gushing over George W. Bush as not-such-a-bad-president-after-all is myopic if not delusional. Compared to the present occupant Bush’s eight years at the White House might look like the Age of Wisdom, but that’s setting the bar about an inch off the ground.

Granted that Trump’s perpetual scowl/smirk, three-foot-long red ties, and his orange hair make him look like an angry clown posing as president. It’s scary.

Dubya’s nervous and disconnected smile, on the other hand, was less scary but not exactly reassuring. Without the benefit of a teleprompter his syntax and meandering trains of thought often led nowhere. His small, pleading eyes suggested gears slowly turning in his brain but not quite meshing. His discombobulated pronouncements often left you wondering, Is this guy really in charge of the nuclear arsenal?

Best friends? Let’s wait a while. 

The dishonesty of both of these two guys is also epic, even if the frequency varies. Trump’s lying is so frequent, outrageous and often gratuitous, that newspaper fact-checkers must be working triple-time. Compared to Trump’s compulsive mendacity and gaslighting, “Lying Hillary” comes out looking like a gal who wouldn’t chop down a cherry tree.

But then we have Bush, whose deceptions were not as casual but had a disastrous results nonetheless. Can we pause to recall the weapons of mass destruction goose chase, the “yellow cake” fuel going to Iraq from Niger and the blithe predictions that the Iraq War would pay for itself? Or Secretary of State Colin Powell embarrassing himself at the U.N. Security Council by waving a vial of something that turned out to be nothing?

The Bush White House tried to walk back some of these whoppers by blaming poor or misleading intelligence. Except that such “evidence” was used to gin up popular and congressional support (Hillary?) for a foreign policy project that has metastasized into a regional conflict and directly contributed, if not created, the global terrorist menace that still goes on—”Mission Accomplished” publicity stunts notwithstanding. When the results of a policy are so dire, “gee, we made a mistake” just doesn’t cut it.

Additionally, the multi-trillion, Iraq/Afghanistan wars, paid by federal IOUs, plus the equally disastrous economic policies of the Bush administration that led to the 2008 economic meltdown, have left the country treading water in a sea of debt.

Naturally, Republicans have tried to blame the debt on the Black Guy or profligate federal subsidies for such extravagances as public television, which in 2010 received about .0001 percent of the federal budget. The blame more rightly belongs on the White Guy with the clueless smile.

If there’s a trait that partially redeems Dubya is that he lacks the vulgarity and sheer meanness that Trump displays so casually, with respect to women, Muslims, minority groups particularly Mexicans, and even the physically disabled. It’s hard to imagine George W. bragging about sexual assault, calling Mexican immigrants “rapists and criminals” or mocking a physically handicapped reporter present at a political rally.

In fact, shortly after his inauguration Bush visited the then-president of Mexico Vicente Fox, vowed to forge a “special relationship” between the two countries and shortly afterward introduced comprehensive immigration reform legislation that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere in Congress. And after September 11 Bush paid a visit to a Washington mosque to plea against retaliation or prejudice against American Muslims. That was a classy move.

There is a softer side to George W. too, that he has shown in recent appearances at the “Ellen” and “Jimmy Kimmel” shows. In the latter, Bush displayed a terrific, self-deprecating sense of humor. He told Kimmel that “the best humor is when you make fun of yourself,” and illustrated the point with a couple of examples of his own malapropisms, such as “misunderestimate.” Can’t imagine Trump, that most brittle egomaniac, cracking jokes at his own expense.

Indeed, the New Dubya—or maybe the Dubya we didn’t know—seems to be an affable guy, both sharp and very funny. His disarming lack of guile compared to the vileness Trump routinely wields as a political tool could almost make us forget the disastrous policies of the Bush administration.

Almost, but not quite.


13 thoughts on “Too early to rehabilitate George W.

  1. Anonymous

    Well, to the extent that presidents are responsible for budgets, don't let Obama off the hook on the debt. It doubled under his presidency, and including unfunded mandates, the US fiscal position is unsustainable. All that said, you are spot-on with regard to the feckless GWB. The Iraq war was and remains an unmitigated disaster for the USA, the region, and by extension, Europe. Had GWB left Saddam in place, we'd have a natural check on the Iranians, who in addition to the obvious problems are also stirring up problems in places like Syria. In short, it is hard to exaggerate the sheer disaster that the Iraq war was and remains. GWB should never, in my view, escape the massive (MASSIVE!) culpability for the single worst foreign policy decision of the last hundred years. As for Trump, yeah, he's crude. But he will (if the Democrats ever stop hallucinating about Hitler) get a lot of stuff fixed and pointed in the right direction. Saludos,Kim GRedding, CAWhere we are deep in Trump country, but are much more mum about politics in San Francisco with our friends there.


  2. OK, his hair is a faded shade of orange. I continue to admire your b/w pictures and would like to know how you got the ragged-edge effect. What photo processing program do you use? And if you still think Trump is doing a fabulous job after his latest tweeter fit you better run down to the nearest Farmacias Similares for a tune-up on your meds. ja, ja. al


  3. I don't know if there is some quant out there who's done the numbers but I would like to know how much of the present debt problem is attributable to Obama's policies, vs. the near-depression crisis that was left on the table by GWB, including the bailout of GM (and I think Chrysler/Fiat too), and required gazillions in emergency federal borrowing. Some of the emergency borrowing began even before Bush left office, if I recall correctly. You have to figure out too the debt financing on all this stuff. This is an honest, not a rhetorical question meant to get Obama off the hook.I'd like to know too how Trump arrived at his ten percent increase in military spending, except it's a nice round number. What are we buying for $58 billion (plus financing)? Trucks, planes, boats, bombs? What is the logic? Trump is more than crude. He's CRAZY, a condition confirmed by his latest tweet storm about Obama wiretapping his phones. Anymore I don't get annoyed at conservative or liberal policies, but at the sheer waste of time and opportunity that could be better used to deal with real problems (like the debt) instead of partisan sniping. You'd think that after the past eight years some of these folks could sit around a table and try to work out not perfect solutions but at least reasonable compromises. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.


  4. Anonymous

    Thanks so much for this post. Well written. Like the Dixie Chicks said, I'm not ready to play nice, not ready to bow down, and I have never forgotten the folly of GWB.I have been enjoying laughing about Trump, and Felipe Zapata,over the years.ButDismantling water and air regulations is no laughing matter. The muslim travel ban isn't heading immigration reform in the right direction.And increasing military spending instead of cutting it, cannot be called fiscally conservative.Dana Jennings


  5. Not much of what Trump has done so are is laughing matter but what worries and intrigues me the most is the possible Russian connection and possibility of another war. al


  6. Anonymous

    Trump is right about his phone, if only because everyone's phone is wiretapped these days. Also Michael Flynn's recorded and subsequently leaked phone conversation took place in Trump Tower. So saying the phone is tapped is not crazy; it's simply business as usual under America's surveilance state. And note that Obama only denied ordering the tap; he didn't deny that it had been tapped. As for the defense budget, yeah. Americans literally have no idea that we are already overspending the rest of the world's combined military budget by something like a factor of five. You'd think that staying out of expensive wars would be a much better strategy. Or getting better value for the insane amount of money we are already spending. As for the deficit, the various bailouts weren't really an issue as they were all paid back. (Of course justice for the perpetrators, or lack thereof, is another issue.) And note I qualified my earlier comment by the phrase “to the extent that Obama is responsible,” as the Republicans are about as fiscally two-faced as possible, decrying spending and deficits, yet never wanting to either cut programs or fund the gov't with an appropriate level of taxation. My view on politics can be summed up by saying “a pox on both their houses.” Both political parties (if there really are two of them; it's hard to tell) are a disaster. But back to the debt. Both parties are responsible. And here we are at the peak of the business cycle, and the gov't is still running massive red ink, never mind all the unfunded liabilities. In the end, it's this fiscal overhang that is going to be America's downfall. And no one, save a few “nutcases” are even talking about it. Sad. Saludos,Kim G


  7. OK Kim I agree that it's technically possible to wiretap someone's phone, and that the Fourth Amendment may be precariously perched on the ledge at the moment, though not quite tossed out the window yet. Whatever. There is not a shred of evidence from anyone that Obama tapped Trump's phone. So c'mon.


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