Saturday, March 4, 2017

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.

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