Wednesday, December 5, 2018

George HW Bush a Paragon of Virtue?



1988 was the first year I voted.  The candidates the major parties for President that year were George HW Bush and Michael Dukakis.  I was a freshman at IUP (Indiana University of Pennsylvania).  It was my first lesson in how ugly politics can be. 

Bush won that year by falsely claiming that Dukakis was against reciting the pledge of allegiance in schools, by insinuating that African-American criminals would attack you with the Willie Horton ads, and by falsely claiming that he would not raise taxes.  As President he launched military excursions in three out of the four of the years that he was President in Panama, Iraq, and Somalia.  Bush may have been a nice man if you meet him in person but his bite was far worse than his bark.



People now blame Trump and Palin for promoting stupidity in politics but it began long before anyone took them seriously.  Bush appointed Dan Quayle as his Vice President who made gaffes that would foreshadow Trump and Palin.  He blamed the riots that happened in Los Angeles after the policeman who beat Rodney King were acquitted on the TV show Murphy Brown.  Qualye was picked to placate the Christian right who had doubts on Bush's past support for abortion rights.

Bush's military attacks in Iraq and Panama killed hundreds of thousands of people and sowed the seeds of resentment against the US in Central America and the Muslim world.  Some may have thought his attack on Iraq was justified because of Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait but he had no interested in diplomacy working.  Osama bin Laden, who first cut his teeth as a fighter against the Soviets in the 1980's with US funding, turned on the US when US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia.  Another future terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, fought in the Gulf War where he learned his munition skills and later bombed the Federal building in Oklahoma City five years later in response to the botched Federal assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco.  

Bush lost his bid for reelection in 1992 with 38% of the vote as the economy soured.  He made one last military excursion into Somalia which led to the deaths of 18 US soldiers and the growth of an al Qaida affiliate there.  Clinton later became chummy with Bush and mostly continued his policies.

In 2001 his son George W Bush became President in a disputed election and soon faced the 9/11 attacks and sent troops into Iraq and Afghanistan.  His son blamed his father's loss on breaking his no new taxes pledge and not finishing off Saddam Hussein and took an even more aggressive stance on those issues.  He won reelection by using the Swift Boat Veterans to sow doubt about his opponent and had blanket positive coverage from Fox News. This lead to the growth of ISIS and the Great Recession.  

Trump dropped all pretenses of niceties and the Republican base loved it.  He trounced son Jeb Bush in the primaries but now must play nice with the Bushes on the senior Bush's funeral after losing the House in the midterms.  Bush was cloak and dagger.  Trump is all dagger.  It's a sad commentary of how far our politics have sunken that Bush is now a paragon of political virtue.

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