I recently posed this question to my liberal friends on social media: “How much do you miss George W. Bush right now?” Of course, it was trolling a group of friends who despised him by the time he left office. Even many conservatives had fallen off of the Bush bandwagon with deficit spending, frequent assaults on the English language, and his handling of growing quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a new political environment with vitriol and division and a Republican party taken over by a tribal sense of nationalism, Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” and steady confidence are missed by many. We were reminded of Bush 43’s best qualities in a speech yesterday at his Bush Institute Summit.
The former President has been pretty quiet since he left the White House in 2009, especially on political issues. He never publicly criticized his successor, a classy move after then-Senator Obama used him as a political punching bag during a two-year campaign. The media focused its coverage on Bush’s speech as an indictment of President Trump, but it was much larger than that. It was an indictment of where we’re going.
Dubya called for a better, nobler political environment. Unfortunately, that ship seems to have sailed when you see where Trump and his marginally-Republican group of supporters have come from. A couple of things he said struck me:
“Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”
Remember when the general public rolled its collective eyes at the 9/11 “Truthers” and considered them a scourge on society? The 180º comparison would be Alt-Right provocateurs like Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and, of course, the Breitbart crew. Among many Trump supporters, these are considered credible voices of actual news. Not only are they not news, they don’t count as opinion, either.
“It means that bigotry and white supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the American creed, and it means the very identity of our nation depends on passing along civic ideals.”
It would have been nice to hear a President say something like this after Charlottesville, wouldn’t it?
“We’ve seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. …an argument turns too easily into animosity.”
This is a good reminder to people on Twitter (mostly dudes) to not call a woman you disagree with a See You Next Tuesday. It’s a disturbing word I’ve been reading more than I ever have in my life.
“The only way to pass along civic values is to live up to them.”
Translation: we can be better.
So, Republicans, how much do you miss George W. Bush right now?
Patrick Pfingsten is an award-winning journalist, political consultant, and PR expert. You can find him on Twitter @pfingsten1 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.