Just weeks following his election in 2008, President Obama did a couple of things that both pissed me off and let me down — one was naming Tim Geithner as treasury secretary (and later Larry Summers as head of the National Economic Council), idiot assholes that shit on any ‘change‘ anyone could ever believe in — and second, bypassing the investiagtion and most-likely prosecution of GW Bush for war crimes.
Obama f*cked it for all American history: ‘“On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.”‘
And so forward to right now, and GW is back despite the Iraqi war Big Lie:
had some thoughts about our former president https://t.co/yAe8RrS0Mv
— Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) April 24, 2021
Sarah Jones at New York Magazine this morning presents a take on the attempt to make GW human, though, a strong dose of amnesia required — some snips:
The reality of the Bush legacy is at painful odds with his post-presidential reputation. That discrepancy isn’t news.
Here is what we know about Bush.
Ever so eager to establish himself as the avatar of something he calls “compassionate conservatism,” he is responsible for torture and death on a mass scale. Because these abuses did not occur on American shores, did not target American citizens, the political class has decided to pretend the death does not matter.
Bush has assumed the role of elder statesman, a sensible voice in a Republican party gone mad. His complicity is fading out of view.
A recent work of hagiography from CBS This Morning only affirmed Bush’s status as the foremost survivor in American politics. In an interview with Norah O’Donnell, Bush held forth at length about his painting — he was inspired by Churchill, he said — and condemned the Capitol siege, one of the simpler acts a political figure may perform.
There are still compassionate conservatives, he assured O’Donnell. “Absolutely. I’m one. And I think there are a lot,” he said.
He’s right, actually, in his way. Compare Bush to Donald Trump and there are certain tonal differences. Bush’s old money mannerisms do not permit him to call anyone a “bad hombre,” he did not mock anyone with a disability while campaigning, and he did not rant and rave about the fake news media.
Beyond these superficial differences, Trump and Bush are more alike than they are different.
“Compassionate conservatism is first and foremost springing from the heart,” Bush said during his first run for the presidency. The heart contains multitudes. Malice can spring forth from its depths, too. What does it mean, after all, to be compassionate and then to be a conservative?
Bush set the example. To be a compassionate conservative was to oppose marriage rights for LGBT people and abortion rights for women. To lie as recklessly as Trump ever did and lead the country into illegal war. To torture. Bush can condemn the January 6 insurrection and Trump’s rhetoric along with it, but he’s hardly an innocent.
Years after Bush left office, Trump would take a middling position against the war in Iraq — and reaped the reward.
Trump built on a foundation Bush laid.
And what of people like Michelle Obama, wanting to hug the asshole?
Michelle Obama can hug Bush as much as she wants, and each time she does, it’s a concession. Purchase Bush’s insipid portraiture; it’s a concession. Each gentle interview is a concession too.
Compassionate conservatives run interference for the darkest impulses of the GOP.
“Please put aside all the harsh rhetoric about immigration,” Bush implored his party on television, and added, “Please put aside trying to score political points on either side.”
Bush is concerned with aesthetics, can’t quite say that his party is almost wholly consumed by prejudice and rage and a small-minded kind of fear of the other.
Instead, he must blame polarization and both sides must be complicit.
For all Bush’s erstwhile talk about personal responsibility, he applies it infrequently to himself and to his peers.
This morning I posted on this blog’s 14th anniversary, which jumped onto the InterWebs on this date in 2007, when GW was president and the ‘surge in Iraq‘ was the going news thingie at the time. The act was as f*cked as the rest of the whole war effort of the GW era, a failure of lies and idiot fantasy which killed hundreds of thousands and screwed the Mid East into a dangerous, frightful pretzel.
(Illustration: ‘The Three Amigos‘ — Dick Cheney, GW Bush, Donald Rumsfeld — found here).
And gathered together by a pack of lies. From the Final Phase II Report, June 5, 2008, of Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. and chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV:
“Before taking the country to war, this Administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced. Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the Administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence,” Rockefeller said.
“In making the case for war, the Administration repeatedly presented intelligence as fact when in reality it was unsubstantiated, contradicted, or even non-existent. As a result, the American people were led to believe that the threat from Iraq was much greater than actually existed.
“It is my belief that the Bush Administration was fixated on Iraq, and used the 9/11 attacks by al Qa’ida as justification for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. To accomplish this, top Administration officials made repeated statements that falsely linked Iraq and al Qa’ida as a single threat and insinuated that Iraq played a role in 9/11.
Sadly, the Bush Administration led the nation into war under false pretenses.
“There is no question we all relied on flawed intelligence.
But, there is a fundamental difference between relying on incorrect intelligence and deliberately painting a picture to the American people that you know is not fully accurate.”
Enter stage left of Obama and the blowing into the winds of truth forever. Despite the obvious shit that GW, Cheney and company let loose (and supported by a Senate investigation), Obama allowed the T-Rump to emerge and carry GW’s Big Lie to a new lying point. America has a bad case of a kind of mental paralysis, which allows us a natural path to collectively block such national historical horrors as slavery and genocide.
We try and find an easy out for all our realities of cruelty.
Renée Graham at the Boston Globe yesterday also has a way-good response to GW’s trip to reformation — it’s shit:
As president, George W. Bush ignored intelligence warnings that might have averted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. He catapulted this nation into two long, costly, and destructive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He did nothing as Congress allowed the 1994 assault weapons ban to expire. His reckless policies helped facilitate this nation’s worst economic disaster since the Great Depression.
With a dismal 22-percent approval rating trailing him like a piece of toilet paper stuck to his heel, Bush left the White House in 2009. He was widely considered one of the worst presidents in American history.
If you’ve watched any of his recent interviews, you’d never know it.
While promoting his new book of oil paintings, Bush has been asked about Derek Chauvin’s trial, the current state of the Republican Party, and what he thinks about President Biden’s plan to withdraw all American forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11.
While O’Donnell reassured viewers that Bush’s “trademark strut and salty humor are as strong as ever,” there was no mention of the former president’s own “big lie” about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction as a mendacious pretext for war in Iraq.
Out of the box, Trump was such an abomination as president (and we couldn’t then imagine how much worse it would get) that it “inspired” what O’Donnell called “a fresh appraisal of the Bush years.”
And that appraisal was as quick as it was unwarranted. It’s like watching someone decide that after a neighbor kills their dog, the guy who set their house on fire maybe wasn’t so bad after all.
Bush suffered no punishment, and now gets to enjoy his emeritus years being portrayed as thoughtful and avuncular. It’s a disservice to history and dishonors every person who suffered due to his ill-conceived policy misadventures.
Still, just wait. If Bush’s tainted reputation can be polished for posterity, it’s inevitable that the same will happen for a powerful white man who, as president, largely ignored a deadly pandemic and attempted to overthrow democracy.
And a full circle around to April 2021, a date which looks like the title from a science-fiction novel. Or a piece of embarrassing, shitty artwork:
(Illustration: ‘Self Portrait,’ by GW Bush, and found here).